Solana Beach getting serious about 101 revamp
Solana Speedway may currently be the most fitting name for this city’s stretch of historic Highway 101.
Cars zip through the 1.2-mile, four-lane straightaway, headed south toward picturesque downtown Del Mar or north to Cardiff and Encinitas. Many of the drivers, eyes gazing forward, traverse the city of Solana Beach, not even thinking to look out their side window.
But they soon may have reason to turn their heads.
After 10 years of conversations, city leaders are finally beginning to take serious steps into turning their portion of the 101 into a modern, inviting, urban district that they hope will become a moneymaking machine.
“It’s kind of like the baseball move, you build it, they’ll come,” said City Manager David Ott, alluding to the film “Field of Dreams.” “This is a financial engine that’s not being utilized at all within the city.”
With sales-tax revenue down $100,000, or 22 percent from this point last fiscal year, and property values falling due to the recession, it is hoped that revitalizing the main stretch of Solana Beach will be a major factor in eventually solving both problems.
“Highway 101 is like this jewel that just needs polish,” Mayor Mike Nichols said. “You do have areas where it’s unsafe to walk, you don’t have sidewalks, curbs and gutters, [there are] drainage issues, you have just accessibility issues and all that stuff needs to get fixed so we can really create this great place along the 101.”
Solana Beach retained renowned city-redesign consultant Dan Burden to study the area. Burden is credited with analyzing more than 2,000 cities across the world, and also worked with San Diego on La Jolla’s Bird Rock revitalization.
“Many new stores have moved in and indeed people are coming from out of the neighborhood, as well as throughout the neighborhoods, now down to the spine street they used to avoid,” he said of La Jolla Boulevard.
But Nichols said the goal for this project is to keep Solana Beach unique, not have it become another version of Bird Rock or any other gentrified city.
“We don’t want to make it any different than the character we have now,” the mayor said. “It’s more about enhancing.”
While the current stretch of Highway 101 in Solana Beach does contain some newer shops and strip malls, there is also a construction rental company and trailer park. Other stretches either have old or missing sidewalks where pedestrians must walk on the same level as passing cars.
Among other ideas, Burden most notably suggested reducing the amount of traffic lanes to one for each direction, installing back-in only reverse-angle parking, widening sidewalks, and, as in Bird Rock, replacing traffic lights with roundabouts, which he said reduce personal injury accidents by 90 percent. His goal is to slow traffic, promote alternate modes of transportation, and contribute to a healthier, pedestrian or bicycling lifestyle.
“The road itself is aging, it’s built for an earlier nation just to move mass quantities of steel and rubber, and that’s changing,” Burden said.
Ott estimated the cost of the entire project to be between $12 million and
Burden is working on a concept for the revitalization, and the Nasland Civil Engineering firm will study its feasibility. They will return to the council in January with their findings and suggestions.
The city has already received one grant towards the project and is currently seeking more funds. It does not plan to go to the public for money or a vote.
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