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Bird Rock roundabouts draw transportation crowd

Bird Rock has become a role model.

What’s being “modeled” are its five roundabout traffic circles which are generating interest from other communities who are becoming increasingly intrigued by their traffic-calming value.

The project drew a crowd last week of transportation officials from around the state and region to a seminar titled “Roundabout Product Demonstration Showcase Traffic Improvement Project” held at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Later in the day, participants toured the neighborhood to see how the roundabouts are working.

Bird Rock Community Council president Joe La Cava told participants the key to making a project like this work is starting “with a community-driven process.”

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Key is involvement

“The key is really not just having people with the technical skills, but attracting people to come out. It is very important to get consensus on what the problems are first. Too often, there’s a rush to get to solutions.”

Once they agreed there was a problem, he said, “People were then motivated to work together for a solution.”

Former Councilman Scott Peters, said the project took “seven years to do it but it was definitely well worth the effort.”

Chuck Patton, who owns Bird Rock Coffee Roasters on La Jolla Boulevard, said roundabout development was a huge hardship on businesses which all experienced lost revenues because construction hindered parking and access and brought dust and noise.

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The key to surviving in such an environment, he said, was linking business with community.

“The community must genuinely care for the business in order for the business to survive,” he said. “People understood we were going to give back to the community.”

Before roundabouts and traffic calming, said Patton, there was little reason for passers-by to visit the community’s business district. Roundabout development changed that.

“We noticed a pretty sudden recovery within two or three weeks of completion,” he said. “Our business had been down about 10 percent. All of our customers came back.”

Part of the reason for customers returning was the community had become more “walkable.” “It’s totally changed the vibe of La Jolla Boulevard,” he said, “made it more convenient for people to actually use it.”