OCEANSIDE — Oceanside recently released the draft environmental impact report on four Coast Highway alternatives. The EIR analyzes how options will affect the environment and traffic.
Alternatives are to leave the highway as is, reduce the entire four-lane highway to two lanes, reduce the highway to two lanes north of Oceanside Boulevard, or reduce the highway to two lanes north of Morse Street.
The city is collecting community input on highway options through Aug. 25.
A group of South Oceanside business owners and residents formed the Save South O neighborhood group to collectively share their concerns.
Joel West is a member of the Save South O group.
“We organized and formed a neighborhood group last year,” West said. “We collected 400 signature that opposed the road diet in South O.”
Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery, a longtime South Oceanside resident and community member of the Coast Highway Vision Committee, said he favors the “original plan” to reduce the entire highway to two lanes.
Lowery said he supports traffic calming to “help capture the small town feel we need to preserve,” and sees the addition of roundabouts as a plus.
Lowery said the “node concept” that includes traffic calming, 60-inch sidewalks and bike-friendly streets will increase traffic for retailers, and allow opportunities for sidewalk seating and possible parklets.
Another benefit of nodes is the higher density development will likely attract residents who use more public transportation, walk and bike.
“Our experimental two lanes in ‘the dip’ area of Coast Highway has been a success based on the actual data collected by our Traffic Department,” Lowery said.
Lowery also proposed lane reduction north of (and including) Morse Street for now.
“I am concerned four lanes at Morse Street will increase traffic speeds and further degrade walkability rather than enhancing it,” Lowery said. “We also need to address an existing problem at Vista Way where Coast Highway narrows back to two lanes to enter Carlsbad.”
Another concern Lowery has is that South Oceanside may suffer if it maintains a four-lane highway.
“Some residents have expressed keeping it at four lanes which will create a zone where traffic blows through and, as a result, business might fall off dramatically and some might close,” Lowery said. “This is not the vision we had for Coast Highway.”
Conversely West said the Save South O group would like the entire highway to remain as is, but not seeing that as likely, is backing the alternative to reduce the highway to two lanes north of Oceanside Boulevard.
West said it’s important to maintain four lanes through Oceanside Boulevard to accommodate traffic from Interstate 5, get people into South Oceanside and keep traffic flowing.
West said there are significant distinctions between South Oceanside and downtown, which has a mass transit center that is a hub for buses and trains.
“In South O we don’t have mass transit, we get around South O with our cars,” West said. “The road diet is a bad idea our neighborhood.”
He added the EIR shows reducing south Coast Highway to two lanes would result in significant traffic delays.
The draft EIR also weighs impacts of a proposed Incentive District along Coast Highway aimed to revitalize redevelopment by streamlining the review process and providing developer incentives.
Lowery said he has heard from developers a more streamlined process is needed, and thinks the Incentive District will help meet that goal.
West said he questions whether development incentives are needed in South Oceanside, which is seeing steady redevelopment. He added bringing high density to South Oceanside does not make sense because the area lacks mass transit.
West and Lowery agree parking in South Oceanside needs to be addressed, regardless of which highway alternative is selected.
Lowery said he is interested in reading public comments on the EIR, and encourages residents to email City Council members and share their views.
“This is especially important with the Coast Highway Plan,” Lowery said. “We need to make sure we do this right.”
The EIR is scheduled for City Council review this fall.