Beautification, traffic of Torrey Pines corridor gets close look

A broad-based committee is brainstorming how best to make a half-mile stretch of Torrey Pines safer, more walkable and more pleasing to the eye.

The 16-member group of La Jolla planners, residents and businesspeople was formed at the behest of City Councilman Scott Peters shortly after the first of the year. Their mission is to find ways to slow traffic, increase safety and walkability within the corridor, as well as beautifying and enhancing views.

La Jolla architect Robert Thiele chairs the Torrey Pines Road Corridor Study Committee. He said no binding decisions have been made yet by the group evaluating a half-mile segment of Torrey Pines Road in between La Jolla Shores Drive and the Throat intersection and Girard Avenue in the Village.

"What we have right now is a collage of ideas," said Thiele. "The idea is to slow speed, increase safety and make it more walkable."

Other committee members include Deborah Marengo, Yvette Marcum, Patrick Ahern, Dan Allen, Todd Fry, Wayne Miller, Leigh Plesniak, Mary Coakley, Kate Adams, John Griffith, Marty McGee, Martin Mosier, Claude-Anthony Marengo, Ken King, Fran Graham and John Norris. Betsy Brennan from Councilman Peters' office and Siavash Pazargadi of the city's Traffic Engineering Division are working with the study committee.

The committee has been exploring many alternative traffic-calming measures, including added traffic signals along the half-mile stretch, widening sidewalks, putting in guard rails, enhancing and planting medians with stormwater runoff control, as well as introducing flashing speed indicators.

One bone of contention early on in the committee meetings was a proposal to install a new traffic signal on Torrey Pines Road at either Princess Street or Viking Way. Homeowners balked at the suggestion, protesting with a petition drive.

Andy Hamilton, vice president of Walk San Diego, recently gave a presentation to the group offering his expertise on traffic-calming.

"We have a manual that has 26 different ways of calming traffic, slowing it down," Hamilton said. "I looked at the roadway, what their goals are and critiqued the work they've done so far. I was there to give a second opinion. I think they're headed in a very good direction."

Ideas from Walk San Diego the committee is considering include narrowing traffic lanes, as well as turning traffic medians into pedestrian refuges.

"You don't want people to drive like they're on the freeway," said Hamilton. "So, you narrow the lanes down from 12 feet to 11 or 10 feet. You just restripe them. Then you put in planted medians, and that vertical element disrupts the feel of it being a wide road. It makes you feel like you're in someone's neighborhood. You can also put in some kind of gateway monument, so people coming onto Torrey Pines from La Jolla Parkway know it's no longer an extension of the freeway."

City Councilman Peters said he welcomes the community's ideas on how best to continue to beautify Torrey Pines Road.

"We got a terrific start at the new intersection, and we've also gotten the Rotary Club to spearhead the new pocket park at Little Street," Peters said. "But now, the need to address the rest of the entrance to La Jolla is even more apparent. I look forward to addressing fencing, signage, landscaping and other issues to improve our neighborhood."

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