By Joe Tash
A decision by the county to remove two stop signs on Rancho Diegueño Road has residents of a nearby neighborhood fuming.
County workers removed the signs — on both directions of Rancho Diegueño at its intersection with Calle Diegueño — on Feb. 8, following votes by the county’s Traffic Advisory Committee and the county Board of Supervisors.
The all-way stop had been in place at the “T” intersection in Rancho Santa Fe for more than a decade, residents said. But a complaint from a Rancho Santa Fe resident led to a review of the stop signs by the county’s Department of Public Works, which in turn resulted in 10-0 vote by the Traffic Advisory Committee to remove the signs at an Oct. 28 meeting.
Residents who live near the intersection said they are concerned removal of the stop signs on busy Rancho Diegueño Road will result in a traffic hazard, and they also question why they weren’t notified about the meeting, so they could attend and voice their opinions.
“When you remove a stop sign that thousands of cars a day are accustomed to seeing, you’re going to have an accident,” said Tanya Shaffer, who lives on Calle Diegueño. “I view this as a potential hazard in the next couple of months, until people get used to it not being there again.”
“It did slow traffic down,” said Calle Diegueño resident Bay Ponder about the all-way stop, noting that dozens of his neighbors share his concerns.
“The street is unsafe because of a propensity of speeding. People feel they’re in the country and they drive fast. Someday, somebody is going to get nailed, it’s just going to happen,” Ponder said.
A county Traffic Advisory Committee report said the request to remove the all-way stop was initiated by an email from a Rancho Santa Fe resident to 5th District County Supervisor Bill Horn. In the email, which is included in the report, the resident referred to a reception for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in La Jolla, where the resident met Horn.
Horn reportedly told the resident at the fundraiser to send him an email about the stop sign. In her email, the resident said a Traffic Advisory Committee report from 2000 indicates the committee opposed putting in the all-way stop in the first place.
“In spite of this recommendation, due to a petition of one resident living off of Calle Diegueño, stop signs were installed on Rancho Diegueño annoying hundreds of people who have to daily drive on this major street in both directions,” the resident wrote.
County Department of Public Works staffer Kenton Jones, who works with the Traffic Advisory Committee, said other residents also made similar complaints.
The report said the speed limit on Rancho Diegueño Road is 40 mph, and more than 7,000 cars drive past the intersection with Calle Diegueño each day in both directions. In contrast, some 360 cars turn onto Rancho Diegueño each day from Calle Diegueño.
According to the report, the intersection does not meet state guidelines for an all-way stop, which was confirmed by Jones.
“A review of the existing operating conditions at the intersection of Rancho Diegueño Road (a public roadway) and Calle Diegueño (a private road) indicates the existing all-way stop control is too restrictive,” the report said.
Jones said warning signs were placed on Rancho Diegueño in advance of the intersection for one week before and after the stop signs were removed, and he was not aware of any traffic problems since the signs were taken out. A sign warning motorists on Calle Diegueño that cross traffic does not stop was also installed.
The county notified the San Dieguito Community Planning Group, the Rancho Santa Fe Association and the Fairbanks Ranch homeowners association that the Traffic Advisory Committee would be considering the all-way stop at its October 2011 meeting, Jones said.
But that notification didn’t help residents who live on or near Calle Diegueño, who felt they didn’t get their “day in court,” said Ponder.
“Those are the people that want (the all-way stop) to go away. Those are the people that use (Rancho Diegueño) as a drag strip. They might as well have notified people in El Cajon. We are the people affected by it,” said Ponder.