The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board approved putting another “bandaid” on Pacific Highlands Ranch’s growing traffic issues at its Oct. 26 board meeting. The board approved installing no right turn signs at the Carmel Valley Road intersections of Rancho Santa Fe Farms Road, Zinnia Hills Place and Lopelia Meadows Place, as well as Golden Cypress Place and Rancho Santa Fe Farms Road. The no right turns will be enforced Monday through Friday from 7-8 a.m.
The no right turn signs were proposed by board member and Pacific Highlands Ranch Portico neighborhood resident Allen Kashani, who worked on the solution with former board member Manjeet Ranu and former San Diego City Councilmember Sherri Lightner.
As the SR-56 West backs up substantially in the morning, Kashani said the problem is more people from the east of Pacific Highlands Ranch are starting to avoid the freeway altogether and come down Carmel Valley Road. This causes traffic to push onto residential streets.
“For the record, I actually don’t mind the traffic, I’m resigned to traffic, it’s everywhere in California,” Kashani said. “It’s when the kids are punching it at 45 miles per hour down the alleyway that I decided I had to get involved.”
Kashani said teenage drivers on their way to the nearby high schools and other commuters have been “flooring it” down his neighborhood streets and line-ups have been building on residential backstreets to get back on Pacific Highlands Ranch Parkway and avoid the congestion on Carmel Valley Road.
He hopes the signs will help prevent that cut-through traffic, as one resident said: “We can’t back out our driveways because teenagers are flying through.”
Pacific Highlands Ranch representative Shreya Sasaki said the signs are just one solution and they need to have a larger conversation about what they envision for the community — encouraging carpooling, walking or biking to school and making it safe to do so and addressing a plan for the area overall at the board’s Pacific Highlands Ranch traffic subcommittee.
Some solutions for Pacific Highlands Ranch are in the works — plans are underway to expedite the completion of Village Center Loop Road, which currently dead ends past the Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch, Canyon Crest Academy and Pacific Trails Middle School at a privately-owned parcel that has no current plans for development. Once completed the road will link back to Carmel Valley Road.
Additionally, the expansion of Carmel Valley Road from four to six lanes from Del Mar Heights to SR-56 recently opened.
“That was never going to help,” said Pacific Highlands Ranch resident Karen Dubey of the Carmel Valley Road extension. “It’s disappointing that the third lane didn’t go one extra block because that’s the main entrance to Village center and also Pacific Highlands Ranch Parkway.”
Board vice chair Barry Schultz said that it’s “mindboggling” to think of all the density on that roadway and all the homes still to come.
“I think at some point, someone had to think about it. How do we find ourselves in this situation?” he asked, not for the first time.
Carmel Valley Planning Board Frisco White said that the traffic is not 24-7 and is mostly during those peak hours of school pick-up and drop-off. One resident said it seems that it is not a road problem but a school problem.
“This is a band-aid, it’s probably worth doing in the short term but Barry is right, there are some things that were not planned for,” Dubey said.
Dubey said planning efforts did not assume Village Center Loop Road would not be complete nor was it assumed that students who live on Rancho Santa Fe Farms Road would be going to Ashley Falls School.
“A huge amount of traffic wants to turn right on Del Mar Heights Road,” Dubey said.
She said adding to the problem is that CCA and Cathedral Catholic High School are regional schools, with people traveling from outside of the area to PHR. And planning did not assume all the schools would start and end at the same time.
“I guarantee this is all a school problem, because in the summer we have no problem with the cut-through traffic. And the coming-home traffic is not when you come home at 6 p.m., it’s at 3 p.m, ”Dubey said, noting that the intersection of Del Mar Heights and Carmel Valley Road is completely clogged in the afternoons with people trying to turn left.
Dubey said the situation could be improved by the opening of Village Center Loop Road, staggered school times and perhaps one extra lane on Carmel Valley Road from PHR Parkway to Del Mar Heights Road. If the Del Mar Union School District does build its ninth school, slated for a property on Solterra Vista Parkway, she said that would take some cars off the street for students traveling to Ashley Falls School.
As has been noted in the past, there are 12 traffic lights from the eastern boundary of the Del Mar district to Ashley Falls and those commuters face a 26- to 34-minute drive to travel about three miles to get to school, joining the rest of the PHR traffic on Carmel Valley Road.