Torrey Hills residents hoping new bike lane will unclog street

A group of Torrey Hills residents is looking to get a bike lane installed on West Ocean Air Drive, as they feel the street has become unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike without one.

In June, a petition was signed by 35 neighbors and presented to the Torrey Hills Community Planning Board. By the board’s Oct. 21 meeting, 110 residents had signed on to inform the board and the city that it’s a problem they would like to see resolved.

The planning board plans to vote on the bike lane at a future meeting.

In the interest of safety, residents are requesting that the bike lane on West Ocean Air Drive be extended from Via Mar de Delfinas to Via Congrejo. That stretch is the only two-block section of West Ocean Air without a bike lane, and it is frequently clogged with parked cars, which neighbors feel is dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.

As Torrey Hills Community Planning Board Chairwoman Kathryn Burton explained, West Ocean Air Drive becomes very narrow at that point. The road curves, and when there is bumper-to-bumper parking on both sides of the street, that creates a situation where there is basically just one lane down the middle.

The problem first came to the board at the May meeting. Community representatives returned to the June meeting to voice their concerns.

In June, the planning board opted not to support a proposal for the bike lane extension, as Burton said the people who presented the project “antagonized” board members, and members felt there wasn’t enough information to vote. A motion was made but never seconded, and Burton said she’s never seen the board so negative on an issue.

The residents who presented on Oct. 21 were a different group, who Burton said were much more accessible to board members. They also had the benefit of city staff present for their clarification questions.

“It works out better to have more community input,” Burton said.

Part of what the board has struggled with is that the bike lane will be only a Band-Aid on a larger problem of overflow parking.

The source of that problem is believed to be the Torrey Villas apartment complex, operated by Irvine Company Apartment Communities. Neighbors say that there aren’t enough allowed spaces per unit, which forces them to park on public streets.

“Torrey Villas has been repeatedly contacted by the board and the community,” Burton said. “The bottom line is that the Irvine Company is disrespecting the community. They have open spots, and they are sending people into the neighborhood to clog our streets.”

Mike Lyster, vice president of corporate communications for The Irvine Company, said that per the city’s direction, the complex recently lost about 40 spaces as part of resizing stalls to ensure code compliance.

“We encourage our residents to use onsite parking and to be respectful of our neighbors. As a longtime part of the Torrey Hills community, we know parking can be an issue,” Lyster said.

“We are always evaluating the most efficient use of our onsite parking and are currently working on a new parking allocation plan that we believe will go a long way toward serving the needs of our residents.”

While many at the Oct. 21 meeting spoke in favor of a bike lane, one opponent said that if the bike lane is installed, overflow parking would simply spill onto another neighborhood street, adding that nobody really bikes there anyway.

Burton said his comment drew a negative reaction from the crowd and she had to quiet them.

Burton said the bike lane’s unintended consequence of shifting overflow parking to another part of the community is a definite concern for the board.