County land use and environment budget would pay to fix roads, fight climate change

Hikers and equestrians alike enjoy the Ramona Grasslands Preserve
(J. Harry Jones/San Diego Union-Tribune)

The $618.7 million budget would plan for climate change, protect biodiversity and improve infrastructure


San Diego County is considering investments to improve street safety, address climate change, reduce stormwater pollution and protect natural lands and species, through a $618.7 million budget for its Land Use and Environment Department.

The department presented its spending plan to the board Friday, as part of a series of hearings on the county’s proposed $7.15 billion budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Under the plan, the department would see a slight increase of $3.3 million over last year’s budget, and add 171 new staff members.

Out of the total, $214 million would go to infrastructure, said General Manager Sarah Aghassi. More than half of that spending, or $118 million, would be used to add signs, signals, bike lanes and guardrails for county roads, she told the board. Another $22 million would be dedicated to county airports, she said.

Sustainability initiatives would receive $113 million, including $33 million to support climate action, Aghassi said. Under the proposed land use and environment budget, the county would spend $3.7 million on its regional decarbonization framework, which aims to accelerate the region’s transition from fossil fuels to sustainable energy.

And it would dedicate $1.8 million to develop a new climate action plan. Environmental groups repeatedly challenged the county’s previous climate action plan and last year the board voted to create a new one that would more aggressively fight climate change and address its effects.

As part of those efforts, the county is shifting its own operations to more sustainable systems, and plans to add 46 new electric or hybrid vehicles to its fleet to replace conventional vehicles, Aghassi said. It would also extend telework and shared office space options to reduce driving and cut greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

The Land Use and Environment budget would designate $73 million to protect the natural environment, she said, including $16 million for conserving sensitive species, $40 million to prevent stormwater pollution and $13.5 million to combat agricultural pests.

In addition, the plan would allocate $64 million to county water and sewer systems, $31 million for the county’s 156 parks, $28 million for county branch libraries and $22 million for affordable housing, Aghassi said.

The Board of Supervisors must approve a new budget by June 30. Residents can attend a series of public budget meetings in May and June, and can weigh in at public hearings on June 13 and 16.