Stop signs proposed in Solana Highlands neighborhood

Neighbors have proposed stop signs at the intersection of Lady Hill and High Bluff.
(Karen Billing)

Carmel Valley residents are petitioning to install three-way stop signs at Lady Hill Road and High Bluff Drive intended to slow traffic, enhance visibility for children heading to Solana Highlands Elementary School and create an “overall safer environment.” The Carmel Valley Planning Board is expected to make a decision about the proposed stop sign at its Zoom board meeting on June 25 at 6 p.m.

Longtime resident Michael Wood is leading the effort for the stop signs with Diane Borys; both are parents of students at Solana Highlands. At the board’s May 28 board meeting, they presented a petition with 65 signatures in support of the intersection improvement.

“This is in a school zone and the marked crosswalk is not safe,” Wood said. “Speeding vehicles are simply not yielding to pedestrians at this crosswalk.”

Wood said the sloping topography at the intersection creates poor visibility and many residents have shared stories of scary near-misses while trying to cross with their young children.

Wood believes the problem is only going to get worse, noting that cut-through traffic in the neighborhood has increased as people try to avoid back-ups on El Camino Real. He also noted that Solana Highlands will also be increasing in enrollment as the school will house 233 students from Solana Vista during the one-year school reconstruction. The district is also exploring converting Solana Highlands from K-3 to K-6 school in the 2021-22 school year.

“This is truly about the schoolchildren’s safety first and foremost,” said Borys, who walks her child to school every day. Solana Highlands Principal Shawntanet Jara has written a letter of support for the stop signs.

Residents on the Zoom call pointed out that it is not just a school problem but a neighborhood problem as the crosswalk is a major access point to the park.

Wood said informal neighborhood discussions about the stop sign have been going on for years. In October 2019, San Diego Police Department increased local patrols and the city repainted the crosswalk but it didn’t have much impact. The city traffic engineer was unable to qualify the intersection for a stop sign which prompted the alternative process through the planning board. In order to raise awareness about their efforts, Wood said they have presented the petition door to door since January (before COVID-19), by email and printed flyers.

The stop signs at Lady Hill are not without opposition. The board also received a petition against the stop signs from residents David and Marlene Gotz, who live on Millcroft Court near the corner of Overpark Road and High Bluff Drive.

David Gotz said he was only notified of the proposal the week before the meeting by a flyer left on his door handle. In one week, they were able to gather support from seven neighbors who were opposed, noting their outreach was limited due to the pandemic.

“We all want to be good neighbors and believe in the safety of all our residents,” Gotz said, suggesting the alternative of a lighted, pedestrian crosswalk that would only be used when it is needed. “We do not need stop signs where traffic stops 24/7.”

Several board members were in favor of the stop sign or having the city study the possibility for a lighted crosswalk, “It is clear to me that this location is an issue…I think something needs to be done here,” said board member Ken Farinsky who lives on Lady Hill. The board agreed to delay a decision on the stop sign until the June meeting to give time for the city to consider the alternative solution.

During his time on the board, board member Vic Wintress has been opposed to throwing up stop signs anytime there is a problem as he said they add to noise and air pollution and fuel consumption. He said he would be more in favor of a traffic signal. Vice Chair Barry Schultz said he believes there should be a more comprehensive approach to community traffic issues, like what they were trying to accomplish with their livability study.

Nearly five years ago, the board went through a long process of identifying problematic areas and categorizing them to be dealt with together, rather than taking a piecemeal approach. The board set aside $1 million of facilities benefits assessments for the city to conduct a traffic study and hire a traffic engineer to develop a program to fix the problems. Chair Frisco White said it has been “ridiculously frustrating” that their efforts have stalled with the city for so long. At the May 28 meeting, the board approved sending yet another letter to the city asking for a consultant to implement the traffic mobility study outlined in the livability report.

To participate in the Zoom board meeting, contact Chair Frisco White at white@wwarch.com.


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