South Oceanside residents speak against highway lane reduction

OCEANSIDE — Half a dozen South Oceanside residents and business owners asked the City Council to allow South Coast Highway to remain four lanes during Wednesday’s meeting.

The city is finalizing its Coast Highway improvement plans, which propose lane reduction, roundabouts and striped bike lanes.

Options to do nothing to the highway, or vary lanes from the current two in each direction to a road diet of one in some stretches are also on the table.

Joel West, a resident of South Oceanside, said South Oceanside has been opposed to lane reduction on the south end of the highway for a long time. West said he other residents came to speak to the council to “make it a little more serious.”

Some speakers said they served on the city’s steering committee for Coast Highway and felt bowled over by opinions pushing for end-to-end highway lane reduction. It was reported all five South Oceanside residents on the committee voted against lane reduction.

South Oceanside has fewer parallel-through streets than other city neighborhoods along Coast Highway.

Speakers shared concerns of installing roundabouts at busy intersections, additional gridlock, loss of on-street parking, and hardships the test pilot lane reduction area installed in January causes South Oceanside businesses.

“We can still be a quaint community with four lanes,” Zell Dwelley, owner of Beach Brake Cafe, said. “Let’s do something that works for our community.”

Compelling comments came from Oceanside resident Bill Marsh, who spoke about the impossibility for him, as a blind person, to cross a roundabout. Marsh said signaled crosswalks have audible pedestrian countdowns that make crossing safe. He said roundabouts have cars taking off at all different times and cannot be served by an audible countdown.

“I don’t have the tools to safely cross that intersection,” Marsh said.

Residents asked for four lanes and traffic lights to remain, crosswalks to be added, and the bicycle Rail Trail to be completed.

“Delete our community from the planned Coast Highway road diet,” Richard Fox, South Oceanside resident and business owner, said.

A petition asking that South Coast Highway remain four lanes collected 400 signatures.

Residents also conducted a door-to-door survey of fellow residents and business owners who have driven the pilot lane reduction area. The survey of 162 residents found 92 percent do not think the lane reduction change is an improvement. It also found 71 percent said they would do less shopping in South Oceanside if lanes were reduced, and 70 percent said they would do less shopping downtown.

“A survey of South Oceanside businesses overwhelmingly opposed it,” West said. “We’re more dependent on a two-lane Coast Highway.”

The city held a public scoping meeting in June to gather public comments on highway plans before it launched an  environmental impact report to consider the three road change alternatives.

At that meeting business owners said it would be difficult to receive deliveries along sections of the highway that have no back alley, if lanes are reduced.

Most residents at the June meeting opposed fewer lanes, and said it would push traffic onto adjacent residential streets and change the character of beachside neighborhoods.

Requests for the Rail Trail to be completed, and crosswalks to be added were also made.

The City Council is expected to adopt the environmental impact report study in early 2017. A decision on highway improvements will follow.

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