La Jolla community planners seek to put the brakes on plan for protected bikeways on Gilman Drive

City representatives presented information on the Coastal Rail Trail project to the La Jolla Community Planning Association.
San Diego city representatives presented information to the La Jolla Community Planning Association about the Coastal Rail Trail project, which would change bike lanes on a stretch of Gilman Drive to protected bikeways.

Moved by more than an hour of testimony from the cycling community, the La Jolla Community Planning Association voted Dec. 3 to ask the city of San Diego to go back to the drawing board for the Gilman Drive portion of a project called the Coastal Rail Trail.

The Coastal Rail Trail is a planned continuous bike route running about 44 miles between Oceanside and the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego. The Coastal Rail Trail was initially planned in the mid-1990s and is being constructed in segments by the San Diego Association of Governments and the various cities it covers.

For the record:

11:41 a.m. Dec. 8, 2020This article has been updated to correct the status of the site development permit application for the Coastal Rail Trail project.

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board heard about the portion planned to run through La Jolla — on Gilman Drive between La Jolla Village Drive and Interstate 5 — during its Nov. 18 meeting but did not vote.

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board cycled through discussions of improvements to bikeways in two neighborhoods at its meeting Nov. 18, with both issues being forwarded to the La Jolla Community Planning Association.

“This is a regional project that started as a way to connect the cities within the county from Oceanside to downtown and provide a facility that would be suitable for a variety of users,” Alejandra Gonzalez, a project manager in the San Diego Engineering & Capital Projects Department, told the Community Planning Association last week. “The goals are also to enhance the character of the neighborhood, improve public health, expand neighborhood transportation choices and give more people the chance to ride instead of use their cars.”

Currently, the Gilman Drive bike path is a Class II bike lane on one or both sides of the road. The bike lanes proposed are Class IV, meaning they would have a raised barrier or striped buffered separation between vehicles and cyclists on both sides, Gonzalez said. The project also would provide a contiguous sidewalk on the west side of Gilman, and the road is to be widened to accommodate the changes.

The project additionally includes traffic signal modifications at Gilman Drive’s intersections with Via Alicante and La Jolla Village Drive.

A site development permit for the project has been applied for, and the city Development Services Department is reviewing the application. Gonzalez said she expects construction to begin in fall 2021 with anticipated funding from a federal grant.

La Jolla resident Serge Issakov asked: “How do we know this is going to make [this area] safer? Because as far as I can tell, it won’t.”

Others from the public also added comments verbally, and 20 posted lengthy comments on the LJCPA website.

Former La Jolla resident Andy Gurney, who now lives in University City, wrote: “As a cyclist, I do not like being trapped in a lane, not only having to deal with hazards in front of me but also to my left (bollards, for example), and with the additional fear of not being recognized as having the right of way through right-turn areas with cars turning from the road or entering the roadway from a driveway. … Instead of making these roads more conducive to cycling, the so-called bikeways are making them more dangerous.”

Steve Myrick added: “A Class IV cycle track is designed for a flat urban setting with controlled cross-traffic access. Gilman Drive in this location is an approximately mile-long hill. It is a very popular route for cyclists who often reach speeds exceeding 20 mph on the downhill. A Class IV cycle track is not designed for cyclists whose variance in speed may exceed 20 mph.”

Such comments, coupled with the fact that the T&T Board did not vote on the item, prompted LJCPA trustees to ask the city to “consider other options for optimizing the safety and utilization of the Gilman corridor in question” and resubmit the plan to appropriate LJCPA subcommittees so they may vote and submit their findings to the parent panel.

The motion passed 13-2, with trustees Dan Courtney and Larry Davidson opposed, arguing it should simply go back to the T&T Board.

Other LJCPA news

Bry bids farewell: Departing City Councilwoman Barbara Bry, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, addressed the LJCPA board for the last time as its elected representative (Bry ran unsuccessfully for San Diego mayor rather than a second term on the council). She said she plans to remain an LJCPA member as a private citizen.

Barbara Bry
Barbara Bry addresses the La Jolla Community Planning Association on Dec. 3 for the last time as a member of the San Diego City Council.

“I want to thank you all for the service you have done for your community,” Bry said. “It’s been an honor to represent District 1, an important part of which is La Jolla, on the City Council for the last four years. We are going to make sure there is an orderly transition with the new council member, Joe LaCava.”

She received applause and thanks from trustees for her service.

Support for The Shores: LJCPA voted to write a letter to the city in support of extending the La Jolla Shores Association’s outdoor dining program into 2021, or until restrictions arising from COVID-19 are no longer in effect.

John Shannon, a trustee for both associations, said “the support from the LJCPA is very important because there have been roadblocks and hurdles put in the way that make it difficult to have the on-street dining.”

The letter reads in part: “The La Jolla Community Planning Association commends the La Jolla Shores Association for proactively pursuing outdoor dining options in La Jolla Shores in response to COVID-19 restrictions. By creating pedestrian-only access in the central section of Avenida de la Playa and permitting adjacent restaurants to expand their outside dining areas into the street, San Diegans reaped several benefits. … This delightful island of normalcy provided mental health benefits for weary residents during a continued public health crisis.”

LJCPA next meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, online. Learn more at ◆