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Carmel Valley board approves Canyon Crest Academy students’ traffic plan

Canyon Crest Academy students crossing between their school and The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch.
Canyon Crest Academy students crossing between their school and The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch.

Canyon Crest Academy’s Envision Conservatory for the Humanities took what they are learning about in school to affect change on a traffic flow issue on Village Center Loop Road. The civic-minded students successfully convinced the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board to back their proposal to install a protected left turn signal to correct a safety issue between students and cars at the intersection that connects their school and the Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch.

“This is the right thing to do for the students,” CV Planning Board Chair Frisco White said at the board’s Jan. 28 meeting. “It does become a mess and it’s better to solve the problem now than react to a situation later.”

The traffic issue at Canton Crest Academy, as seen from drone footage.
Courtesy photos
The traffic issue at Canton Crest Academy, as seen from drone footage. Courtesy photos

CCA junior Aaron Tanaka and seniors Geraint Hughes and Alex Gelland made the professional presentation to the board wearing sports coats emblazoned with CCA Humanities badges.

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The students’ drone video showed overhead evidence of the daily problem — as both pedestrians and drivers are given green lights to go, students try to cross the street in bulk and cars navigate the crowded intersection in confusion, trying to avoid both students on foot and cars making right turns out of the Village. “Students crossing at the same time leads to many near misses,” said Geraint.

A student-run traffic study was indicative that heavy traffic on the road is only set to increase, Alex said. The area is expected to boom in growth over the next few years: CCA’s enrollment trends continue to go up; next door neighbor Pacific Trails Middle School’s enrollment will increase as they add an eighth grade class next year; 699 more multi-family homes are being built in the adjacent area; Pacific Highlands Ranch Community Park and Recreation Center is coming on Village Center Loop; and more businesses will open their doors in the Village as it is built out.

“It’s only going to get worse,” Aaron said, noting that unfortunately people don’t make the best decisions while driving. “A protected left turn is a fair solution…It will help manage our school and the whole community.”

CCA Principal Karl Mueller said the light will also help alleviate the issue of people turning right out of the Village, who often get jammed up trying to get to the far left lane to get on Carmel Valley Road and SR-56.

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“We’re just scratching the surface at this point because traffic is just going to multiply,” Mueller said.

In taking in the situation with two schools, future park, recreation center, library, businesses and homes all pouring onto one street, new board member Barry Schultz asked: “What were we thinking?”

This was Schultz’s first board meeting replacing member Hollie Kahn who moved out of Carmel Valley in November. Schultz, a real estate attorney and former member of the San Diego Planning Commission, said in the future the board should be more forward-thinking in its recommendations to the city. Specifically regarding Pacific Highlands Ranch, he said that they need to find solutions centered more toward pedestrians than cars and making the community more walkable.

He also cautioned the board about designing against peak problems, since the issue at CCA mainly occurs during school pick up and drop off times.

Chris Moore, chair of the board’s Livability Committee, agreed with Schultz and encouraged the board to request the city conduct a traffic study to consider long-term solutions for the growing neighborhood.

Aaron said that the students hope to stay in contact with the city and give possible insight toward resolving issues.

“This project has been a great civics and ethics lesson for the members as we feel that it is not only our responsibility as students at CCA, but as members of our community, to improve the interaction between community and school,” Aaron said.


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