La Jolla Mesa Drive to get roundabout at Cottontail Lane: Traffic board approves changes to Girard Ave., Coast Blvd. parking configuration

Residents of La Jolla Mesa Drive prevailed in their efforts to get some traffic calming on their once-quiet street. The group of neighbors originally requested a four-way stop sign in September, citing speedy drivers who cause hazardous conditions, but La Jolla’s Traffic & Transportation board (LJT&T) suggested letting the City evaluate the situation and make a recommendation.

Having completed the analysis, the City has recommended a traffic circle, aka roundabout, at the intersection of La Jolla Mesa Drive and Cottontail Lane, which came before LJT&T for approval during the board’s March 15 meeting at La Jolla Rec Center. A vote to support the installation of the roundabout passed unanimously.

La Jolla Mesa Drive, which some use as an alternative to taking La Jolla Boulevard to get into The Village, starts at the top of a hill near La Jolla Scenic Drive and goes all the way down to Pacific Beach with no stop signs in between. Drivers speed up the hill and then even more so going down the hill.

There is only a usable sidewalk on one side of the street in some sections, so those who walk to Pacific Beach have to use that side of the road. For some, that means crossing a street subject to speedy drivers and low visibility.

“The City said they agree with the need for traffic calming … the traffic on that road and the speeding has been excessive. It hasn’t ever abated despite a stop sign being installed a few blocks up at La Jolla Scenic Drive South,” said Stacey Canan, who is spearheading the effort. “We’re gathering signatures of neighbors closest to the roundabout that show their support (in accordance with City requirements). There are 10 neighbors that are immediately impacted and so far we have signatures from seven of them. We only need one more to satisfy the City’s guidelines of 75 percent.”

She added there was “large amounts of support” and could get additional signatures if need be.

Resident Tom Sparrow commented, “We’ve lived there for 33 years and we’ve watched the traffic pattern accelerate over the last 10 or 15 years. Now it’s a virtual raceway and police have tried to control it, but they can’t be there enough. The traffic circle is something we think will really work.”

Bob Collins said there is also a pedestrian safety issue. “There are many pedestrians who cross La Jolla Mesa to access the sidewalk that takes them down to Pacific Beach. The street is 100 feet wide, which doesn’t give a pedestrian much time to cross the street before a car going 60 miles per hour poses a threat,” he said. “It’s an unsafe situation.” He alluded that slowing the traffic would give the pedestrians a safer environment for crossing, and if needed, pedestrians could stop on the roundabout and allow traffic to pass.

The San Diego Fire Department still needs to approve the concept, and the design has not been finalized, so it will be up to the City whether to have a pedestrian ingress and egress and other pedestrian safety features such as a crosswalk. Landscaping and maintenance would be determined after the design phase is complete. LJT&T chair Dave Abrams said the City has a fund for the installation of roundabouts, and is willing to use it at this location.

A motion to support the City’s recommendation for a roundabout passed unanimously.

In other LJT&T news:

Scripps Park parking to be re-drawn: A City request to rearrange the parking adjacent Scripps Park that came before the board, despite some “voodoo math,” gained unanimous support because it would add seven parking spaces.

“City staff brought forward the request to reconfigure parking along Coast Boulevard next to Scripps Park. It has diagonal parking now and the City wants to make it head-in (perpendicular) parking. In doing so, the City would gain seven additional spaces,” explained chair Abrams. “It’s always good to get extra spaces if possible and the City believes it’s safe to back up onto the street. I think it’s a good thing.”

However, meeting attendee Bill Robbins called the City’s request “voodoo math.”

“They are giving you seven spaces but asking for four to be (yellow curbed) commercial loading spaces, which the public cannot use most of the time, so they are actually only giving you three,” he pointed out. Commercial loading spaces are limited to vehicles with a commercial tag on the license plate, and in effect 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday. The rest of the time, the public may use those spaces.

In September 2016, the City requested four public parking spaces be converted to commercial loading spaces. At the time, City shoreline park ranger Michael Ruiz explained that he has seen an increase in events that create the need for a commercial loading zone. He added there are more than 50 large events that have taken place or are scheduled this year, and 100 smaller events.

The board voted to support the conversion of one parking space into a commercial loading zone with standard restrictions (8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday) for a one-year test run.

After a rehashing the September discussion, a motion to approve the Coast Boulevard parking reconfiguration to become head-in parking and include only one commercial space, per the September vote, passed unanimously.

Upper Girard parking: A request for a 15-minute limit parking space to front the planned Waters Catering eatery, 7441 Girard Ave., evolved into a larger discussion of upper Girard Avenue parking. Applicant and Waters representative Leslie Morra requested the short-term space.

“We have a deli case full of food you can bring home, sandwiches, fine foods, salads. … Most of the businesses around us are salons, schools, etc. where people stay for an hour or more. Our shop, while some people sit down, most of our business is people stopping in to pick up food to take home. A 15-minute spot would be helpful for us. There are 15-minute spots across the street, but we don’t want to encourage jaywalking. We also work with food-delivery services, so they need a spot to run in, pick up the food and leave,” she said.

LJT&T member Nancy Warwick said having Waters come to The Village is a “dream come true” because “there is nothing like it in the Village, it’s healthy, gourmet and fast.” However, she noted the request stirred a thought about the parking layout of upper Girard — and eventually yielded a unique motion.

“When you look at the business mix on that street … there are more retail, fitness, educational and salon-type businesses across from where Waters will go, and there are four 15-minute spots on that side of the street. I wouldn’t think they would want that many short-term parking spaces there,” she opined.

Several suggested a store might have been in place years ago that would have benefitted from a 15-minute space, but the current ones might be OK with a change in parking limitations. The 15-minute spaces near Pannikin Coffee and La Jolla Elementary School would remain untouched.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to going to the stores across the street and asking them if they have issues with the 15-minute parking or whether they would rather have two-hour spaces. If none of those businesses want the 15-minute spaces, we might actually gain two long-term spaces,” Warwick said.

LJT&T member Patrick Ryan suggested a “beg, borrow and steal” of other parking spaces. “I would love to take one of the street spaces across the street (and convert it to two-hour) and then designate one in front of your store as 15-minute. There are already a lot of green (15-minute) spaces, and the use from the businesses there is conducive to longer-time spaces.”

A motion to recommend the installation of one 15-minute space in front of Waters was approved with the note that should one of the 15-mintue spaces be converted to a two-hour space, a second 15-minute space could be installation in front of Waters.

La Jolla Traffic & Transportation next meets, 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 19 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.