Longtime community planning board chair resigns amid traffic signal controversy

Traffic improvements along Del Mar Heights Road have been a contentious issue for local residents over the years.
(Luke Harold)

Following the sudden resignation of its longtime chair, the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board will hold a reorganization meeting to appoint a new chair and secretary Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. in the Del Mar Hills Academy Performing Arts Center.

Dennis Ridz, who served on the board for more than 10 years, many of those as chair, is one of several members who have left over the past few months. In a phone interview, he said he decided to resign due to “interference” from the office of San Diego City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry, whose district includes the Torrey Pines community.

“I don’t want to impact the board,” Ridz said. “I think they’ve been put in a very bad situation. Not by me resigning, but by interference.”

He referred to the board’s Nov. 14 meeting, when it voted to approve a traffic signal at Del Mar Heights Road and Mercado Drive. Leading up to that vote, local residents had been debating for years about how to best handle street safety along Del Mar Heights Road.

Many residents supported the traffic signal, but many others felt it would worsen traffic congestion, or that the board should have held out for a more comprehensive solution that spans multiple intersections along the road.

The city had already released a traffic study that identified Del Mar Heights Road and Mercado Drive as a potential location for a traffic signal. But Ridz said he wanted more information from city traffic engineers. He said he felt that Bry compelled the board to take a vote before he could get that information.

Ridz ended up voting for the traffic signal, but also said he would have preferred to abstain. He added that in the months since the vote, there’s been “a tremendous amount of fallout from the people who didn’t want it.”

San Diego’s community planning boards serve an advisory role on local land use, but that particular vote officially added the traffic signal to the city’s list of capital improvement projects.

“Community Planning Boards play an important role as an advisory body to the City,” Bry said in an emailed statement. “I wish Mr. Ridz well and thank him for his service. I will continue to work with the Board in a spirit of mutual respect and a shared desire to serve and represent the Torrey Pines community.”

Two other departures from the community planning board were announced late last year: Wayne Cox, who was the board’s secretary, and Barbara Cerny, who served from 2007-09 and 2012-19, followed by Sheryl Adams and Ridz.

The 13-member Torrey Pines Community Planning Board now has four vacant seats and three expiring seats ahead of the March 12 community planning board elections.