The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board approved 17 new stop signs for the wide-open streets in the Pacific Highlands Ranch communities of Olvera, Almeria and Watermark and three in East Pacific Highlands Ranch intersections on Solterra Vista Parkway.
The board voted 8-1 in favor of the signs on Oct. 25— board member Vic Wintress was the sole vote in opposition due to his concerns about the signs’ increases on noise and air pollution and fuel consumption.
The stop signs, a mixture of all-way, three-way and one-way stops, came as a result of feedback from residents, Pardee Homes, Property Advantage and San Diego City Council District 1. Many of the traffic and safety problems with the streets were discussed in the planning board’s Pacific Highlands Ranch livability subcommittee.
The board also requested that the city explore installing a traffic signal at Pacific Highlands Ranch Parkway and the entrance to Almeria/ Olvera communities which residents say will be a very busy intersection when all of the new housing is completed.
The planning board was at first overwhelmed by the amount of stop signs that were being requested and some members doubted their need or efficacy.
One of the more convincing arguments in favor of the stop signs came from Solana Ranch Elementary School fifth grader Ariana Ludwig.
“I live in Olvera and would love to walk to school. I can’t walk to school because it’s unsafe for me and my community,” Ariana said.
Ariana said cars and construction trucks often making fast turns without stopping and for her to get to school means crossing two main intersections that do not have stop signs.
“I ask that you vote ‘yes’ to install stop signs and make my community safe,” Ariana said. “As fun as the game ‘Frogger’ is, I don’t want to play it in real life.”
Pacific Highlands Ranch resident Bruce Cameron has been involved in the livability committee’s efforts to deal with traffic concerns in Pacific Highlands Ranch neighborhood, worsened by the clogged Carmel Valley Road. Many commuters use PHR neighborhood streets as a way to avoid traffic jams: “Cut through traffic in the morning is fairly aggressive,” Cameron said, noting the community of Portico has resorted to using temporary barricades during peak hours to keep cars from coming through.
But it is more than just the cut-through traffic: “It’s really an unsafe situation,” said Michelle Strauss, a resident of Almeria.
Strauss said she was shocked at the “dangerous” lack of stop signs after she moved into the community last spring.
“We first raised the issue because cars are blowing past each other every day and almost driving into each other because of line-of-the-site issues,” said Strauss who pleaded her case to Pardee Homes, the city traffic engineers -- who said no — and back to Pardee again.
For stop signs that are denied by city engineers, residents can opt to go through the San Diego City Council’s alternative process—councilmembers can recommend that the mayor install traffic stops with sufficient community support.
Strauss and Cameron enlisted the help of the “amazing” Steven Hadley, director of community outreach for Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry. Together they walked door to door to spread information about the proposed stop signs and posted flyers everywhere about the potential locations. The responses received showed overwhelming support —one stop sign on Sagebrush Bend Way and Golden Larch Place was removed from consideration due to resident opposition.
Hadley said one person was “not exactly thrilled” with one of the stop signs but recognized the need for some traffic calming on Golden Cypress Place.
“Golden Cypress almost looks like a freeway,” Cameron said of the very long, very wide street without a single stop sign.
On the other side of Carmel Valley Road in East Pacific Highlands Ranch, Hadley worked with resident and Sterling at PHR homeowners association board member Kurt Knutson who said the HOA’s biggest issues are always landscaping, traffic and stop signs. Knutson said there have been many near misses at the selected intersections of Solterra Ranch Parkway due to poor visibility and that is concerning with students traveling by bike to Pacific Trails Middle School and the amount of foot traffic by the recreation center.
Resident Gee Wah Mok said they may need to review the stop sign placements again in the future once the Del Mar Union School District’s planned ninth school is built on the “very wide” Solterra Vista street.
Maps and diagrams of the proposed stop signs were distributed through the HOA and Hadley said they received several responses—mostly for more stop signs.
“People were asking for more not less,” Hadley said.
While he voted in favor, board member and Pacific Highlands Ranch resident Allen Kashani said he wasn’t sure that the stop signs would work and that he thought many would continue to blow through them.
Vice Chair Barry Schultz was also hesitant but said if the stop signs were what the community wanted he would support it. Schultz said that not all of the problem is outsiders cutting through— the stop signs’ success will depend on neighbors being respectful of their community and others.
Board member Steve Davison noted that if people aren’t obeying the stop signs once they are installed, the community will have the added recourse of getting the police department out there to enforce them.
The planning board has tried to come up with a solution to keep people from cutting through those PHR neighborhoods. The board proposed and approved “no right turn signs” on Carmel Valley Road at Rancho Santa Fe Farms Road, Golden Cypress Place, Lopelia Meadows and Zinnia Hills between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays.
The “no right turn signs” have been twice denied by the city.