Solana Beach could eliminate three roundabouts from consideration

After heavy opposition from Solana Beach residents, the Solana Beach City Council may not consider three of four proposed roundabouts along Lomas Santa Fe.

In the council comments portion of the meeting held Sept. 11, council member Lesa Heebner clarified direction made to the city manager at the Aug. 22 meeting that the three most western roundabouts along the road should be removed from consideration but a traffic circle at Lomas Santa Fe Drive and Highland Drive should be studied.

The other four council members appeared to agree, but because roundabouts were not agendized, no formal council action could be taken.

The four proposed roundabouts — dotted along the east side of the four-lane road between Las Banderas and Highland, which is a little less than three-quarters of a mile — were part of an Aug. 22 staff report on phase two of the Lomas Santa Fe Corridor Improvement Project. The project aims to add new and improved existing walkways and bike lanes, overhaul intersections to enhance flow and safety, renovate public transit stops and rejuvenate landscaping.

Known commonly as traffic circles, modern roundabouts have been used in some parts of the U.S. and widely in Europe to slow vehicles and reduce fatal crashes at intersections, while keeping traffic moving. City-hired consulting traffic engineers have said roundabouts reduce conflict points; eliminate head-on and broadside collisions; and minimize pedestrian crossing distances.

The alternative to the roundabouts is to revise street striping to include buffered bike lanes and install center medians. Both options include a multi-use trail on the road’s north side, which residents largely objected to at the Aug. 22 meeting.

Heebner added Sept. 11 that just because the roundabout at Highland might be studied, it does not automatically mean it will be built. She also said that instead of the other three roundabouts, the city should narrow existing lanes, add buffers with stripes or curbing, and develop a landscaped multi-use path on the east side.

Residents once again came to city hall to express their opposition to the four proposed roundabouts. No residents spoke in favor of the structures at the meeting, although council members said they received emails supporting the traffic circles from other residents who were not present. Residents noted that neighborhood polls have been conducted and of those surveyed, 90 percent disagreed with the traffic circles.

Speakers said they were concerned the roundabouts would slow public safety response times, make it difficult for people to evacuate in the event of an emergency, promote an unbalanced traffic flow, and create safety hazards for pedestrians attempting to cross roadways.

“You will be responsible for the increased accidents involving pedestrians,” resident Harley Gordon, of San Elijo Hills, warned the council. “We’re trying to save lives and save you from making a terrible mistake.”

Resident Sandy Punch encouraged council members to “do [their] homework.” She said other cities have removed or added traffic signals at existing roundabouts and suggested Solana Beach could face potential lawsuits if a roundabout prohibits an emergency vehicle from arriving to a situation in a timely manner.

Others added the roundabouts would promote unsafe driving from people in a hurry and encourage people to drive through neighborhoods as shortcuts.

One resident, who has lived in Solana Beach since 1972, encouraged the city council to spend the funds elsewhere.

“If there’s that much money out there, fix the potholes, fix the crosswalks,” the woman said. “Do things that are necessary for our safety.”

Other proposed elements of the project include updated benches, bus stops, a “pocket park” at Lomas Santa Fe and Stevens Avenue, curb extensions, additional on-street curb parking, buffered bike lanes, raised/landscaped median islands and continental pedestrian crossings.

The city council is expected to continue its discussion on roundabouts at a future meeting.