SOLANA BEACH — With the mere thought of roundabouts now a thing of the past, Solana Beach continues to gather community input for a revamp of the city’s main thoroughfare, Lomas Santa Fe Drive.
The project has been on the city’s radar for over two years, with the city’s 2015 comprehensive active transportation strategy zooming in on the 2-mile-long corridor and its various pedestrian and bicyclist safety needs.
The project aims to satisfy those needs by extending curbs, raising medians, and segregating bike lanes —to name a few. Project consultants with Michael Baker International are also looking at bringing in aesthetic features, such as landscaping and a pocket park off of Stevens Avenue.
The project is currently in its third phase. The city received an Active Transportation Grant of $616,000 from the San Diego Association of Governments in 2018 to complete the project’s design.
However, construction of the project is currently unfunded.
About a hundred residents came to a May 29 workshop to provide input on proposed corridor improvements, sharing their landscape and bike lane preferences, and giving feedback on a number of potential features presented by Michael Baker.
Residents provided mixed input on the proposed bike lane facilities for different parts of the corridor, which, depending on the type, might narrow the lanes for cars. The consultants are considering a “Class I” multi-use trail, a “Class II” buffered or striped bike lane, and a “Class IV” cycle track exclusively for bikes — which would allow bidirectional traffic.
“Anything to separate the bikes and the cars is a good idea to me,” said resident Steve Saunders.
It was the first of four workshops the city will host in order to gain input on the project — the council instructed staff to increase outreach on the project.
The project gained a near unprecedented level of attention in August 2018, after dozens of residents protested a proposed concept for four, single-lane roundabouts on the eastern portion of Lomas Santa Fe Drive. Residents showed up at council meetings in droves in order to protest the idea.
In response, council wiped out the option of roundabouts, passing a resolution to eliminate the idea from consideration and maintain two lanes in each direction along the entirety of the stretch.
“As you can see, there are no roundabouts in our plans, there are no roundabouts on the tables, there are no roundabouts on the walls,” said Michael Baker Transportation Planning Manager Dawn Wilson.
But not all residents are happy about it.
Don Macleod, an avid bicyclist and Solana Beach resident since 1976, said he would’ve liked to see roundabouts in the city, and lamented that the issue became politicized. The roundabout debacle was a major campaign topic in the early days of the city’ election cycle.
Macleod said he is still looking forward to the “incremental improvements” the city is aiming to bring to Lomas Santa Fe Drive.
“I don’t think we have a crisis on our hands,” he said.
Some residents question the need for any alterations, and worry that changes such as narrowing the road at intersections to reduce the distance pedestrians have to cross will simply exacerbate the traffic situation. Resident Sandy Punch said Lomas Santa Fe Drive is a commercial street, and changes made for bicyclists might impose constraints on the majority of residents who use cars to get around town.
“They think they’re calming things down,” she said. “The traffic is still there; it’s not going away … people are going to take alternate routes to avoid that traffic. That’s what we’re really concerned about.”
With many details still up in the air, the city and consultants will continue to seek feedback from residents. The city will be holding another workshop over the summer.
City Engineer Mo Sammak said staff have so far gotten a “very positive response” from residents.
“We hope we can address the majority of their concerns,” he said.
All current council members were present, with several past city officials attending to check out the progress. City Councilwoman Kelly Harless said she was impressed with the high turnout.
“I think this is a good example of how the process works,” she said.
The city and consultants anticipate the project will be ready to go out to bid by spring 2020.
Lexy Brodt covers all things Del Mar and Solana Beach for The Coast News, with a primary interest in coastal development. A North County native turned UW-Madison alumna, she has produced for Wisconsin Public Radio and reported for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Wisconsin State Journal.