Solana Beach residents over-packed city hall on Aug. 22, largely with one message for the city council: roundabouts don't belong on Lomas Santa Fe Drive.
The four proposed roundabouts — dotted along the east side of the four-lane road between Las Banderas and Highland, which is a little less than ¾ of a mile — were part of a staff report on phase two of the Lomas Santa Fe Corridor Improvement Project. The project aims to add new and improve existing walkways and bike lanes, overhaul intersections to enhance flow and safety, renovate public transit stops and rejuvenate landscaping. The segment of the meeting was informational and therefore no council action was immediately taken.
Known commonly as traffic circles, modern roundabouts have been used in some parts of the U.S. and widely in Europe to slow vehicles and reduce fatal crashes at intersections, while keeping traffic moving. Consulting traffic engineer Dawn Wilson pointed to local examples in Carlsbad, Encinitas and Vista. She said roundabouts reduce conflict points; eliminate head-on and broadside collisions; and minimize pedestrian crossing distances.
About 20 residents flooded public comments, with many expressing their disregard for the roundabouts. Some said the traffic circles would increase emergency response times and promote drivers finding shortcuts in nearby neighborhoods to avoid slowdowns.
Many residents said they conducted neighborhood surveys, with as many as 97 percent of residents opposing traffic circles.
"It should be very obvious to the council that there's a very strong consensus that you don't need four roundabouts," said resident Al Evans.
Many said the proposed roundabout at Highland and Lomas Santa Fe, especially, was not needed. City staff and consultants proposed the option to encourage drivers to drive slower and safer. The speed limit there is 40 miles per hour, but some residents have complained of vehicles commonly driving much faster there.
Harley Gorton, of San Elijo Hills, believed the roundabout in that intersection would actually make the area more dangerous for bikers and pedestrians because of the "continuous traffic from several directions."
The alternative to the roundabouts is to revise street striping to include buffered bike lanes and install center medians. Both options include a multi-use trail on the road's north side, which residents largely objected to at the meeting.
Other residents proposed a "hybrid plan" that would include a mix of roundabouts and striping. They also suggested lowering the speed limit, narrowing lanes and installing "shame" signs that warn drivers of their speed.
Council members argued people expressed similar complaints prior to the city's Coastal Rail Trail project along Highway 101 a few years ago, but now that road is utilized daily by walkers and bikers, in addition to motorists.
While most in attendance argued against roundabouts, a few also supported them as ways to calm traffic, reduce speeds and beautify the area.
Karl Rudnick, a cyclist, said he believed roundabouts would provide safety with four-way stops and provide a"strikingly beautiful entrance to the city." He said a permanent speed regulation device should be placed in neighborhoods near roundabouts.
"I see this as an innovative plan for the future," said the co-founder of the group BikeWalkSolana.
Another resident said she liked the idea of roundabouts but wasn't sure how the two-lane stretches could be reduced to one lane at the roundabouts.
Council members Lesa Heebner and Jewel Edson favored the roundabout at Highland Drive and Lomas Santa Fe as a "nice entrance" to the city. Heebner said she could not support grant money being spent toward engineering studies for traffic circles in any other areas and also suggested the city look at the intersection of Hilmen Drive and Lomas Santa Fe to see what can be done to make that area safer for pedestrians and children at the nearby Boys & Girls Club.
Council member Peter Zahn suggested the city study two roundabouts as a compromise.
Wilson said four roundabouts were ideal to maintain a consistent driving speed of 35 miles per hour along the corridor.
Other proposed elements of the project include updated benches, bus stops, a "pocket park" at Lomas Santa Fe and Stevens Avenue, curb extensions, additional on-street curb parking, buffered bike lanes, raised/landscaped median islands and continental pedestrian crossings.
City staff noted a CATS survey conducted earlier this year that indicated 64 percent of residents supported improving bike lanes; 45 percent cited slowing traffic as a priority; 33 percent cited lack of bike facilities as a deterrent to bicycling; 70 percent believed better sidewalks would encourage more pedestrian activity; and 25 percent indicated a lack of safe sidewalks prevented people from walking to their destinations. Residents at the meeting argued they weren’t aware of the survey and therefore did not participate to indicate their opposition to the project. City Manager Gregory Wade informed the crowd that the poll was distributed in an e-mail blast to online subscribers.