Neighbors to city: Stop cars from crashing into our backyards

After a car plowed into his Encinitas backyard, knocking down a wooden fence, this past Christmas Eve, Carlos Rios said he considered the incident “only a matter of time.”

For more than 30 years, neighbors along Village Wood Road have estimated at least 10 vehicles have crashed through their backyards situated at or below street level on the northbound stretch of Encinitas Boulevard, between Village Park Way and Willowspring Drive. The stretch of road has an increased speed limit and a curve that residents say can make it hard for people to drive safely.

The neighbors submitted a petition with 22 signatures to the City of Encinitas earlier this month to look into methods, such as a guardrail, to try to remedy the problem.

Lucas Karasch, who has lived in his home on the 2000 block of Village Wood Road for three years, pleaded to the city's traffic commission Jan. 8 to come up with a solution.

A car crashed into Karasch's backyard within six months of him and his wife living there. He said costs to repair the fence were about $10,000.

Neighbors informed him that a few years prior, before Karasch lived there, a similar incident had happened at the home. After seeing the crash at Rios’ home just a few years later, the neighbors decided to band together to ask the city for help.

Karasch, a soon-to-be first-time father, whose baby is due in July, said while none of his neighbors have been injured, he worries especially for children playing in their own backyards.

"That's our largest fear," he said. "Our baby won't be playing in the backyard for probably six to nine months. We've got a year to two years to get something done if we can. This needs to be done sooner rather than later, obviously, because this keeps happening, and it's not going to stop."

Data from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department shows there were 33 total traffic collisions on Encinitas Boulevard between Village Park Way and Willowspring Drive between 2010 and 2017. The sheriff's department did not have any information about how many of those incidents involved vehicles crashing into backyards.

Comparatively, during the same time frame, there were six collisions on Encinitas Boulevard between Willowspring Road and Santa Fe Road, according to the sheriff's department.

Karasch said he believes a "higher-than-average" speed zone of 50 miles per hour along his neighbors' stretch of road could be to blame.

"According to reports obtained by the sheriff's department, the probability of occurrence proves to be higher in this zone and these repeated accidents pose a serious threat to life, property and overall public safety," Karasch wrote in a letter to the city council dated Jan. 8.

He has proposed a guardrail to help drivers traveling along the curve between Village Park Way and Willowspring Drive.

Michelle Wright, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years, estimates she's seen at least 10 crashes into backyards. Her house has been hit once by an intoxicated driver, and her entire back fence was destroyed.

"It looked like a bomb went off," she remembered. "Everything was splintered. It was just crazy. ... The house on the corner has had two or three [crashes]. Another house was hit three times within a couple months."

Wright said she does not believe a guardrail could help because it could "catapult someone" into the yards, but she agreed something needed to be done.

Deputy Mayor Joe Mosca, who visited the neighborhood Jan. 19 with city officials, said he was concerned for the safety of the residents. He added the city would look into a solution.

"When you see the differential in the street level and their backyards, when these cars come up, it's really dangerous," he said. "We need to find an engineering solution to protect them if it does happen and also find a way to decrease the speeds on this road. It just seems to be going very quickly. There are areas where it's wide open, and people are going very fast. If we don't do something, it's going to increase. This is something we need to get ahead of and make sure that we're doing stuff to this road to make sure the target speed limit is much lower."

He said city engineering staff will look into possibilities to protect the homes and their residents, like a guardrail. Mosca added he also plans to bring the issue up at the city's strategic planning meeting this spring.

Rios said until the city can place a safety measure of its own, he has looked into building a concrete wall to separate his property from the street. He estimates $2,500 in damages for the fence alone. If he builds a concrete wall behind a new wooden fence, that could cost an additional $8,000, he said.

No one was home at the time of the crash, around 8:30 p.m., said Rios, who has owned the home since 1985 but now lives in San Marcos. He received a phone call from neighbors about 9:30 p.m. letting him know what had happened. When he arrived to the home an hour later, the scene had already been cleaned up, he said.

Authorities are still investigating Rios' incident and have not determined why the vehicle crashed into his backyard.

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