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La Jolla groups weigh in on San Diego ‘slow streets’ initiative

Signs mark the entrance to a "slow street" in Pacific Beach.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Local groups are weighing in on San Diego’s “slow streets” initiative, making recommendations from La Jolla Shores to Bird Rock.

Under the program, some streets are closed to through traffic to limit the number of cars and make more room for pedestrians to use the streets to maintain social distancing while walking.

“Slow streets is an initiative crafted over the last few weeks by a number of organizations in light of the [coronavirus] pandemic,” La Jollan and City Council candidate Joe LaCava told the Bird Rock Community Council during its May 5 meeting. “The argument is there are so many more people out walking … and to maintain social distance people find themselves walking in the street so they don’t walk against someone coming from the opposite direction. It gives bicyclists and pedestrians a freer and easier path.”

The streets are limited by way of temporary signage diverting traffic for single travel or parking lanes and indicating the presence of pedestrians and bicyclists. Access to driveways and deliveries is maintained for residents and businesses.

As of now, a slow street must be a neighborhood or local commercial street with a posted speed limit of less than 35 mph. The street also must not be a primary route for transit services.

Steve Hadley, field representative for City Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry of La Jolla, said the purpose of the initiative is “to connect pedestrians and cyclists to larger public space while accomplishing social distancing. So the closer these slow streets are to open spaces the better.”

Bry’s office has received 15 suggestions for streets across La Jolla.

As of May 11, only three streets had been established as slow streets: Diamond Street between Mission Boulevard and Olney Street in Pacific Beach, Adams Avenue over Interstate 805 (parking lanes only) in Normal Heights, and Howard/Orange Avenue between Park Boulevard and 33rd Street in North Park.

“We are still in Phase 1 of this pilot program and in the process of identifying slow streets,” said Alyssa Muto, San Diego deputy director of environment and mobility planning. “We have also received requests for many streets to be included in Phase 2. The city is working with members of the community and its mobility partners on the second phase, including identifying a timeline and selection of new slow streets.”

La Jolla’s community groups are making recommendations about streets in their areas.

At the Bird Rock meeting, LaCava said he had received suggestions including Chelsea Street between Sea Ridge and Camino de la Costa and La Jolla Hermosa between Colima and Camino de la Costa.

Resident Don Schmidt said he doesn’t have a problem with the proposal but that “we have to be really careful” with suggestions.

“Ever since COVID-19 came up and now that the beaches are open, we have had so many cars coming down … I think it could be looked at on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

BRCC Chairman John Newsam conducted an informal vote to see the level of interest among trustees and others in attendance in having a slow street in Bird Rock.

There was none.

However, people interested in recommending a street may do so.

In The Village, Hadley said, streets with multiple restaurants are being considered, but he didn’t state which ones. The La Jolla Community Planning Association was scheduled to make recommendations at its May 7 meeting but ran out of time.

The La Jolla Village Merchants Association will be suggesting Wall Street and Girard Avenue in The Village.

In La Jolla Shores, portions of Avenida de la Playa and its feeder streets are being looked at for potential inclusion.

La Jolla Shores Association President Janie Emerson said a presentation would be made before the board at its May 13 meeting about closing a restaurant-heavy portion of Avenida de la Playa at night to allow for outdoor — and socially distant — dining.

Phil Wise, who was inspired by outdoor dining in Europe, is bringing the idea forward. He said the segment between El Paseo Grande and approximately Calle de la Plata could be considered so the restaurants could put tables outside at night to safely serve more patrons.

Other streets up for recommendation include Avenida de la Playa between Camino del Sol and the boat launch at the beach, and Camino del Oro between Avenida de la Playa and El Paseo Grande and up to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The plan is to end the slow streets program when social distancing is no longer required.

Those who would like to recommend a street may contact Bry at sandiego.gov/citycouncil/cd1.

The city is gathering community input on the program through a survey at datasd.typeform.com/to/URxFSz.