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Traffic board debates plan to extend parkway wall

Despite nods of approval from La Jolla Town Council and La Jolla Shores Association, La Jolla’s Traffic & Transportation advisory board (T&T) had questions regarding a proposed extension to the sound wall alongside La Jolla Parkway, which it raised at its Feb. 26 meeting.

Board members wanted to know the source of supporting data that was used in the presentation, where funding

would come from, and what percentage of residents were actually in support of the project. T&T did not take a vote on the sound wall extension proposal, which residents hope will reduce the noise from 50,000-60,000 cars traveling along the parkway daily.

Nearby residents would like to see the sound wall along La Jolla Parkway extended tenfold to reduce traffic-related noise.
Nearby residents would like to see the sound wall along La Jolla Parkway extended tenfold to reduce traffic-related noise.

Presented by Hidden Valley homeowners Richard Haskel and Rick Adams, the project would extend the wall from 200 feet — starting east of Ardath Lane along on south side of La Jolla Parkway — to 2,000 feet.

“The big problem is the eastbound side because cars are accelerating up the hill (toward the 52 and I-5 freeways). If there is heavy traffic coming down the hill, it is moving more slowly and is not as noisy,” Adams said.

Citing the City of San Diego Noise Ordinance and a 2004 traffic study, Adams said the ordinance limits in single-family residential zones range from 40 to 50 decibels, depending on the time of day. The traffic study he referenced indicates noise levels average 75 decibels from passenger cars, and up to 90 decibels when motorcycles pass by.

Adams later disclosed the study was conducted by UC San Diego, and while he did not have it with him, he could later offer it for review. T&T Chair Todd Lesser suggested, to add credibility to their claims, project proponents have the study redone by an unbiased source.

T&T board member Corey Bailey questioned the reported decibel levels. “I just Googled how loud is 75 decibels and (a search result on ask.com and hearnet.com both reported) it’s about the loudness of chamber music in a small auditorium. It is just above a normal speaking voice, which is about 65 to 70 decibels. It is just below a telephone dialtone, which registers at 80 decibels,” he said. “So from someone standing on the outside of their home, the noise pollution they are concerned with is essentially their neighbors speaking.”

Another board concern was the source of funding. Arguing that usage of a city street causes the noise, Adams said, “To us, the right party to pay for this is the City of San Diego.”

Early discussions with independent contractors put the cost to extend the wall at approximately $1 million. Should it be designed to look aesthetically pleasing, as was suggested by the La Jolla Shores Association during its discussion of the project, the cost would likely jump to $2 million.

Lesser said the competition for city funds is stiff, and noted that the city is still looking for funding for the second phase of the Torrey Pines Road Corridor Project, at a projected cost of $1.2 million.

“For as much as this wall may cost, especially if you want to make it aesthetically pleasing, you might not get the funding,” Lesser said. “It would behoove you to see what cheaper alternatives would mitigate the problem.”

Additionally, Lesser questioned what percentage of affected residents were in support of the project. Haskel and Adams said they had a petition signed by 48 homeowners, representing 100 residents. Haskel said he went to each nearby home, but not everyone was there, so he could not collect signatures from all.

Drawing from his experience in getting parking time limits changed on segments of Girard Avenue from 60 to 90 minutes, Lesser said, “It’s important because this is what we do for time changes in parking, we look at all the affected homes in the entire area and note how many are in favor, how many are against, and how many could not be reached (to get a clearer picture).”

Additional questions, such as whether the extended wall would bounce the sound to residences on the other side of La Jolla Parkway, were posed but could not be answered.

Lesser told the presenters, “This is going to be a tough project because you are going to need a coastal permit, and because it’s so long and there are animals living there, it might also need an environmental impact report ... you might also have to overcome someone who would like the money spent elsewhere. It’s going to be a big project. Get all your ducks in a row.”

In other T&T news:

The board approved required street closures for two annual events, the La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival (Dec. 6) and So Fine on Kline block party (Nov. 8).