Covenant residents voiced strong opposition to a proposal that would restrict turning in six locations on Rancho Santa Fe roads in an effort to get a handle on Del Dios Highway/Paseo Delicias traffic jams.
The street limitation proposal was the result of a lawsuit filed against San Diego County over the roundabouts that have been approved for the intersections of Via de la Valle, El Montevideo and El Camino del Norte.
As some grow frustrated with the queuing and stopping on Del Dios, people have taken to turning off the highway and making their way through neighborhood streets—the “no turn” signage proposes to mitigate that cut-through traffic.
According to RSF Association Manager Christy Whalen, the Rancho Santa Fe Association received 37 emails from its members on this issue, detailing the “extreme inconvenience” and delays the signage would cause in getting to their homes. A large group of residents also appeared before the board at the Oct. 3 meeting to express their concerns.
“I believe we need roundabouts, I believe we needed roundabouts yesterday,” said resident Ilia Christy, who lives on La Valle Plateada. “A lawsuit shouldn’t be able to negatively affect the safety and the quality of life of the entire community.”
The RSF Association board approved staff’s recommendation to oppose the proposed signage in a 6-0 vote with Director Steve Dunn abstaining. Dunn said he abstained not because he was in favor of the signage but because he is not convinced that the roundabouts will solve the problem.
The lawsuit’s plaintiff, The Rancho Santa Fe Coalition, asserted that roundabouts are not the right solution and instead proposed limiting both left and right turns at six different locations during morning and afternoon peak times Monday through Friday. Posted signage would include:
- No right turn Paseo Delicias to La Valle Plateada 3-6 p.m.
- No right turn La Valle Plateada to Paseo Delicias, 3-6 p.m.
- No left turn El Montevideo to Paseo Delicias, 3-6 p.m.
- No right turn El Montevideo to Paseo Delicias, 6-9 a.m.
- No left turn El Camino Del Norte to Lago Lindo,6-9 a.m.
- No right turn Via de Fortuna to El Montevideo, 3-6 p.m.
According to Murali Pasumarthi, San Diego County traffic engineering manager, the lawsuit has been resolved and the county’s settlement included paying the plaintiff $75,000 in legal costs and a requirement to evaluate their alternative solution.
“It’s a quality of life matter and the county’s position is neutral,” Pasumarthi said, noting the county will now alert the plaintiff about the public input received to see if the evaluation has satisfied the terms of the settlement.
If the plaintiff decides they are not satisfied, Pasumarthi said the proposal would continue on for review by the San Dieguito Community Planning Group, the county’s Traffic Advisory Committee and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
As it stands now, the roundabouts have been approved and they will be the solution going forward whenever the board of supervisors determines that funding is available.
Currently there is no funding for purchasing required right-of-way or construction of the roundabouts The construction cost is estimated at about $7 million, which does not include eminent domain fees. To build the roundabouts, a few Covenant and non-Covenant residents will lose acreage and each landowner will be paid fair market value for the land.
The RSF Association has a long and winding history with roundabouts and RSF Patrol Chief Matt Wellhouser, who has been at the patrol for 39 years, said it feels a little like “Groundhog Day” to be again discussing the topic. The conversation has been going on since 2000 when the Association’s Road and Traffic Committee started looking into the Del Dios problem and came up with a wide variety of solutions.
“There were all sorts of ideas,” Wellhouser said of ideas for barricades, cul-de-sacs, speed bumps and speed tables, “We even talked about a tunnel under Del Dios from Rancho Santa Fe to Solana Beach,” Wellhouser said.
Roundabouts rose to the top as the best possible solution and the Association submitted a request to the county for roundabouts in 2003. Over the next 12 years, the designs were finalized and the county twice circulated an environmental impact report.
In May 2015, the RSF Association board took a turn and approved traffic signals instead of roundabouts for the intersections, however, public opposition to the board’s decision led to a community-wide survey in which 73 percent voted in favor of roundabouts. Armed with the survey results, the board then again forwarded its request for roundabouts in November 2015.
At the Oct. 3 hearing, the board heard from several residents who live on the streets that would have limited access.
“I think this is a terrible idea,” said Catherine Fox, a Lago Lindo resident. “It would impact me greatly to have these restrictions…you might help a few people but really inconvenience a lot of people.”
Residents spoke about the multiple trips they take during those times of day shuttling their children to school and activities and saying it would add at least 10 minutes to every trip. Kathy Green said it would not only impact her trips transporting her grandchildren, it would confuse guests trying to visit a home in the area. “You’d be going around in a circle trying to figure it out, it’s just crazy,” Green said.
“It won’t solve commuter traffic on El Camino Del Norte and it will prevent residents from using Rancho Santa Fe roads,” echoed Laurence McKinley, who has lived on El Camino Del Norte for 36 years.
Wellhouser agreed that there are many reasons why he believes the proposal will not work—the biggest issue being enforcement of the signs, “You have to have consistent enforcement or you will have zero compliance,” Wellhouser said.
Wellhouser said the plaintiff’s proposal would also push traffic onto other streets as commuters tried to find another way through the Ranch, making u-turns where they shouldn’t and increasing traffic on roads that aren’t designed for that kind of volume. Even the Rancho Santa Fe Patrol would have to follow the restrictions, which would increase their response time.
The neighbors who said they would support the proposed signage would only do so if there were some kind of permit that would continue to allow them access —again, Wellhouser said there would be a problem with enforcement.
Many of the residents spoke of the bigger issue about how dangerous the traffic is in their neighborhoods as they are impacted by high speeds and high volumes of cut-through traffic. La Valle Plateada residents talked about near misses as the road is not built to handle large volumes of traffic and it is a safety concern due to a lack of visibility and no shoulders on the side of the road for walkers, runners, cyclists and horseback riders.
One resident called his street “The Lago Lindo Motor Speedway and Amazon Express Route.” In June, Lago Lindo resident Anita Bitterlin was left heartbroken when her dog Hudson was violently killed by a speeding driver—the driver did not even stop.
Resident Kyri Van Hoose said it has gotten so bad on her street Plateada that she the requested that the county conduct a traffic study. She said the study found that an “absurd amount of cars” pass by her home on the residential street, most exceeding 60 miles per hour.
“I’m strongly in favor of something being done, we do have a significant problem,” Van Hoose said. “We need to implore the county that the roundabouts have to happen.”
RSF Association Vice President Mike Gallagher said he appreciated the large turnout at the meeting and the number of people who have voiced their opinions. “This is really how the Association should work.”
“The real solution is to get the roundabouts in,” Gallagher said. “It’s time we put some consistent and persistent pressure on the board of supervisors to move the project up on their list.”
At the meeting, the board approved a charter for a new Infrastructure Committee which could function as a big advocate for expediting the roundabout project as it develops a more strategic approach to solving infrastructure issues in the Covenant. In addition to roads and traffic issues the committee will also deal with utilities, undergrounding of overhead lines and public safety issues. The Association is looking for seven committee members with experience in local government, construction or utilities—names can be submitted through October as the board aims to make committee appointments in November.