Torrey Pines board looks to enhance Del Mar Heights Road

The Torrey Pines Community Planning Board is leading an effort to create a master plan to enhance Del Mar Heights Road.

“Del Mar Heights Road has become a speedway and it’s going to get worse,” said Diana Scheffler, a member of the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board’s project review board at the October Carmel Valley Community Planning Board meeting. “It has also, as a result of being a dangerous speedway, become a divider in our community. It’s very difficult to make that north-south crossing, it’s dangerous for pedestrians in general and school children in particular.”

Because it’s so dangerous to walk, Scheffler said many parents choose to protect children by driving them to school at Del Mar Hills Academy or Del Mar Heights School, which only creates more traffic.

Left turns from any of the residential streets onto Del Mar Heights are “difficult at best” and the intersection of Mango Drive, near the freeway ramps and Beachside Del Mar shopping center, is often “seriously congested.”

“The mission (of the master plan) is to reduce the amount of traffic, reduce its speed and to increase walkability and bike-ability from I-5 down to Camino Del Mar,” Scheffler said.

Such a planning effort will take funding and the group plans to apply for the SANDAG-sponsored Active Transportation Grant Program (ATGP). The goal of the ATGP is “to encourage local jurisdictions to plan and build facilities that promote multiple travel choices and increase connectivity to transit, schools, retail centers, parks, work and other community gathering places.”

According to Scheffler, the city of San Diego has agreed to be the applicant for the grant as a planning group cannot. The group is working to receive support for its effort from elected San Diego county and city officials, the Del Mar Union School District, the city of Del Mar, developers Donahue Schriber and Kilroy Realty, and the Carmel Valley Community Planning Group, which granted its provisional support in October.

“It’s a win-win for all of us because we all do use Del Mar Heights Road,” Chair Frisco White said.

The call for the applications to distribute $3.6 million in ATGP funds will be in December, with the application deadline in March.

The Torrey Pines Community Planning Board has been working on issues on Del Mar Heights for many years. In 2016, the board considered a proposed stoplight at Mercado Drive, which had been voted down twice before in 2004 and 2007. The 2016 proposal was led by a group of parents, although many residents voiced opposition for the necessity and safety of a traffic signal at that intersection.

As a result, the board formed an ad hoc committee to consider a master planning effort for the road which included not just traffic-calming measures but also beautification, potential sidewalk additions and other enhancements.

Scheffler said the goals for the plan would support concepts of Safe Walks to School, Complete Streets, Smart Mobility, San Diego Climate Action Plan and Vision Zero. That means the plan would include improved pedestrian safety; a review of signalization, turn lanes and crosswalks; the possibility of separating traffic from bike lanes and sidewalks with landscaped buffer zones; and overall creating a more attractive corridor and a more livable neighborhood.

Scheffler said public involvement will be incorporated at every planning step.

To keep track of board meetings and the group’s efforts, visit torreypinescommunity.org.

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