East Solana Beach residents take issue with lane reduction plan

By Claire Harlin

Staff Writer

Solana Beach officials have a proposal in the works to put Lomas Santa Fe Drive on what they call a “road diet” — a reduction from two lanes to one — a measure many residents say isn’t necessary.

Nearly 100 residents gathered at the Lomas Santa Fe Country Club on Oct. 5 to learn about and ask questions regarding the plan, which is aimed to calm traffic and make eastside Solana Beach more pedestrian-friendly. City staff and almost the entire City Council were in attendance.

“I’ve been hearing concerns for years,” said Solana Homeowners Association Group Chairman Steve Goetsch, referring to the intersection of Lomas Santa Fe and Highland Drives. “People have had problems crossing the street, walking baby strollers — there are no real sidewalks.”

The proposed plan would implement roadway improvements like large crosswalks, pop-out sidewalks at intersections and the creation of a sidewalk along the west side of Highland between Lomas Santa Fe and Sun Valley.

The main point of contention for residents, however, is the idea to narrow traffic from two lanes to one lane in each direction on Lomas Santa Fe from Highland to Las Banderas. This change would be done by repainting the stripes in the roadway — a change city officials stress is completely reversible. The plan would also provide off-street parking for those visiting the nearby San Dieguito County Park.

Jim Sleeper was one of many at the meeting who voiced concern. He said he’s been running down Lomas Santa Fe to Fletcher Cove for eight years, and “there’s not that many people out there.”

“You’re creating an issue that’s not there,” he said, garnering applause from the audience.

Some residents were concerned about the cost to the city — about $400,000 — but City Manager David Ott assured them that the project would be funded by stimulus dollars designated specifically for roadway maintenance and construction.

“It doesn’t add a penny to the deficit of Solana Beach,” Ott said.

Ott referred to the area as “a prominent gateway into Solana Beach,” and said the project is in part a response to concern about drivers speeding down Lomas Santa Fe. Others said they like the current vibe of east Solana Beach and don’t want to add more pavement.

The most resounding opinions, however, were those concerned that reducing the number of lanes will cause traffic to back up, possibly prompting drivers to cut through Via Mil Cumbres and making that residential street more crowded and dangerous.

One resident said lane reduction should not be applied to Lomas Santa Fe because it is a “major artery.”

“How can we deprive Encinitas, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe and other communities of a major artery to and from the coast?” he said, prompting applause.

Proposed changes would require approval by the City Council to be implemented, and city officials said they would inform residents when the issue comes up for a vote.