City rejects ideas presented by La Jolla traffic board to help clear ‘The Throat’

This image illustrates the current left-turn pocket from La Jolla Parkway onto Hidden Valley Road.
This image illustrates the current left-turn pocket from La Jolla Parkway onto Hidden Valley Road, which an idea submitted to the city by the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board proposed extending.

The city of San Diego says none of the ideas proposed recently to ease traffic at the La Jolla intersection known as “The Throat” is feasible, leading the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board to again seek a comprehensive study of the area.

During the board’s Sept. 16 meeting, it heard an update to an earlier presentation on possible ways to alleviate traffic congestion at the intersection of La Jolla Parkway, Torrey Pines Road and Hidden Valley Road.

“The city sent their people out there to look at the issue,” T&T Chairman Dave Abrams said. “Essentially, they said no, for various reasons.”

In June, a discussion spearheaded by La Jolla resident Carol Hernstad resulted in several ideas that the T&T Board forwarded to the city’s traffic engineers, including extending the left-turn pocket from La Jolla Parkway onto Hidden Valley Road to add space for more cars.

Extending the left-turn pocket cannot be done, said T&T board member Patrick Ryan, who originally posed the idea.

“What I’d not noticed is there’s a large ‘keep clear’ [area] for the fire station [on nearby Ardath Lane] that can’t be impinged upon,” he said.

Additionally, the median behind the left-turn lanes would have to be narrowed to extend the pocket, and “the width of the median is only 16 feet,” Ryan said. “You can only gain one lane in that spot,” which would add space for about four cars.

This image illustrates a proposed extension of the left-turn pocket from La Jolla Parkway onto Hidden Valley Road.

A memo from city traffic engineer Steve Celniker stated that “considering the expected high cost of such a median- narrowing project for such a small benefit, the proposal is not recommended.”

Other ideas included removal of a portion of concrete that extends into northbound Hidden Valley Road. “If you could shave off that ‘bulb-out,’ it would create more space for cars to stack as they waited at the traffic light,” Abrams said.

But, he said, “the reason the adjustment of the bulb-out isn’t feasible in their view is apparently there’s a major drainage inlet at that location that would be horrendously expensive” to adjust. “That’s not going to work,” he said.

The board also requested a comprehensive traffic study of the entire intersection to aid in brainstorming other solutions. “We found out that would be beyond the scope of the traffic engineering division that would have to be outsourced to consultants,” Abrams said.

Steve Hadley, representing City Council member Barbara Bry, whose district includes La Jolla, said “my understanding is there is some money that La Jolla has” for that kind of study.

“We’re going to strongly recommend that one of the capital improvement projects is this comprehensive study the board has been asking for,” he said.

“This is a community problem that is well-recognized,” Abrams said. “I think it’s universally desired to have that study.”

Request for new signs in medians

The T&T Board also discussed the possibility of placing signs in various road medians around La Jolla discouraging people from engaging with solicitors at the medians. The board ultimately decided to continue the discussion after seeking legal counsel from the city.

Resident Chris Cott presented this sign as an example of what he believes should be placed in road medians in La Jolla.

Resident Chris Cott brought the idea for the signs to the meeting, telling the board that those who ask for money and other assistance in the medians create traffic hazards. “It’s unnecessary potential for disaster and slowing down traffic,” he said.

“There’s been some fender-benders, some broken taillights” when people cross traffic lanes to get drivers’ offerings, Cott said. He added that he observes this most often at the intersections of La Jolla Shores Drive and Torrey Pines Road and Torrey Pines and Hidden Valley roads.

Cott suggested that La Jolla install signs in the medians such as those recently erected by the city of El Cajon, which say “Please help. Don’t support panhandling” and include a website for people to donate to the East County Homeless Task Force.

“It gives the police another tool,” Cott said. “There are other ways to help people who are really in need.”

T&T board member Donna Aprea said she wouldn’t support the idea. “He’s targeting just La Jolla,” she said. “It’s not a city of San Diego initiative. We don’t need that kind of targeting right now.”

Cott said: “I live in La Jolla. I would like to see the signs start in La Jolla, but the problem is citywide.”

Board member Tom Brady said: “I appreciate your concern, but I think this sets a precedent that would be hard to follow. My recommendation would be to get some direction from the city attorney’s office as to whether or not we could do this in the city of San Diego or in La Jolla. And a lot of people, like myself, think we have too many signs.”

Ryan added that “essentially ... what we would be doing is regulating people rather than traffic and transportation. It’s an overreach … it’s a sign to tell people what they can and can’t do. I wouldn’t support it based on that.”

Cott said it becomes a traffic issue as “the people in the medians are going into the traffic. I thought I’d improve it, but if there’s opposition, I’ll just drop it.”

Abrams suggested that Hadley “see if people’s placement in the medians can be restricted, and if it can’t, can signage be placed there.”

Hadley agreed to submit a legal research request with the city attorney’s office and return at a future meeting with an update. ◆