By Claire Harlin
In response to overwhelming community opposition, the City of Solana Beach has decided not to decrease Lomas Santa Fe Drive from four lanes to two lanes between Highland Drive and Las Banderas, at least not for now.
The idea — which city staffers referred to as a “road diet” in public workshops — was only one of a number of measures proposed to calm traffic and make Lomas Santa Fe more pedestrian-friendly east of Interstate 5. The city has since changed the scope of the project, eliminating that traffic calming element, and the revised and expanded plan now focuses on improvements such as pop-out curbs, crosswalks, dedicated turn lanes, more parking, new sidewalks and a concrete median. The City Council unanimously supported the revised project on March 14, with the agreement that bike lanes will be continuous and the council will continue looking for — and making a priority — long-term traffic calming solutions on Lomas Santa Fe.
Over the last year, the original “road diet” plan was presented to the Public Safety Commission as well as various community groups, and it was heavily scrutinized. The community’s opposition stemmed from concern that the lane reduction could result in too much traffic in one direction, forcing cut-through traffic in the neighborhoods and possibly increasing collisions. The community suggested either mitigating traffic problems with signs instead of reducing lanes, or just leaving it alone.
City engineer Mo Sammak said most of the residents’ concerns were not supported by the professional opinions of the city’s engineer consultants.
“They did not agree with the comments we received from the community,” he said. “However, the city manager directed us to change course and simply eliminate the work that was proposed on Lomas Santa Fe and that’s what we did.”
The revised project includes better defined pedestrian crossings at the Sun Valley intersection, a walkway to the adjacent county park entrance, and an entirely new sidewalk along Sun Valley heading toward Lomas Santa Fe. The entire plan can be viewed at www.ci.solana-beach.ca.us.
About $330,000 is allocated for the project, although engineers estimate that the cost will be higher, Sammak said. The project would be funded by stimulus dollars designated specifically for roadway maintenance and construction and would not add to the deficit of the City of Solana Beach.
Resident Mary Jane Boyd said she supports the improvements to the intersection at Highland Drive and Lomas Santa Fe, as well as the original plan to reduce the street to single lanes.
“We need a long-term solution to calming the traffic on Lomas Santa Fe,” she said. “This could be a beautiful street in the community. It’s in the middle of two residential areas, it’s a main entrance in and out of our city and the city needs to take responsibility in slowing the traffic in our community.”
Councilman Tom Campbell said he appreciated Boyd’s recognition that “there clearly is a problem on that street.”
“I don’t support staff’s elimination of trying to come up with traffic calming solutions on Lomas Santa Fe, whether it be reduction of lane width or elimination of multiple lanes,” he said. “I drive Lomas Santa Fe every day and it’s a racetrack … We have to do something about this. It is a very dangerous situation.”
He said, more importantly, there needs to be a traffic cop in the area writing tickets.
“I support everything else about this plan, but to just throw everything else to the wind regarding traffic calming on Lomas Santa Fe without coming up with some alternatives, I do not support that at all,” Campbell said.
City Manager David Ott said there would not be adequate funds to complete the revised plan as well as the lane reduction plan.
Councilman Mike Nichols said he is “supportive of what we are looking at … but I echo Campbell’s sentiment regarding what we are not looking at.”
“There’s an obvious issue there,” he said, adding that the 17-foot-wide drive lanes on Lomas Santa Fe are “speedways” and narrowing those drive lanes would be worth looking into for a future project.