The SANDAG Board of Directors on Friday, October 27 voted to approve a budget amendment adding $643 million in federal, state, and local revenue to advance more than 30 projects throughout the San Diego region over the next five years.
With the additional funding the Youth Opportunity Pass (YOP) program has been extended for two more years and is funded until June 2026.
“Mid-City CAN is excited about YOP’s two-year extension and we thank SANDAG, Chair Nora Vargas, Vice Chair Sean Elo-Rivera, our staff, and Improving Transportation in City Heights team members for all their hard work to make sure that YOP is extended,” said Mid-City CAN Organizing Director Ariana Federico Mondragon. SANDAG will release their YOP Impact Study in November and the numbers show that the program has been a huge success.
Mid-City CAN attended the Board of Directors meeting and spoke in favor of passing the budget amendment. Improving Transportation in City Heights (ITCH) members Denisse and Farnelle talked about the benefits of YOP, and Base Builder Guadalupe and Organizing Director Ariana read testimonies written by high school students and ITCH members George and Ezra who were unable to attend because they were at school.
“I've been riding public transportation since I was 3 months old and I'm still using public transportation. I still don't have a license and I depend on public transportation. So I've been a long-time rider using public transportation. I want you guys to approve this budget as it's important for the youth because we are going to be long time riders,” said Denisse.
Since the Board approved the FY 2024 Annual Program Budget in May, SANDAG has received additional state and federal funds and an increase in revenue collection. The budget amendment was brought to the Board to allocate the revenue to projects in the budget.
“These investments will improve the lives of everyone across our County, by increasing accessibility and enhancing all our region has to offer. I’m proud of the work that we are doing at SANDAG to deliver on our commitments to the people of the San Diego region through a lens of equity and inclusion,” said SANDAG and San Diego County Board of Supervisor Chairwoman Nora Vargas.
SANDAG Vice Chair and Council President Sean Elo-Rivera praised Mid-City CAN team members who were present as well as the many who have advocated YOP for more than a decade.
“I want to thank Farnelle and Denisse, as well as Guadalupe and Ariana for bringing forward the voices of youth from my district into this conversation. Your advocacy has been incredibly impactful. The Youth Opportunity Passes that are in here and that we funded in the past are a direct result of the advocacy of City Heights youth and City Heights mothers and grandmothers for over a decade. Thank you for keeping at it. It's having a huge impact on youth across the region. I hope you all are as proud of yourselves as I am of you,” he said.
Learn more about the YOP program by visiting https://www.midcitycan.org/yophelp
Transcript of Ezra and George's statements:
George's statement read by Ariana: The YOP program has proven to be beneficial to the all people in the County. San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), being the 2nd largest school district in California, has seen widespread positive effects due to the implementation of this program. Free transportation across San Diego has provided students with opportunities never before seen, allowing them to freely travel to school, jobs, recreational activities and much more without worrying about transportation. Cutting funding for this program would be cruel to the youth of all San Diego as some have come to see it as their main form of transportation. That is why I urge the board to keep funding this program, as it would be beneficial for students who don’t have the same economic opportunities as others, allowing for greater equity for our youth.
Ezra's statement read by Guadalupe: My name is Ezra Skerlecz and I am a senior at San Diego High School. I wrote this statement in complete support of extending the Youth Opportunity Pass program. The program has allowed countless youth, myself included, greater access to educational, vocational, and recreational opportunities. The value of these opportunities is beyond quantification, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that extending the program is well worth the investment. The program serves as a major step in establishing a more equitable San Diego as kids like me who were previously obstructed by financial barriers, such as the one posed by bus fares, are now more free to pursue their interests. I ask that you please invest in the community and fund the extension of the YOP program. Thank you.