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Residents express concerns about Carmel Valley traffic, road safety

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Residents are looking for improved visibility at the crosswalk at Del Mar Trails Road and Camarero Court.
(Karen Billing)

Carmel Valley residents are asking for changes that will improve pedestrian safety in their neighborhood. The group of neighbors has been working with the city to find a solution for the crosswalk at the corner of Del Mar Trails Road and Camarero Court and raised their concerns to the Carmel Valley Community Planning board at its Oct. 24 meeting.

“We have all witnessed several people, both children and adults, almost get hit by cars on several different occasions,” wrote Ranee Fisher in a letter to the city, signed by fellow residents Ruby Evans and Veronica Ford. “The crosswalk is very risky because cars often overlook the pedestrian crossing warning signs and speed right through the crosswalk, even when people are crossing. We’ve also witnessed cars driving around the cars who stop for pedestrians.”

Back in 2012, parents rallied to get that crosswalk on Camarero Court, which is close to the entrance to a greenbelt that leads down to Carmel Del Mar Elementary School.

Fisher said drivers don’t seem to be aware of the crosswalk, possibly because they are driving too fast, possibly because westbound drivers aren’t expecting a crosswalk right after the stop sign on Worsch Drive down the hill or because the pedestrian warning signs aren’t visible enough. The crosswalk is slightly more visible for eastbound drivers, she said, but they don’t always stop.

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The neighbors’ proposal is to increase the visibility of the crosswalk, “The bottom line here is the crosswalk is a hazard,” Evans said.

Suggestions to the city have included better signage, in-street pedestrian crossing signs and bright markers, installing a solar-powered flashing crosswalk, small islands to help slow cars or updating the crossing to a raised walk or speed hump.

Fisher said the planning board recommended having the school hire a crossing guard while they continue to work with the city on approving the flashing lights. The group met with Principal Julie Lerner, who said she is supportive of the idea of hiring a crossing guard, however, another school in the Del Mar Union School District hasn’t been able to fill the position for six years.

Ford, Fisher and Evans are hoping that the city can take action on some kind of calming measure by the end of the year.

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The community has driven several efforts to improve safety in their neighborhood. In 2014, families lobbied to get a stop sign and crosswalk on Worsch Drive where it turns into Carmel Park Drive and, in 2015, they advocated for an all-way stop sign at the intersection of Mona Lisa Street and Del Mar Trails Road after a 57-year-old woman was hit and killed by an oncoming vehicle while crossing at the crosswalk.

Traffic enforcement in Carmel Valley
Traffic concerns were a main topic of the planning board’s Oct. 24 meeting. During public comment, resident Andrea Mintz addressed the topic of reckless driving that appears to be escalating in Carmel Valley.

“All of the stop signs and crosswalks are meaningless if people aren’t paying attention,” Mintz said, noting she believes 85 percent of drivers are distracted by their cell phones.

Mintz has done her own traffic study, standing on the corner of High Bluff Drive and Carmel View Road, she said in about five seconds four people went through the stop signs. Of the four, one was on the phone.

“Drivers won’t change their behavior unless they are ticketed or in a crash,” Mintz said. “Unfortunately, not enough tickets are written in Carmel Valley.”

Mintz requested data from the San Diego Police Department and found that over an eight-month period from August 2018 to March 2019, police issued 37 cell phone violations and 22 failure to stop violations, which she argued is not going to make the change she wants to see in Carmel Valley. Understanding that SDPD is understaffed with limited manpower, Mintz asked: “What can we do to stop people running red lights, stop them from talking on cell phones and creating havoc to anybody obeying traffic laws?”

Speaking on behalf of SDPD’s Northwestern Division , Lt. Dan Hall said traffic is the number one concern everywhere in San Diego communities and as best as they can, they use their limited resources to show qualitative results.

When it comes to traffic enforcement on a normal shift, Hall said Northwestern officers focus on safety patrol around the schools, mainly the high schools. Just their morning efforts over the last 10 months resulted in 68 citations and 150 warnings.

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At Canyon Crest Academy, officers worked 6.75 hours over the last 10 months, issuing 21 citations and 30 warnings. At Torrey Pines they worked four and a half hours, writing 14 citations and 20 warnings. At Cathedral Catholic High School, they worked two and a half hours and issued eight citations.

Just the morning efforts resulted in 68 citations and 150 warnings.

Often, Northwestern will use their motorcycle cops to target specific areas. On Oct. 23, they had 14 motor officers targeting the Carmel Valley area all day which resulted in 118 moving violations, 12 non-hazardous citations, 10 traffic warnings and the impounding of one vehicle.

“We can’t do that every day,” Hall said, adding that if the community shares their concerns about problem areas, the department can prioritize efforts with the motor strike team.

Often, other law enforcement issues arise that take officers away from traffic duty, Hall said. Just last week Northwestern offers responded to a hot prowl, a residential burglary that occurs while someone is at home. All of the officers in the area were taken out of service as they searched for and arrested two suspects for the crime.

In another case, officers were called to an incident of fraud. The police were able to arrest a female suspect for falsifying id and writing fraudulent checks that amounted to $1 million.

While Hall said their department is pushing to get their division’s squad numbers beefed up, he encourages people to report issues when they can.

Mintz has proposed the police department conduct a month-long trial at Del Mar Heights Road and the Interstate 5 interchange where no one stops, Carmel Valley Road east onto El Camino Real and Carmel Vista and High Bluff “where stop signs are optional”.

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Board member Ken Farinsky said it is important that people prioritize their concerns, noting while it might be annoying that people aren’t stopping before getting on I-5, it might be more crucial to have enforcement on Del Mar Heights Road and Lansdale Drive, where people run the lights when students are present.

To start tackling community issues, Hall said residents can email their concerns to Officer John Briggs at jbriggs@pd.sandiego.gov.

“Together, we can have an impact,” Hall said.


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