Planning board approves stop sign, asks city to study further traffic calming

The planning board approved a three-way stop sign at High Bluff Drive and Lady Hill Road,
The planning board approved a three-way stop sign at High Bluff Drive and Lady Hill Road,

(Karen Billing)

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board July 23 approved a two-step process to install a stop sign at the Solana Highlands neighborhood intersection of High Bluff Drive and Lady Hill Road and requested that the city conduct a traffic study for a pedestrian-activated lighted crosswalk as a potential long-term solution. The city has said it would complete a traffic calming study by October.

Residents Michael Wood and Diane Borys led the community effort for the stop signs, gathering over 70 signatures in support. Wood believes stop signs are the best option to provide safe passage for Solana Highlands School children and community members while also slowing traffic, particularly as drivers use High Bluff to bypass traffic on El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights Road.

“It’s becoming a very fast speedway, it’s important to be able to slow traffic down,” Wood said. “Stop signs would do that, a flashing light crosswalk would not.”

In May, the board also received a petition from neighbors against the stop signs. Neighbor Marlene Gotz has stated over the last several months that a stop sign creates exhaust emissions that pollute the environment and air quality while a lighted, pedestrian crosswalk is used only when needed.

Despite school being out for summer and the reopening of the campus unlikely unless San Diego County’s COVID-19 numbers go down in the next few weeks, Borys said she still walks her children to the school grounds every day to maintain a sense of normalcy. Many in the community also cross the street at that intersection as it is an entrance to the park and there have been several near misses.

Borys quoted Solana Highlands Principal Shawntanet Jara in her letter of support for the stop signs: “Please don’t let a tragic incident create the impetus to make the change.”

Rather than taking a piecemeal approach to traffic and livability issues in Carmel Valley, nearly five years ago the board went through a long process of identifying problematic areas and categorizing them to be dealt with together. The board has 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. The board’s efforts have stalled with the city.

Ricky Flahive, council representative for Councilmember Barbara Bry, said he has been repeatedly following up with the mayor’s staff to inquire about the traffic study. While staff did not want to put anything in writing, he said Bry’s office was told it was tentatively a no for now, due to COVID-19.

The situation has become very frustrating for members of the board who feel that they are being ignored, “We’ve been working on this for a couple of years now and it really hasn’t gone anywhere which is very disappointing,” Chair Frisco White said.

Vice Chair Barry Schultz said the community needs to figure out some kind of strategy to get a voice at city hall and get some response on their livability study projects—they have met similar obstacles at the city trying to complete Village Center Loop Road in Pacific Highlands Ranch.

“The whole idea behind (the livability study) was to have more of a comprehensive approach to deal with the issues in our community and we keep getting forced each time to do this piecemeal, which I think in the future is going to be to the detriment of this community,” Schultz said. “We’re trying to get the mayor’s attention…The message they’re sending is: ‘Carmel Valley doesn’t count. We don’t really care’. “