La Jolla community planners give green light to Coastal Rail Trail bikeway plan

A rendering depicts biking on the planned Coastal Rail Trail.
A rendering depicts biking on the planned Coastal Rail Trail.

After the city of San Diego made changes to the Coastal Rail Trail project intended to provide better visibility and safety for bicyclists around the Gilman Drive/Interstate 5 on-ramp and off-ramp, the La Jolla Community Planning Association gave it a stamp of approval Feb. 4.

The project, which seeks to connect Oceanside with downtown San Diego through a multiuse trail, would create a Class IV bicycle lane with raised separated medians providing an additional buffer between vehicles and cyclists along the Gilman Drive corridor between La Jolla Village Drive and I-5. Construction is expected to begin in spring 2022.

The plan was heard at the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation advisory group’s meeting in November, but the board did not vote. It was then heard by the Community Planning Association in December but was sent back, with LJCPA asking the city to consider “other options.”

When T&T heard it again in January, the board voted unanimously to support the project but added that sharrows (markings indicating a road is to be shared by motor vehicles and bicycles) should be painted on the southbound side.

With the T&T approval, Alejandra Gonzalez, a project manager in the San Diego Engineering & Capital Projects Department, presented during the Feb. 4 LJCPA meeting online.

She said the project proposes a Class IV one-way cycle track along both sides of Gilman Drive (the bike lane currently is a Class II, which is delineated with paint). There would be a continuous sidewalk along the west side, street parking would be retained and new street lighting would be installed, along with a new traffic signal at La Jolla Village Drive and modifications at existing signals.

Gonzalez said the project has improved striping for visibility and a dedicated base for cyclists where only bikes and pedestrians could get across the southbound on-ramp/off-ramp on Gilman Drive. “If the base is activated for pedestrians and bicycles, vehicles trying to turn right onto the on-ramp will not be able to” because of a red arrow and/or signage, she said.

Further, signs would instruct motorists coming off the off-ramp to yield to bicyclists. There also are plans for signage to give cyclists an indicator of changing conditions.

“One of the major issues that T&T had was safety of bicyclists in these intersections, in this track, making right-hand turns or going across the intersections as cars are trying to make turns,” said LJCPA President Diane Kane. The revised project is “an improvement,” she said.

Though T&T suggested painting sharrows on one side of the street, LJCPA advocated painting them on both sides.

An example of a sharrow painted on a street.

“In that cycle track, some bicyclists are going to be faster than others, so there are two populations of users that will use these roads, and sharrows are supposed to encourage bike visibility [for those who use the full street],” Kane said.

A motion to accept and ratify the T&T recommendation but add sharrows on the northbound and southbound lanes passed 11-5.

Because Gilman Drive involves La Jolla and University City planning groups, Kane said a working group should come together to “engage all the stakeholders on this road, plan the right-of-way space we are going to end up with, look at the traffic mix of vehicles [and] median enhancements to slow traffic.”

“The Rail Trail is changing the features on this road; that is going to affect a number of other things,” she said.

A follow-up motion passed 14-2 to support having San Diego work with LJCPA, T&T, UC San Diego, University Community Planning Group and other community stakeholders to create a comprehensive plan for Gilman Drive by 2026.

Other LJCPA news

Nautilus Street companion unit approved: Plans for a controversial companion unit over a Nautilus Street garage were approved, though some trustees were reluctant.

The project calls for a coastal development permit to convert a 263-square-foot room over a 449-square-foot detached garage into a companion unit at 416 Nautilus. The garage is being built anew and with a new footprint that applicant Claude-Anthony Marengo said better meets parking requirements for the area. The development would encroach into both the side and rear setbacks.

However, La Jolla architect Phil Merten argued that the garage “is not in compliance with municipal code” and therefore a structure built on it would not be in compliance. He said the city provided initial support for the project but was expected to re-review the application.

Some trustees said they were uncomfortable voting without the city’s final ruling.

Nevertheless, a motion that findings can be made to support the project passed 11-5.

PARC findings approved: A motion to support the findings of a group known as the Parks and Recreation Coalition regarding the city’s parks master plan passed unanimously, and LJCPA will send a letter to the city to that effect.

PARC assembled to look at the master plan and identified several areas of concern. Among them were that the city planned to integrate a “new and untested” point system for parks; “devaluation of passive open space and mature trees” that can be replaced with all-weather shade canopies; use of development impact fees to fund new parks and maintenance; and potential “inappropriate commercialization” in parks.

“The La Jolla Community Planning Association supports PARC’s findings and invites the Planning Department to collaborate with community planning groups and recreation advisory councils to address the draft master parks plan’s shortcomings,” the draft letter states.

Homeless teams roll out: Steve Hadley, representing the office of City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said two new homeless outreach teams would be up and running in coming weeks.

“People were asking for social services to help the police, and these two teams will do that,” Hadley said. “We have to share them with the city … but we can help the individuals that are in La Jolla. We’re looking forward to that being of use in The Village.”

Next meeting: The La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 4, online. Learn more at ◆