La Jolla Traffic advisory group weighs stop-sign requests from schools

By Ashley Mackin

The La Jolla Traffic and Transportation (T&T) advisory committee discussed three traffic-related requests from schools, amid other presentations, during its Jan. 23 meeting at the Rec Center.

La Jolla Elementary School Principal Donna Tripi sent in a request for T&T board approval to remove some limitations on parking in front of the school. There is currently a commercial loading zone there, near where Herschel Avenue turns into Marine Street. Because enrollment is up, there are more volunteer parents and teachers on campus, so Tripi would like that area to be available as all-day parking. The white, passenger loading zone would remain.

T&T Chair Todd Lesser said he contacted the city to investigate why the commercial loading zones were initially put in place, but the representatives he spoke with said that it had been so long ago, they didn’t know and therefore had no objections. The board unanimously voted to approve the change.

In the second request, also from La Jolla Elementary, the school asked that a four-way stop sign be installed at the corner of Pearl Street and Herschel Avenue. There is currently a two-way stop sign on either side of Herschel Avenue, and a crosswalk — but no stop sign — across Pearl Street. There is a four-way stop sign one block to the east and a stop light one block to the west of that intersection.

Lesser reported that during the morning drop-off and afternoon pickup, vehicles are backed up on that street, leading to congestion that could worsen with the installation of a four-way stop. However, he also noted the safety issue of children leaving school who have to cross Pearl Street. He said children often walk in front of parked cars and aren’t visible until they are actually in the crosswalk.

Board member Michelle Fulks said when faced with a similar issue at Bird Rock Elementary School, parents and school administrators placed a sign notifying drivers that there is a school ahead and that children might be crossing the street. “That would bring attention to the crosswalk during school hours and be more reasonable than a four-way stop, which is 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said.

Audience member Brian Dear confirmed the congestion, stating he works in an office building on that block and looks down at the intersection. He suggested installing lighted crosswalks that blink when someone is in the crosswalk, similar to those found on La Jolla Boulevard in Bird Rock.

The board opted to table the vote until alternatives, such as the ones suggested, could be explored.

A second four-way stop sign was also requested at the intersection of Fay Avenue and West Muirlands Drive near La Jolla High School. Claudia Brizuela, from the department of traffic engineering, sent Lesser a letter explaining the reasoning behind the request, which he read at the meeting.

Based on a point system to determine if an area qualifies for a four-way stop sign, the letter stated, the intersection qualified mainly based on traffic volumes coming out of West Muirlands Drive during the a.m. and p.m. peak hours. The traffic volumes on the main street (Fay Avenue) and side street (West Muirlands Drive) were similar during peak hours. Of the 20 points needed to qualify, that intersection received 22 points.

However, the impetus for the request was not included in the letter. Without that information, and with concerns such as drivers re-routing to residential neighborhoods should the sign be installed, the board voted to table the discussion until next month when they could pose a series of questions to the traffic engineer. More information on these two projects will be provided at the next T&T meeting, 4 p.m. Feb. 27.

In other T&T news:

■ Bike lane changes:

The board approved a restripe of the bike lane on both sides of Nautilus Street to widen the bike path and thereby narrow the auto lane, which, according to some residents, would solve two problems.

Resident Dave Abrams reported that because of the curvature of the street and how close cars often drive to the sidewalk near his home on Avenida Manana, there are frequent accidents, including a car flipping onto his property. The width of the vehicle lane also encourages speeding, Lesser said.

Additionally, bicyclist Judy Tahler said due to the narrowness of the bike lane and its distance from the curb, bicyclists are often too close to vehicles and high speeds pose a danger to bicyclists.

Lesser said, “Traffic engineers found, while addressing accidents along that area, striping would fix multiple issues. Restriping would be a traffic calming measure, improve bicycle lane safety and position motorists to better negotiate the curve at Avenida Manana.” The motion to approve the proposal passed 7-0-1.

■ La Jolla Concours D’Elegance:

Because there were no reported complaints after last year’s car show and fewer streets would be used this year, the board voted to approve the necessary traffic closures for the April 11-13 event. Two years ago, the Concours was extended by one block to include Girard Avenue, however, organizers deemed it unnecessary, so Girard Avenue will not be

used this year.

■ Torrey Pines Corridor review:

La Jolla Parks and Beaches Chair Dan Allen called upon the T&T Board to invite the Torrey Pines Corridor Project plan in for a community review. After hearing that the project — which will implement a series of traffic-calming measures to smooth vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic — was in the process of environmental review, Allen said he was concerned.

“(The environmental review) triggers a problem in my mind because I don’t remember when the community last got to review the plan,” he said, adding there was a plan proposed at least six years ago, but the city approved a different plan four years ago.

“There has yet to be a reconciliation of the differences and I think the environmental review process is the wrong way to go, I think a community review in advance of that (would be more appropriate).”