ENCINITAS — The city’s Traffic Commission voted unanimously Monday night to oppose closing a leg of Cornish Drive, citing residents’ concerns over traffic, parking and public access.
Three months ago during an Encinitas City Council meeting, a citizen spoke in favor of “vacating” the part of Cornish Drive that runs between San Elijo Avenue and Santa Fe Drive. By vacating that stretch, cars and bicyclists, as well as pedestrians, would no longer be allowed on the road, and the land would be given to homeowners in proximity to that stretch. Council asked the traffic commission to analyze how closing Cornish Drive would impact traffic, get the public’s input and report back.
Monday’s traffic commission meeting came back with a report stating that closing Cornish would add to traffic congestion.
Still, several residents living on Cornish said it should be closed over safety concerns. The residents noted they share a large, private driveway that feeds into a curvy section of Cornish Drive. When leaving their homes via their cars, they said it’s tough to turn onto Cornish because there’s a blind spot.
“If you do try and turn out on the street it’s very difficult to see to the left,” Kyle Simmons said. “When you inch out, people tend to get angry.”
Simmons added that it’s also difficult to make a right onto Santa Fe Drive from Cornish.
City traffic commissioner Stephen Schorr sympathized with the safety concerns of Cornish Drive residents. But that’s no reason to close the road entirely, he said.
“I can find 50 streets in Encinitas where people have difficulty in getting out to the street, but we don’t go closing those roads,” Schorr said.
To gauge safety, the city looked at accident data on Cornish and the parts of San Elijo Avenue and Santa Fe Drive that are near Cornish. In the last 10 years, there were 12 accidents on the three streets, two of which were on Cornish. Rob Blough, the city’s traffic engineer, said that’s not “a significant crash history.”
The city also studied how Cornish would impact traffic of the surrounding streets. It found that there would be around 1,600 more vehicles per day on both San Elijo Avenue and Santa Fe Drive if Cornish were blocked off. According to the city’s analysis, Cornish is used as a shortcut for many northbound motorists trying to avoid congestion on San Elijo Avenue.
Ten residents at the meeting spoke out against the closure. Most noted that traffic would worsen should Cornish no longer be a public road.
“San Elijo, Santa Fe and Cornish are active streets,” Greg LaFave said. “It seems counterintuitive that you would want to close a busy and active street.”
Echoing other residents, LaFave added that traffic in the area is only going to increase in light of more people wanting to use the pedestrian underpass near Santa Fe Avenue.
Also, residents opposing the closure brought up parking. The city’s analysis states that the dirt lot on the western side of Cornish can accommodate 50 parked cars. If Cornish were to close, nearby streets would have even less parking, residents said.
Cornish closing would essentially make the street the property of nearby homeowners. Residents at the meeting also took issue with that, stating the road should remain public property, and under no conditions be developed.
Ultimately, council, not the traffic commission, has the final say on what happens with Cornish Drive.