PHR residents seek solutions for traffic woes

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s Pacific Highlands Ranch traffic subcommittee met on April 25 on possible short-term and long-term solutions for the community’s concerns about congestion and safety.

Those in attendance included residents from the Watermark, Artesana, Santa Rosa, Canterra and Portico neighborhoods. In order to curb some frustrations, members asked the board to set a goal of getting some shorter term solutions like stop signs in by the end of the summer.

The subcommittee has met several times to gauge the issues facing the community including roads congested by school traffic, an under-built SR-56, a lack of stop signs and residential streets not designed for cut-through traffic being heavily used as people try to avoid a jammed Carmel Valley Road.

“If Carmel Valley Road didn’t back up, no one would be cutting through here. The long-term solution is to make Carmel Valley Road work,” planning board member Ken Farinsky said of solutions such as reconfigured lanes, adaptive signals and the expansion of SR-56.

As the community waits for those long-term solutions, some proposed short-term solutions have been met with mixed reviews.

One solution to keep people from cutting through residential neighborhoods is proposed 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 board has approved the signs but there has been some pushback to the idea from people who may be returning their homes at that time.

Neighbors say Blue Dawn Trails has become a “speedway” connecting Zinnia Hills Place and Pacific Highlands Parkway. The cut-through traffic is heaviest during school commute and has permeated into the Portico community as cars frequently speed through their alleyways to beat the line and cut back in front of cars on Blue Dawn.

Portico residents became so fed up with cars speeding through their alleyways that this month the Homeowners Association placed temporary blockades on their streets from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. After the barriers were placed, many residents reported having positive experiences.

Resident Crissy Simon said the barriers initially caused quite a commotion on Zinnia Hills when drivers found they could not cut through.

“Significantly fewer cars tried to race through the neighborhood…the barricades helped to alter traffic behavior,” Simon said. “It was a pleasure to see kids ride their bikes to school or walk without the mass of cars driving through the neighborhood.”

Resident Brad Slavin said the lack of excess cars on his street resulted in a shortened commute.

“It usually takes me 20 minutes and at times up to 40 minutes in the morning to go from my house to drop off my kids at daycare on Del Mar Heights Road but this week has been less than five minutes to get out of the area,” Slavin said. “There has been no overflow traffic on PHR Parkway which means that the right-hand turn lane is not filled with two lines of cars rushing to make the right. Kids walking across the street don’t have to dodge cars, the walkways are safer.”

Not all of the reviews have been positive. Some have complained that the action should not be legal and that a Homeowner’s Association shouldn’t supersede the planning board or the city.

“You can’t just unilaterally block streets, that’s ridiculous,” said one neighbor, adding that when there are events like road races in which streets are closed there is at least some public notice.

One resident reported that on April 24 at around 7:45 a.m. someone took the barrier down on their own, allowing cars to again pass through.

According to Trevor Philips, community relations officer for the Northwestern Division of the San Diego Police Department, the streets fall within HOA control.

The streets of Portico are privately owned and Blue Dawn Trails is a private street—and according to HOA board member Cheryl Hsu, the HOA recently approved a contract for nearly $20,000 to seal and maintain the streets because they have become so run down from all the excess traffic.

“We do not want to block our street, but we currently have no other option to protect our community,” Hsu said. “We do not want to be bad neighbors, but I am glad that our actions are creating a dialogue about the need for a larger traffic solution within Pacific Highlands Ranch.”

It is the subcommittee’s goal to conduct a traffic study to ensure that any long-term capital investment in traffic mitigation measures are fact-based. Many solutions centered on safety in the form of stop signs at Lopelia Meadows Place intersections like Golden Lily Way, Sagebrush Bend Way and Silverbush Creek Street. Residents are particularly passionate about the stop sign on Silverbush Creek—it will be on the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s agenda for review on Thursday, May 24.

Carmel Valley Planning Board Chair Frisco White said he believes one of the biggest impacts will be the much-needed completion of Village Center Loop Road.

“It is a very critical traffic mitigation for the community,” said White of the road that accesses The Village shopping center, Canyon Crest Academy, Pacific Trails Middle School, the new community park and recreation center, the future library and several residential developments.

The road currently dead-ends just past the Airoso community and new Laterra townhomes—when connected, it would link back to Carmel Valley Road.

The remaining 700-foot segment of road falls within the 21 acres of private property owned by the Lin family and the owners currently have no plans to develop the property.

San Diego Councilmember Barbara Bry has met with the Lin Family Trust and according to Steven Hadley, a representative for Bry’s office, Pardee Homes has agreed to build the road if the city asks. At Bry’s request, the mayor has sent a letter to the Lin family asking for them to grant the city permission to build the road.

Hadley said the entire process would likely take two to four years until the road is complete.

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