Carmel Valley planning board approves PHR traffic study, stop sign

Councilmember Barbara Bry addresses the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board.
(Karen Billing)

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board is making some progress in its efforts to ease traffic woes in the Pacific Highlands Ranch community. At its May 24 meeting, the board approved a new stop sign on Silver Bush Creek and Lopelia Meadows Drive and additionally voted to allocate funds from facilities benefit assessments to conduct a traffic study to validate short-term and long-term solutions generated by its PHR traffic subcommittee.

San Diego City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry was in attendance at the meeting and provided an update on the completion of Village Center Loop Road, considered a critical traffic mitigation for the community to connect back to Carmel Valley Road. The street currently dead-ends past the Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch and the remaining 700-foot segment of road falls within 21 acres of private property owned by the Lin family who currently have no plans to develop the property.

“We heard loud and clear from the community how important this is in alleviating traffic,” Bry said.

Bry said, as a council member, she cannot negotiate on behalf of the city, only the mayor and city staff can, but the city is now in conversations with the Lin family. Bry said the city is opening a capital improvement program to transfer money from the facilities benefit assessment so if an agreement is reached, there is the money to fund it.

“Pardee Homes has agreed to build (the road) with FBA money if we can reach an agreement with the Lin family,” Bry said.

Bruce Cameron, a PHR resident and subcommittee member, said the subcommittee was able to come to a consensus on many proposed solutions to help with safety and congestion issues. Ideas included synchronizing traffic lights on Carmel Valley Road and ways to prevent cut-through traffic on residential streets and narrow alleyways. To avoid Carmel Valley Road, commuters often turn off onto residential streets of Lopelia Meadows Place, Golden Cypress Place and Zinnia Hills Place.

Board member Ken Farinsky said many PHR streets feel like the “Wild West” as they lack stop signs.

At the meeting, the board unanimously approved resident Shirley Yao’s request to make the intersection of Silver Bush Creek and Lopelia Meadows Drive an all-way stop—currently the side streets have a stop but the main street, Lopelia Meadows, does not and it has become unsafe for pedestrians and drivers as the visibility is partially obscured by the landscape median, Yao said.

“I think it’s the right thing to do, especially for kids walking to school,” said Yao, who gathered 100 signatures in support.

As has been noted throughout the process, one of the main issues is the school traffic as the area is home to Solana Ranch Elementary, Canyon Crest Academy, Pacific Trails Middle School and students traveling to Cathedral Catholic High School, Sycamore Ridge and Ashley Falls Schools.

Vice Chair Barry Schultz said the board should focus on how to help change behaviors such as working to educate student drivers and the school communities to be respectful to the neighborhood. Cameron said he has had discussions with Canyon Crest Academy and after seeing a number of cars cutting through on Zinnia Hills Place with Cathedral Catholic High School stickers, he also contacted the school to try to start a dialogue but hadn’t heard back. Schultz said that was disappointing to hear as his son is a graduate of CCHS.

“I strongly feel if start times were shifted we would see a lot of improvement,” board member Shreya Shah Sasaki said.

Representatives from the Solana Beach School District participated in the subcommittee and at the Del Mar Union School District meeting the night before, the issue of adding school buses was discussed for families that live in East Pacific Highlands Ranch. The San Dieguito Union High School District, the only neighboring district to offer transportation, has faced challenges regarding declining ridership and an industry-wide shortage of bus drivers.

DMUSD board member Doug Rafner requested that staff come back to a future meeting with an update on transportation options as well as looking at staggered start times to help PHR parents who are facing up to 35-minute commutes to go three miles.

“It’s is a band-aid I get it,” Rafner said. “But at least it’s something.”

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