Late in 2017, California Assembly Bill (AB) 805 went into effect. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) authored the bill that brought a significant change to the voting governance of SANDAG, which is the San Diego Association of Government and includes representatives from all 19 County municipalities. Planning and transportation is the primary mission of SANDAG which has an annual budget of 1.36 billion dollars.
Prior to the passage of AB 805, the board’s voting structure balanced the interest of small and large cities in the same way the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives check and balance each other. It took two votes for every item. One was a simple tally of each board member’s vote, and the other is weighted to the population of the city the board member represents, each and every item needed to be approved both ways. The result was collaboration and consensus-building. Considering that 71 percent of County residents work outside their home communities, such an approach is critical to the region’s ability to develop transportation solutions that serve everyone.
With AB 805’s passage, any four cities representing a majority of the county’s population could invoke a weighted vote on an agenda item and overrule the tally vote. That means the balance of power in San Diego County no longer resides with the larger number of cities, but with the densely populated areas, such as San Diego and Chula Vista.
AB 805 has basically seized the voting influence from every community in North County and East County and bestowed that power upon a chosen few cities in the South County. This has empowered the large cities like San Diego and Chula Vista, at the expense of smaller cities like Encinitas.
Regional cooperation has been shredded
Chula Vista and San Diego now have a stranglehold on every decision made based strictly on population. Regional cooperation has been shredded. Any major decision and future tax increases could shift a larger portion to projects that are in the San Diego or the South Bay areas. The City of Encinitas was the only city in North County to vote for this bill. All the other North County Cities voted against it.
AB 805 was most recently exercised when SANDAG used the weighted vote to decide housing unit allocation within the county. Using the tally vote, the Board majority voted on a housing allocation of 116,000 homes. But the minority board members (which included San Diego and Chula Vista) wanted more and exercised their weighted vote, resulting in the final number of 171,000 homes. This is now the number that the County must accommodate, 55,000 more than the minority cities voted for!
The 55,000 additional housing units means that each city within the County has now been assigned more housing than is required by the State, including Encinitas. Combined with SANDAG using a new methodology to predict future population growth (see the “Flawed Numbers” article here), smaller cities in the County are being burdened with unreasonable housing allotments.
With housing and transportation being such a big part of our quality of life and community character, it is frustrating that our city would lessen our influence on these matters and yield power to the larger cities in our County.