Sidewalk, road improvement project needs improvement

D EL MAR — Most of another segment of a multiyear phased project to improve streets and sidewalk connectivity citywide was supported at the Jan. 3 meeting.

But council members directed staff to further study the options for two areas and bring the final $1.5 million proposal back as soon as possible.

The $4 million citywide project was designed to improve pedestrian access, bicycle safety, drainage and roadway paving, as well as provide traffic calming measures and promote and protect alternative transportation modes.

Approved in May 2013, it was divided into segments along Camino del Mar, Jimmy

Durante Boulevard and Via De La Valle.

Four have been completed and construction is just starting on another — a roundabout at Jimmy Durante and San Dieguito Drive.

The most recent segment to be presented focused on roadway and sidewalk modifications along Camino del Mar, from Fourth Street south to Carmel Valley Road.

Plans call for an added left-turn lane on southbound Camino del Mar onto eastbound Del Mar Heights Road, the elimination of one northbound lane, more bike lanes and the addition of a multipurpose pathway on the west side of the road.

Public Works Director Eric Minicilli said plans to reduce the number of northbound lanes came after the road was partially closed following a landslide in Anderson Canyon about a year ago.

“(T)he temporary traffic control measures used, including the removal of one of the two northbound vehicular travel lanes between Carmel Valley Road and 4th Street, did not appear to have adverse impacts to traffic circulation,” the staff report states.

Additionally, an existing free-right-turn lane for cars approaching Camino del Mar from westbound Carmel Valley Road will be removed, and an area on the west side of Camino del Mar will be improved so cars won’t straddle the street and park partially on the dirt.

The proposal also calls for a dedicated left-turn lane from northbound Camino del Mar onto westbound Fourth Street to be reconfigured to allow cars to either turn left or continue straight.

Council members supported much of the plan, especially the extra left-turn lane onto Del Mar Heights and the reduced northbound lane.

“I think there’s a lot here to keep,” Ellie Haviland said.

But most had issues with other aspects.

“The multiuse parkway, I think, is a total waste of money at this point,” Dave Druker said. “I don’t see anybody using this.”

He predicted most people will walk along Stratford Court because it is a quieter street with no cars rushing by.

“I like people parking on the dirt,” he added. “I think that’s part of Del Mar’s past and should be the future. People should be able to park on the dirt. It’s kind of interesting.

“It makes us more rural,” Druker continued. “I’m having a difficult time believing that we have to urbanize every stretch of our city.”

Haviland disagreed.

“I love the idea of a continuous path through town,” she said. “I don’t think people should have to divert onto another street. I don’t think it’s uncommon for people to walk along there.

“Once it’s built it’ll be a much more popular place to walk because it’ll be a lot safer and a lot more pleasant,” she added. “And if there’s a designated area where you feel safe letting a kid ride their bike or take a walk not right next to cars going 45 miles an hour, I think that’s going to be a big benefit to the community.

Haviland said she understood Druker’s concern about over-urbanization.

“But I don’t think people pulling up on the dirt next to Anderson Canyon with a minivan full of kids opening their door next to a wide open canyon is something we should be encouraging,” she added. “I don’t see that as friendly or safe or something that I want to promote in my city.”

Druker also opposed removing the dedicated left-turn lane onto Fourth Street. He said it was added, with a shortly timed green light, to discourage cars from cutting through the residential neighborhood when Camino del Mar backs up.

“I know the people on Stratford Court if they were sitting here would be going nuts if you were to turn around and say let’s open it up again,” Druker said, noting that it could result in greater back-ups on Camino del Mar.

Minicilli said the dedicated lane was removed to allow the necessary reconfiguration of the intersection for the added left-turn lane onto Del Mar Heights Road.

Most council members also had concerns about improvements to an easement area south of the intersection where residents cross Camino del Mar to get to and from the beach.

“I think we’re setting ourselves up for a pedestrian safety issue because even though it is not a formal pathway, it comes off of all those residences in the south end of town and they will step right into traffic,” Mayor Terry Sinnott said.

Minicilli said the proposal is safer than the current condition.

“You’re crossing two lanes of very fast-moving traffic heading north and you’ve got to cross another lane heading south,” he said. “Now you cut that by one-third and we expect to see lower speeds on this roadway because of the narrowed lanes.”

Councilwoman Sherryl Parks suggested a pedestrian overpass, something Druker deemed “prohibitively expensive.”

“Come on, guys. It’s not going to happen,” Druker said. “This is very difficult to make it safe. … I would love to see something that makes it more accessible.”

That area and the intersection modifications – specifically the dedicated left-turn lane onto Fourth — will be re-evaluated and brought back to council for review. City staff will also reach out to nearby residents for additional input on the changes.

“The rest of it looks good,” Councilman Dwight Worden said.

“I think this project is an excellent project because we have done an awful lot of work for the northern part of our community,” Sinnott said. “This is going to be a big improvement for the residents of that area.”

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