Residents have plenty to say on Del Mar road project

At a meeting in early January, the Del Mar City Council ordered city staff to do more work on a proposed $1.5 million road and sidewalk project on Camino Del Mar, and also to seek more comments from community members.

When the discussion resumed on the project at a council meeting on Monday, Feb. 6, the council members got an earful, as some two dozen residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the project in south Del Mar and along Carmel Valley Road spoke out, mostly against the city’s plans that include shutting down one lane of traffic on northbound Camino Del Mar, the primary road into the city from the south.

Residents also were concerned about a proposal to eliminate a “free right turn” for motorists heading from westbound Carmel Valley Road to northbound Camino Del Mar, as well as potential elimination of a left turn lane from Camino Del Mar onto westbound 4th Street in Del Mar.

Following three hours of testimony, presentations and council discussion, the council voted unanimously to appoint council members Dave Druker and Sherryl Parks to work with staff and community groups, and come up with a plan that can satisfy residents’ concerns. The new plan, along with options, will go back to the city’s Traffic and Parking Advisory Committee, as well as the Torrey Pines Community Planning Group, before coming back before the City Council for consideration at an unspecified date.

The project runs from 4th Street in Del Mar, south to Carmel Valley Road, along Camino Del Mar. According to city staff reports, among its key elements are the creation of a new multi-use path on the west side of Camino Del Mar, elimination of one northbound lane from Camino Del Mar as a traffic calming measure; bike lane additions, widening and buffers; and intersection improvements.

Although residents seemed concerned about several elements of the plan and their potential impacts on traffic congestion, the proposed closure of one northbound lane of Camino Del Mar seemed to draw the most ire.

“Don’t take that lane out. Once you do that all hell is going to break loose and these people are gonna have pitchforks,” said resident Cody Sears, gesturing toward the audience at the council meeting.

The city also received dozens of letters and emails about the project, most of them in opposition. One came from Barbara Bry, a newly elected member of the San Diego City Council, whose district includes residential communities along Carmel Valley Road to the east of Camino Del Mar.

In her letter, Bry said three dozen people expressed concerns about the proposed changes to the intersection of Carmel Valley Road and Camino Del Mar at a recent meeting of the Torrey Pines Community Planning Group. Residents were also upset that they hadn’t had a chance to weigh on the proposed roadway changes.

At Monday’s Del Mar council meeting, Eduardo Savigliano, a member of the Torrey Pines planning board, echoed Bry’s comments.

“We all need to work together. This impacts us. It’s not just a city of Del Mar issue, it’s a regional issue. Please do reach out to us,” Savigliano said.

While the council agreed to take another look at the project and seek more comment from residents, members came to the issue from different perspectives.

“There’s a lot about this project that I like,” said Councilwoman Ellie Haviland, such as the multi-use path from 4th Street to Carmel Valley Road. “I don’t want to see this project getting delayed and delayed and delayed.”

Druker, who sent out an email to constituents before the meeting, detailing his opposition to the project, said the city should apologize for not doing a good job of notifying people who might be affected by the project. He also said the staff presentation was not thorough or understandable enough.

“We need to do a better job,” he said.

For example, he said, the staff presentation was not clear about the impacts of closing one of the northbound lanes of Camino Del Mar. A staff report stated that in 2016, when Camino Del Mar was reduced to one lane in each direction due to a landslide and subsequent road work, the change “did not appear to have adverse impacts to traffic circulation.”

But in their testimony, residents disagreed. And Druker said more information is needed.

“That’s what people want to know, will it take me 10 more minutes to get from Carmel Valley Road to 4th Street once the road is narrowed to one lane,” Druker said.

“We are doing a major change to the major arterial in Del Mar,” Druker said. “We have to make sure the citizens of Del Mar and surrounding communities understand what we’re doing and why, and that they agree with it.”