Few people like the Leucadia 101 corridor as it is. But the Streetscape plan described in the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) the city released in December is not a good upgrade.
Among the plan’s specifics:
1. One vehicular traffic lane in each direction between La Costa Avenue and A Street (about 2.5 miles) except two lanes northbound from A Street to south of Marcheta Street. The plan would reduce a four-lane highway — called a major arterial — to two lanes but claim it’s still a major arterial.
The project would “eliminate cut-through traffic.” How that traffic would be distinguished from local and visitor traffic is not explained.
The project would leave 14 unrestricted lefts onto (Coast Highway) 101 from side streets. Where there are now two traffic lanes each way, lefts are already a hazard. Where there’s only one northbound lane, lefts are more hazardous. One traffic lane each way would make lefts even harder and more dangerous.
2. Five or six roundabouts. The number depends on when and how Encinitas Beach Resort is built at the foot of La Costa Avenue. If six roundabouts, five would be between La Costa Avenue and Jupiter Street, a distance of 8/10 mile. The sixth would be 1.2 miles south of Jupiter at El Portal Street.
The draft EIR says the purpose of the roundabouts is “traffic calming.” If so, why not space them evenly through the corridor? There’s no sensible explanation for roundabouts at La Costa Avenue, “New Road” (Cabo Grill), Bishop’s Gate, Grandview Street and Jupiter Street — all in the first 8/10 mile at the north end of the project. Those roundabouts would be like a barricade preventing entry from north of the corridor.
3. A net gain of 136 parking spaces, many of which would be reverse diagonal. There would be parallel-parking pockets across from Pannikin, Solterra and Fish 101.
Solana Beach’s 101 corridor is a commercial success because there’s plenty of parking. To equal that corridor’s parking capacity, Leucadia Streetscape would have to add 2,700 spaces. Adding only 136 spaces over 2.5 miles would not produce the commercial boom the city and the Leucadia 101 Main Street Association have been salivating over since Streetscape’s inception.
4. Removal of 31 heritage trees, including the iconic eucalyptus at the Leucadia Boulevard intersection.
5. Encroaching on or taking 16,545 square feet of private property.
6. In its words, “the draft EIR concludes that the project would result in significant unavoidable impacts for emergency services (fire protection and police protection) and traffic circulation.”
The project would increase emergency response times that are already far worse than the fire department’s goal.
The goal is response times under five minutes for 80 percent of calls. In 2015, response time was under five minutes for 29 percent of calls from fire station 3 on Orpheus Avenue. For station 1 at C and Second Streets downtown, the figure was 53 percent. One-laning and installing roundabouts on Leucadia 101 would increase those response times.
Whenever the southbound freeway plugs, the long signal at Leucadia Boulevard causes southbound 101 traffic to back up two lanes wide, often past Jupiter Street (six blocks), sometimes past Grandview Street (10 blocks) and sometimes past La Costa Avenue (about 1.4 miles). One-laning southbound 101 north of Leucadia Boulevard would double the length of those backups. Four or five roundabouts in that stretch would further gridlock southbound traffic.
Heaven forbid a major emergency response is required north of Leucadia Boulevard and west of 101 when the southbound traffic is gridlocked up to 1.4 miles.
The City Council and staff have a bad habit of paying lip service to soliciting public input, then ignoring it and doing whatever they wanted to do in the first place. I challenge the city to break that bad habit.
I challenge the city to retain a professional pollster to objectively describe the Streetscape project and to survey the residents, property owners and business owners west of the freeway between La Costa Avenue and Encinitas Boulevard. Those people would be most affected by the Streetscape project the draft EIR describes. I challenge city government to find out if they want the project as it’s proposed.
Doug Fiske has lived in Encinitas for 47 years.