Council and residents weigh in on Lomas Santa Fe roundabouts

Council and residents weigh in on Lomas Santa Fe roundabouts
A consultant team of engineers proposed a plan to construct four roundabouts on an eastern portion of Lomas Santa Fe Drive. Courtesy rendering

SOLANA BEACH — East Solana Beach residents held “No Roundabouts” signs high at the Aug. 22 Solana Beach City Council meeting, where a consulting team of engineers laid out two separate design plans to revamp the Lomas Santa Fe Corridor.

Attendees were particularly skeptical of a plan that would involve installing four roundabouts along an eastern portion of Lomas Santa Fe Drive — from Camino De Las Villas to Highland Drive. The second proposed plan would involve restriping the roadway and installing medians. The intention of the improvement plan is to make the 2-mile thoroughfare more palatable and safe for bicyclists and pedestrians, and slow down traffic through the area.

Jewel Edson, the city’s deputy mayor, said the four roundabout option was “not popular among council members.”

“I assure you that we heard the community’s opposition to the four roundabout option loud and clear,” Edson said.

The City Council recently directed the city’s Engineering Department to analyze the possibility of two roundabouts — particularly one at Highland Drive and Lomas Santa Fe Drive. The council is considering a second roundabout at the west end of Camino De Las Villas, according to Solana Beach Principal Engineer Dan Goldberg.

Marjory Williams, who has lived on the east side of Solana Beach since 2012 and owned property in the area since 2001, believes the striping option leaves much less room for “unintended consequences.”

Williams calls the roundabouts “inflexible,” and worries about increased emergency response times and a potential slow-down in emergency evacuations. Dawn Wilson, a civil engineer for STC Traffic, Inc., confirmed at the meeting that roundabouts would slow down any vehicle by about 10 seconds.

Like many residents at the meeting, Williams is concerned that roundabouts would circumvent traffic to surrounding neighborhoods.

“We like the quiet residential environment,” she said.

The roundabouts would involve merging the existing two lanes into a one-lane passage, which Williams worried would “choke” traffic. She prepared a poll of more than 300 people in the east-side area, which highlighted a 97 percent opposition to roundabouts. A few other attendees claimed to have prepared similar polls or petitions.

The intention of the meeting was to gather recommendations for Phase III of the project based on community and council feedback. A community workshop was held in May, and the city solicited public comments in response to the two proposals, through July. It received more than 400 comments.

The San Diego Association of Governments approved an Active Transportation Grant for $616,050 in July to pursue Phase III of the project, which will include an analysis of design elements, a topographical survey and a right-of-way acquisition analysis. Phase III will culminate in the presentation of a finalized design by May or June of 2019. The city — which appropriated $65,000 for Phase II of the project — will provide a 10 percent matching funds commitment of $68,450 for Phase III.

The basis is of the project is a Comprehensive Active Transportation Strategy conducted by the city in 2015, which recommended the entire Lomas Santa Fe Corridor as a “priority project,” according to the City Council’s presentation. The first phase of the project was underway by March 2017.

Based on deficiencies that the city identified during Phase I and II, city-hired engineers proposed features such as curb extensions, buffered bike lanes, raised medians, a neighborhood pocket park (off of Stevens Avenue), additional on-street parking and a multi-use trail east of Las Banderas Drive.

Some attendees took issue with the desire to make any far-flung changes to the eastern portion of Lomas Santa Fe Drive.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said resident Sharon Klein.

Sandra Punch, an east-side resident since 1991, said that the stretch is “no road that anyone is going to walk on by choice,” and compared it to similar east-to-west thoroughfares like Del Mar Heights Road and Encinitas Boulevard.

“The whole purpose (of Lomas Santa Fe Drive) is to get people from one area to another, east to west,” Punch said.

Karl Rudnick, the co-founder of BikeWalkSolana and a longtime resident, supports the idea of roundabouts as a “permanent speed regulation device,” as well as the objective to beautify the corridor of the street from the I-5 to Highland Drive.

“I envision the whole upper east corridor being transformed from an underutilized aircraft runway to something to be proud of,” Rudnick said.

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