By Claire Harlin
A preliminary design of the Highway 101 West Side Improvements Project met overwhelming praise Aug. 31 at a special Solana Beach City Council meeting, in which engineers and architects presented the plan in its entirety.
The project, which last came before the council in December, includes curb pop-outs, mid-block crosswalks, traffic calming features, median trees and art-inspired gathering places with ample seating. Officials said the project could be underway as early as April, with completion projected for summer 2013.
“The goals for the 101 have never changed,” said Peter House, a community member and philanthropist who has been closely providing support and advice throughout the project. “We wanted to slow down traffic, we wanted to revitalize the 101, we wanted to create more parking and we wanted a walkable downtown — and this does that.”
Slowing traffic and making the 101 more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly were prominent goals of the project. The plan would reduced lane sizes, incorporate “sharrow” lane markings to welcome cyclists and bring awareness to drivers, and introduce angled parking — the idea of back-in, “reverse-angle” parking is still on the table but has garnered mixed emotions.
Currently, the 101 does not have a continuous sidewalk, and that was the No. 1 priority expressed by the public during community meetings. Outdoor dining, parks, trees and seating are other wants of the community that would be granted under the project.
The entire cost is estimated at$5 million, and funding will come from the city’s San Diego Association of Governments TransNet allocation.
A notable element of the project is the addition of 11 gathering places from Cliff Street to Dahlia Drive. They will all be unique and themed, incorporating seating, art, plant life and light. One will represent the ocean with shades of blue on the ground of an elliptical-shaped seating area, and will feature a column sculpture that portrays the five layers of the ocean and has water slithering down it. To offset that idea, the center ground of another gathering area will feature an artistic rendition of star formations that are unique to Solana Beach. Mayor Lesa Heebner loved the artistic ideas presented and suggested illustrating the stars’ position on the night of the city’s incorporation 25 years ago.
City Manager David Ott said there are two spaces reserved for public art, and a plan regarding the process of choosing artists will come to the council in the future.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for years,” said Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Joe Kellejian. “I can’t wait until next year when we get this thing done.”