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Hwy 101 plans get approval

SOLANA BEACH — City Council unanimously approved final design plans for improvements along the west side of Coast Highway 101 and authorized staff to advertise for construction bids.
Those actions at the Nov. 16 meeting move forward an enhancement project that has been discussed for at least 15 years, although preliminary planning began in 2009.
Since then, the city has held public workshops and meetings and met with property owners to garner input to refine design plans, which at one time included roundabouts and reverse-angle parking.
Improvements will be made in three phases, beginning at Cliff Street and going south to Estrella Street, then moving to Plaza Street and finishing at Dahlia Drive.
In response to concerns raised at an August meeting, the design team switched from reverse-angle parking to head-in diagonal spaces only. Overall the project will include 27 additional spaces from Cliff to Dahlia and another 20 to the south for a total of about 125 spaces compared to the approximately 75 that are available now.
Four crosswalks will be added, including two at Estrella and Cliff and midblock crossings with flashing beacons near the stairs at the train station and between Dahlia Drive and Lomas Santa Fe Drive.
All new streetlight, traffic signal and rapid-flashing beacon poles in the project area will be decorative and complementary to the rest of the street furniture. A decorative base will be added to existing traffic poles, which will be painted to match the new ones.
“We’re definitely going to have a theme throughout the corridor,” City Engineer Mo Sammak, said.
Speed will be reduced to 35 mph beginning at Solana Vista Drive. Seating areas will be added throughout the project area, and newspaper racks will be removed and replaced with uniform decorative ones.
Medians wider than 8 feet will include 77 new trees, for a net increase of 45. Medians will have root barriers for long-term pavement protection. Some council members had concerns about tree size and view blockage, especially in the Lomas Santa Fe/Plaza area.
“It’ll never be as bad as it was before with the other trees that used to be there,” Councilman Mike Nichols, a member of the ad hoc committee and a licensed landscape architect, said. “It would never be that much blockage.”
There will be 46 dark grey, cast-iron tree grates with two emblems featuring the historic California 101 logo.
About 85 percent of all new landscaping will be considered low-water use, with the remaining in the moderate range, consultant Pat O’Connor said.
The project also introduces 11 community gathering places, or themed plazas, that will include low seat walls, benches and an artistic use of colored aggregate and rock in the sidewalk to capture “the personality of Solana Beach in terms of water and earth,” O’Connor said.
One proposed plaza will feature stars as they were aligned July 1, 1986, the day Solana Beach became a city.
The project will be funded with an advance from the city’s TransNet revenue.
In 1987, San Diego voters approved TransNet, a 20-year, half-cent sales tax for transportation projects. It was extended to 2048 in the November 2004 election.
Resident Peter House was the only resident to address council about the project. “What’s not to like?” he asked, adding that most of the area used to be trailer parks and gas stations.
Joe Kellejian said he’s been dreaming about the improvements for most of his nearly two decades as a City Council member. Once completed Kellejian said he expects the project will “drastically change the whole appearance of this community.”
“It will not only change the design and the appearance of our city, but it’s going to drastically change our economy, too, because as that happens you’ll see a lot of activity happen on that street, so bravo to all,” he said.