Stop sign, crosswalk approved at new Pacific Sky School

Solterra Vista Parkway is on a downhill toward Pacific Sky School.
(Karen Billing)

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board recently approved a new stop sign and crosswalk on Solterra Vista Parkway and Terrazo Court, the main entrance for the new Pacific Sky School that is scheduled to open next fall.

Chris Delehanty, the Del Mar Union School District’s executive director of capital programs, made the request to the board to provide a safer crossing for students, families and neighbors.

The school’s entrance is at the end of a long, curving Solterra Vista Parkway and neighbor Kaitlyn Fisher can attest to cars speeding down the thoroughfare. Fisher said last November a car ended up 10 feet from her front door on Terrazo Court after a driver lost control on Solterra Vista. Fortunately, she said no one was injured, especially as a young teenager was just one block away on a skateboard at the time of the accident

“I do worry that when there’s a school there, it’s not necessarily going to prevent people from driving really quickly,” said Fisher who plans for her children to attend the school one day. “I would highly advocate for a stop sign.”

As proponents pointed out, the intersection will also be a crossing utilized for the neighboring Solterra Vista Park, set to open with playgrounds and pickleball courts in late 2023.

The board’s vote for the stop sign was 7-4 with Chair Frisco White using his vote to show his frustration with the city.

White said he was adamant that the board not approve any further stop signs until the city agrees to take a more holistic view of the traffic situation in Carmel Valley and Pacific Highlands Ranch. Since about 2014, they have been lobbying for a city consultant to perform a study of the area and propose and implement traffic solutions. A representative from the city is anticipated to present at the board’s January 2022 meeting (the board is dark in November and December.)

White and Vice Chair Barry Schultz were in favor of holding out on any stop sign decisions until they heard the results of any potential study. The board’s Pacific Highlands Ranch representative Michelle Strauss didn’t want to wait for the city or for the school to open to take action.

“I think we just want to make this as safe as possible from the get-go,” Strauss said.

Member Ken Farinsky agreed.

“I get the fact that we want the city to let us do a general plan over the community but the city is not doing anything,” Farinsky said. “I think the idea that we punish neighborhoods because the city is slow is not a good thing to do. In situations like this, we need to deal with it.”

Delehanty brought the stop sign to the board as it had been denied by the city based on the current traffic study, which does not include the impacts of a school.

For stop signs that are denied by city engineers, people can opt to go through the San Diego City Council’s alternative process—councilmembers can recommend that the mayor install traffic stops with sufficient community support.

The planning board has been responsible for nearly all of the stop signs in Pacific Highlands Ranch as the community was built almost entirely without any planned.

In 2018, the board approved 17 new stop signs for the wide-open streets in the communities of Olvera, Almeria and Watermark and three stop signs on Solterra Vista in what is considered East Pacific Highlands Ranch.

At that time, then-resident Gee Wah Mok said they would likely need to review the stop sign placements in the future once the district’s planned ninth school was built on the “very wide” Solterra Vista street.

Years later and now a board trustee, Mok again advocated for the stop sign for student safety.

“I cannot tell you how much we need those stop signs,” Mok said.