A widely followed annual quality of life dashboard released Thursday showed widespread improvement in San Diego, but pollution and traffic stand out as worsening problems.
The Equinox Project‘s latest assessment of economic and environmental indicators for the San Diego region showed improvements in eight, declines in five and no change in two between 2016 and 2017.
The biggest problems were in air quality, with the number of unhealthy days increasing from 42 to 62, and time spent commuting, which grew by an hour.
“The quality of life dashboard tracks the region’s progress on critical, interlinking issues and provides examples of where things are working and ideas for how circumstances can improve,” said Lawrence Goldenhersh, president of the Center for Sustainable Energy, which runs the project.
Rafael Castellanos, board chair of the Port of San Diego, said the annual dashboard — now it its ninth year — assists the port in its stewardship of the bay.
“We are environmental champions for San Diego Bay. We need to be a good neighbor,” he said at a press conference announcing the results.
The Equinox Project’s following eight indicators showed improvement in the annual assessment:
- Alternative Transportation — There was a slight decrease in the percentage of San Diego workers commuting alone in cars, though it remained high at about 76 percent.
- Beach Water Quality — Closures and water quality advisories decreased, though the recent Tijuana River impacts were not included.
- Climate Action— All but one of the 19 San Diego County political jurisdictions have committed to developing a climate action plan.
- Electric Vehicles — New electric vehicle sales continued to increase, reaching 11.4 per 10,000 residents in 2017. Del Mar has the highest rate of electric vehicle ownership.
- Electricity Use — Residential electricity use in San Diego County decreased by 2 percent from 2016 to 2017.
- Employment — The San Diego County unemployment rate continued to fall, from 4.5 percent in fourth quarter 2016 to 3.6 percent in fourth quarter 2017.
- Park Access — San Diego County is rich with parkland with most of the county having more than three acres per 1,000 residents.
- Renewable Energy –Renewable energy as a percentage of San Diego Gas & Electric sales was 43 percent, exceeding the state’s 2020 goal of 33 percent.
Five areas were found to need improvement:
- Air Quality — The combined number of unhealthy air days and unhealthy air days for sensitive groups increased from 42 days in 2016 to 62 days in 2017.
- Entrepreneurship — Local venture capital investments decreased by 5 percent or $63 million in 2017.
- Housing — Some 40 percent of San Diego County homeowners and 57 percent of renters pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing, which is higher than the California average.
- Vehicle Miles Traveled and Traffic — Commuters spent more than 19 hours a year in traffic, nearly an hour more than 2016.
- Water Use — With drought regulations lifted, San Diegans increased residential water use by 2 percent in 2017.
Two indicators — the health of the border region and waste disposal per capita –were found to be relatively unchanged during 2017.
Catherine Blakespear, the mayor of Encinitas, said that San Diegans who want to maintain the region’s quality of life need to fight for individual projects, especially in the area of alternative transportation.
“Every single bicycle project is a full-out fight,” she noted, adding that San Diego needs what she called “climate warriors.”