Stop sign going in at La Jolla Mesa due, in part, to safety concerns

La Jolla planners approved a new stop sign at an intersection on Mount Soledad while some residents wondered if the increasing vehicle speeds in the area are an indirect result of the roundabouts installed in 2005 on La Jolla Boulevard.

The city had agreed to wait to install the new stop sign at the intersection of La Jolla Mesa Drive and La Jolla Scenic Drive South until the La Jolla Community Planning Association could discuss it at their Jan. 4 meeting. The stop sign was initially requested by residents of the area, and a city analysis of the intersection found that a stop sign was warranted.

The three-way intersection currently has a stop sign only for drivers traveling southbound on La Jolla Scenic Drive South to La Jolla Mesa Drive. The city traffic analysis conducted by traffic engineer Gary Pence looked at the total volume of traffic at the intersection, sight lines, accident history and the frequency of conflicting movements of vehicles.

Planning association trustee Joe LaCava presented Pence’s findings and said that the intersection more than qualified for a stop sign, using varied sets of criteria. LaCava said that looking at the total volume of traffic at the intersection might be a bit misleading since the predominant movements at the intersection are cars heading northbound on La Jolla Mesa turning right onto La Jolla Scenic South, and cars heading southbound on La Jolla Scenic South turning left onto La Jolla Mesa - movements that do not conflict with one another. But LaCava said Pence’s findings showed that a stop sign was definitely warranted.

“Gary said that even if you look only at the conflicting movements, it still qualifies for a stop sign,” LaCava said.

LaCava said he was concerned that the stop sign was being proposed for the purpose of traffic calming, rather than as a necessary safety measure. He said a visit to the intersection allayed those fears.

“A stop sign for traffic calming - I don’t feel that’s something we should be doing to our community,” LaCava said. “I’m interested in a stop sign for safety. I visited the site and realized it’s not a traffic calming issue at all. I didn’t realize how many through moves there are.”

Residents of the area said they didn’t feel safe on the street near the intersection. Harry Cebron said he lives on the corner in question and feels in danger when he goes to his mailbox at the end of his driveway.

“When I check the mail, I have to be careful that no one comes wheeling around the corner and kills me,” Cebron said. “On Saturdays, there’s people driving sports cars coming around at 70, 80 miles per hour. It’s a safety hazard. We need stop signs installed. If not, someone is going to get killed there.”

Another area resident presented a petition signed by 40 of his neighbors in favor of the new stop sign. But not everyone at the meeting was so certain that a stop sign was necessary at the intersection.

“I turn that corner hundreds of times per year, about two times a day,” trustee Hal White said. “I’ve never seen a problem there.”

Other meeting attendees speculated that the increasing speeds at the corner in question and on other roads on Mount Soledad are a result of the traffic-calming roundabouts on La Jolla Boulevard. They argued that the roundabouts have made La Jolla Boulevard an unattractive option for commuters heading south out of La Jolla and that streets on Mount Soledad are being used more often by through trafffic.

Planning association member Ray Weiss agreed that Mount Soledad streets are being used more often as main arteries into and out of La Jolla.

“It is a thoroughfare,” Weiss said. “I think it’s a classic example of the adage that if you squeeze the balloon in one place, it pops out in another.”

Weiss and others argued that the real need was not for a new stop sign but for additional enforcement of speed limits on the roads on Mount Soledad. Keely Sweeney, the new La Jolla representative for City Council President Scott Peters, was asked if police could watch the area more closely.

“We can request additional enforcement,” Sweeney said, “with varied results.”

Trustee Robert Thiele said he didn’t believe the changes to La Jolla Boulevard had affected the intersection. He feels the intersection is a natural spot for a stop sign.

“I was on that intersection during the holidays, and I thought to myself, why isn’t there another stop sign here?” Thiele said. “We need a place in that community for cars to stop, just to pause for a moment.”

The trustees voted to approve the stop sign at the intersection of La Jolla Mesa Drive and La Jolla Scenic Drive South, and it will be installed in the coming months.