SANDAG on a Money Mission: Housing and Transit Nexus

San Diego transit and affordable housing advocates are boosting their efforts to tap special state money sources -- in competition with the L.A. and Bay Areas.

This region has a relatively small public transit system.

But to tilt the odds more in its favor, planners involved in that funding competition could take a page out of L.A.'s playbook by earmarking a bigger chunk of its transit land for low-income housing, as well as by getting waivers on guidelines more suited to the L.A. and Bay Area population densities.

"We were successful this year in getting more than our proportional share of the dollars that were available statewide,” said Charles Stoll, director of land use and transportation planning for the San Diego Regional Assn. of Governments (SANDAG). 

“There's no reason to believe that we can't do that again next year,” Stoll added in an interview Friday.  “As a matter of fact, the Los Angeles area did not get its proportional share."

One of two major projects to receive that special state funding this year was the 200-unit Paradise Creek apartment complex in National City, about a block away from the 24th Street Trolley Station.

The selling point?

Getting more people in housing that’s near public transit.

But a big consideration at the state level is that while nearly one in ten low-income residences in this area are within a half a mile of public transit, fewer than half are close to transit stopping every 15 minutes at peak travel hours, letting riders jump on without having to look at schedules.
SANDAG is hoping that guideline for state funding gets adjusted so it's more favorable here.

Said Stoll: "We continue to work with the state agency, the Strategic Growth Council at the state, to work with them on their guidelines to make it as easy and fair as possible for projects in our region to be able to compete."

The concept certainly has appeal to trolley riders who spoke with NBC 7 Friday at the 24th Street station.

"I wish there was a trolley more close to my house,” said Bonita resident Latisha Pinkney.  “I would just love to walk, save money on gas, not even use my car as much --  really rely on my legs and the trolley to get to where I need to go."

That’s music to the ears of housing advocates.

"If we can put the folks, the workforce that needs affordable homes near transit," said Laura Nunn, policy director for the San Diego Housing Federation, “we can really have a great opportunity to be forward thinking and work within the goals set by the state to lower greenhouse gas emissions."

Regional planning agencies are expecting a 50 percent increase in funding from that special transit-oriented housing program next year – up to about $200 million statewide.
And SANDAG is determined to qualify again for a bigger proportional share of that financial pie. 

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