Most Rancho Santa Fe residents at meeting prefer lights to roundabouts for easing traffic


The Rancho Santa Fe Association had a large turnout for its April 29 town hall meeting, designed to give community members a chance to weigh in on their preference for roundabouts or traffic signals on three intersections on Paseo Delicias/Del Dios Highway.

The April 29 meeting was held in advance of the Association board making a decision at its May 7 meeting on the solution for traffic problems on the busy highway.

In a non-scientific straw poll taken by RSF Association Manager Bill Overton, of the 156 people in attendance at the April 29 meeting, only 11 favored roundabouts and 26 supported maintaining the status quo. The rest, 76 percent of those in attendance, were in favor of installing traffic signals.

There was one tongue-in-cheek suggestion for a tollbooth.

Overton, as well as associate planner Larry Roberts, said the option to do nothing is not really a solution: If the Association has no input, the county will decide for it. As resident Laurel Lemarie put it, right now Rancho Santa Fe has a chance to control its own destiny.

“Neither alternative is ideal, and the question is, given the pros and cons of each alternative, which is the better fit for the community long-term?” Roberts said.

At the May 7 meeting, the board has two options: certifying the county’s environmental impact report, which would preserve roundabouts and signals as solutions; or recommending that the county certify traffic signals instead of roundabouts. Since signals are less costly at $1.5 million versus the $6 million roundabouts, the funding for signals could be identified and construction could commence in the next two years. A funding source for the roundabouts has not yet been identified, so construction might not occur for at least five or six years.

The three roundabouts are proposed at the intersections of El Camino del Norte, La Valle Plateada/El Montevideo and Via de la Valle.

The diameter of the roundabouts is 111 to 114 feet. Each would have a 16-foot-wide travel lane with a 12- to 15-foot mountable apron to allow larger trucks to drive on to get through.

Residents off the Paseo Delicias thoroughfare have an extremely difficult time trying to exit onto the road. The traffic has been described as “unbearable” during peak hours and “scary” and “dangerous” at its worst.

Resident Daniel Bunn said most commuters on the corridor are passing through, as the Ranch roads are the only alternative in this region, largely because of the removal of Highway 680 from the County Circulation Element in 1989. The highway was planned to run from Encinitas to Rancho Bernardo.

“Too much time has been spent enduring this daily problem. As soon as signals are installed, it will reduce delays and improve our quality of life,” Bunn said.

Resident Philippe Charat said to avoid Paseo Delicias, there is a lot of cut-through traffic on Lago Lindo, Avenida de Acacias, Mimulus and La Valle Plateada.

“If you live on the other side of the Ranch, this means nothing to you, because you’re not impacted,” Charat said. “I think we have to look out for each other. People on these streets are seriously impacted and it’s just going to go from bad to worse.”

Resident Sam Ursini, who led a group that did extensive research on the intersection, gave a presentation on 10 facts about roundabouts. Ursini said roundabouts infringe on private property, while signals are all within the county right-of-way.

He also noted that roundabouts cost four times more than signals and that the construction of the roundabouts is anticipated to take 18 months and will cause major detours and delays.

The impact of the construction was deemed significant and unmitigatable in the environmental impact report: Detoured traffic on Ranch roads will bump the 1,700 average daily trips up to 9,200 average daily trips.

The Covenant’s only signal, at Calzada del Bosque and Via de la Valle, has been there for 17 years without negative impact, Urisini said. He said they found there have been only two accidents in 2,000 days, and both were in daylight hours.

The new signals could be attractively designed to be match the Ranch’s character, and the lighting can be designed to have minimal effect on surrounding residences. Ursini said the lights could also be sequenced for better performance.

The property that will be most affected by the roundabouts is the Village Church.

Don MacNeil of the church spoke of the “truly damaging” effects on their property —the church would lose about 23 spaces in its parking lot, and all four driveways will be negatively affected, with exiting and entering made more dangerous.

MacNeil has said that the church must also incur costs to repair its parking lot and retaining walls, redo its driveways and to cover the high expense of moving dry and wet utilities.

“Despite our country atmosphere, we have to deal with a big-city problem, and that’s traffic,” MacNeil said. “We can’t make a big-city mistake and install roundabouts … it’s a mistake that never goes away.”

Those who support roundabouts favor the preservation of Rancho Santa Fe’s rural character, and want to avoid the “ugly” 30-foot-high stanchions of traffic signals, with light “crashing down” and violating the dark-sky policy.

Resident Rich Branson said if he had been asked a year ago, he was against roundabouts; but since joining the Intersection Committee, he has changed his mind. He has seen roundabouts working effectively in Santa Clarita, with a size similar to Rancho Santa Fe’s proposed circles.

“I can tell you, it’s a smooth process,” Branson said. “Roundabouts are the way to go.”

Martin Wilson, who built his home in the Ranch 50 years ago, said roundabouts will alert people driving through to get someplace else that they are traveling through a special place — to slow down and appreciate what Rancho Santa Fe is.

“Roundabouts will make a difference, and that’s what we ought to be thinking about. Where we live is different. It’s different from the surrounding areas,” Wilson said. “This is our last opportunity to make a difference, this is our last opportunity to define the Covenant.

“Roundabouts are not that common. Neither is the Covenant.”