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La Jolla traffic board hears arguments for and against roundabouts in 2 neighborhoods

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board took up the issue of roundabouts in two neighborhoods at its Nov. 18 meeting.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board discussed roundabouts in two neighborhoods at its Nov. 18 meeting, agreeing to take the discussion to San Diego city officials for evaluation, despite not taking formal action.

La Jolla Shores resident Susan Wiczynski asked the board to consider installation of roundabouts on La Jolla Shores Drive at Vallecitos and Calle Frescota as a measure against “three main problems” at those intersections: accidents and near misses, pedestrian safety and speed.

Wiczynski, who lives near the intersection of La Jolla Shores Drive and Vallecitos, said “both Vallecitos and Calle Frescota are busy feeder streets that connect the most popular areas of the beach” and that the intersections are often stacked with cars waiting to turn.

“Two elements make these turns especially dangerous,” she said — when southbound traffic backs up from the light at La Jolla Shores Drive and Torrey Pines Road, blocking visibility; and during times of no traffic, when motorists drive faster than the posted speed limits, making turns difficult.

Wiczynski said rollover accidents in September 2019 and August 2020 at the intersections of La Jolla Shores Drive and Vallecitos and Calle Frescota, as well as countless other incidents of “squealing brakes and honking horns indicating near misses,” point to the need for city intervention.

Pedestrians also need further protection at those intersections, she said, as they are often unable to cross safely, especially during traffic congestion.

Wiczynski said she and other residents also have heard “late-night racing” of cars.

“I’m super concerned,” Wiczynski said. She asked the board to “initiate research into the feasibility of traffic calming” at the intersections.

Wiczynski said she also would like the board to consider similar measures at other intersections in La Jolla Shores.

Resident Serge Issakov said he likes the idea and wants the city to replace all traffic lights in the area with roundabouts.

Stop signs at various intersections near the beach in La Jolla Shores “mean nothing” to drivers who “blow right through them,” said La Jolla Shores Association President Janie Emerson. “The stop signs don’t slow down the traffic, whereas these roundabouts would do exactly that.”

Wiczynski said roundabouts have “proved to dramatically reduce speed while improving flow and can be designed with lighted crosswalks that will benefit residents as well as our many, many visiting families.”

T&T Chairman Dave Abrams said the concept of roundabouts has been a success in Bird Rock, “so how do you replicate that here?” He said funding would be an issue and that private donations would have to be sought.

T&T board member Natalie Aguirre said the traffic in Bird Rock “is not comparable” to that of The Shores and that roundabouts alone may not be sufficient. She said better signage and one-way streets in combination with roundabouts might be better.

Abrams suggested the board send the issue to city traffic staff for “evaluation of this and other traffic-calming measures.”

Another roundabout, approved by the board in 2007 for the intersection of Via Capri and Senn Way in the Hidden Valley neighborhood, came up for board discussion again, with resident Gregory Wiener calling it “completely unsafe.”

“What happened here is that there is no space,” he said. “If you’re going down Via Capri up toward [State Route] 52, the cars must go into Senn Way” before continuing on Via Capri. He said that creates a dangerous situation when drivers are waiting at Senn Way for their turn in the roundabout.

This roundabout on Via Capri at Senn Way was discussed at the Nov. 18 Traffic & Transportation Board meeting.
This roundabout on Via Capri at Senn Way was discussed at the Nov. 18 Traffic & Transportation Board meeting over what a resident called unsafe conditions.
(Courtesy)

Wiener said his car has been hit or almost hit, his dog was killed there and drivers have honked their horns at him or made obscene gestures as they proceed through the roundabout.

The roundabout hasn’t done anything to discourage speeding, he added. “It’s very unsafe and threatens the people coming out of Senn Way.”

Wiener suggested replacing the roundabout with stop signs and putting speed bumps on Via Capri approaching Senn Way to make the intersection “more civilized.”

He also said the roundabout is “ugly; none of these are ever maintained. [But] I don’t care about the looks, I care about the safety.”

Abrams said “it’s been our policy that stop signs are not functioning as speed control; that’s not what they’re supposed to do. When they are put in the wrong place for the wrong purpose, they often create more safety hazards than they solve.”

La Jolla resident Joe Dicks agreed that speed bumps approaching the roundabout might solve the problem, but historically the fire department has rejected the idea.

He called the roundabout “an overwhelming success” for people trying to pull out from driveways onto Via Capri. “It was worse” before the roundabout was installed, said Dicks, who lives one house away from the roundabout and said he regularly cleans and waters it.

He also challenged the idea that cars have limited space at the roundabout, saying he drives it “numerous times every single day. You do not have to go onto Senn Way.”

Wiener maintained that “the roundabout itself does not work, but if we have speed bumps, it may become effective.”

La Jolla Community Planning Association President Diane Kane said the roundabout “maybe is not optimal.” She asked if there is additional right of way on the east side of the roundabout “to redesign this intersection that would allow for smoother entrance of vehicles from Senn Way onto Via Capri.”

Abrams said he would convey the comments to city traffic engineer Gary Pence for consideration.

The Traffic & Transportation Board next meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16. To learn more, email manana@san.rr.com.