A group of neighborhood conservationists in University City are hoping to put the brakes on a plan to extend trolley service from downtown San Diego's Santa Fe Depot to a new transit center in University City.
Friends of Rose Canyon has long been a thorn in the city's side when it comes to transit projects. In 2007, the group filed several lawsuits challenging a plan to build a bridge over the canyon. The city eventually acquiesced. Late last year, the conservationists celebrated a city decision to pull the project from the community plan.
The group now has their sights set on shutting down a proposal from San Diego Association of Governments and the Federal Transit Administration to lay 10.9 miles of new track from the Old Town Transit Center along Interstate 5 to a stop at the University of California San Diego. The track would then head east down Genesee Avenue, ending at the Westfield UTC mall.
San Diego Association of Governments, a regional planning and transit agency, plans to use Transnet sales-tax revenues and federal government funding to pay for construction. The agency expects service to begin in 2019.
In a new lawsuit, Friends of Rose Canyon claims San Diego Association of Governments failed to follow environmental guidelines before the project was approved. In particular, the conservation group says the report failed to address encroachments on park land, a reduction of views, destruction of wildlife habitat, and increased noise from the trolleys, among other concerns; those concerns, according to the lawsuit, were ignored while drafting the final report.
"The [environmental impact report] concluded that several project impacts would be mitigated to a less than significant level. The [environmental impact report] did not substantively or sufficiently address the comments on the draft [environmental impact report]," reads the lawsuit.
Those supporting the trolley extension say the project is needed to address future growth. According to San Diego Association of Governments estimates, population along the corridor is expected to increase by 19 percent in the next 15 years. During that same time, employment in the area is expected to grow by 12 percent.
"The Mid-Coast Corridor Transit Project will expand transportation capacity in the corridor to accommodate existing and future travel demand, particularly for peak-period commute trips," reads a fact sheet from San Diego Association of Governments' website. "The project will provide an effective alternative to congested freeways and roadways for travelers and will reduce vehicle miles traveled."
Friends of Rose Canyon are asking that a judge order a stop to the project until impacts to the environment are adequately addressed. In addition, the lawsuit seeks to invalidate the now-approved environmental impact report.
On January 26, attorneys for the Federal Transit Administration requested the case be moved from San Diego Superior Court to the federal courts.