When a fast-moving car careened off Encinitas Boulevard and crashed into the next-door neighbors' backyard at midnight on Christmas Eve, Village Park resident Lucas Karasch told his wife they should put their house on the market immediately.
"My wife and I are expecting our first baby in July and all I could see was her playing in the back yard and getting impaled by cinder block bits," he said, adding that he knew the Christmas Eve crash wasn't a one-time freak accident because a car had landed in his own backyard two years earlier.
His wife told him to try lobbying City Hall to improve the roadway conditions, instead of moving out, and so far he's been pleasantly surprised, he said Tuesday, March 13 -- the day after the city's Traffic & Public Safety Commission voted to recommend installing a guard rail on the north side of Encinitas Boulevard near Village Park Way as a short-term fix and consider re-striping the roadway as a longer term project. The City Council is expected to consider the commission's recommendation in the coming weeks.
"I was very, very pleased with how positively they responded and how quickly it's moving," Karasch said.
Now, he'd just like to have that guard rail installed before his future daughter starts walking, he said, adding that he's expecting to attend a City Council budget meeting either late this month or early next month to make sure the project is included in the budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
At Monday night's commission meeting, City Engineer Chris Magdosku described the guard rail project as "low-hanging fruit" -- something the city could move forward on relatively easily. Commission Chairman Charles Lisherness agreed.
"It's an easy fix," he said. "It's not something that's going to require a lot of engineering and a lot of money."
In his presentation, the city engineer suggested installing a barrier up to 700 feet long just east of Encinitas Boulevard's intersection with Village Park Way, saying that could protect 14 homes just north of the boulevard. These homes, which are accessed via Village Wood Road, are all downslope of Encinitas Boulevard and that's why vehicles keep ending up in their backyards, he noted.
Magdosku said the cheapest way to solve the problem would be a metal guard rail, which would likely cost $30 a foot. His most expensive option -- a concrete wall -- topped out at $100 a foot.
Commissioners picked the metal guard rail option, saying the roadway will likely be reworked to improve bike lane conditions later, so it was better to go with the lower-cost option now.
In the last seven years, there have been 36 accidents in that portion of Encinitas Boulevard, and two vehicles have ended up in people's backyards, Magdosku said. Sheriff's Deputy Michael Power said that he responded to the Christmas Eve crash and it was lucky no one was hurt in that incident.
"The driver of the vehicle had gone through the fence and had his vehicle not gotten high-sided on a tree stump that had been cut down by the resident, it could have gone through the resident's home," he said, adding that the driver who is believed to have been intoxicated, left the vehicle in gear and ran off after the crash.
--Barbara Henry is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune