The roundabouts-versus-traffic-lights debate will be put to a Covenant-wide survey, the Rancho Santa Fe Association board decided at its July 2 meeting. The survey comes as a result of more than 400 residents signing a petition questioning the board’s unanimous preference for traffic signals and asking for a community vote on the topic.
As explained by board member Fred Wasserman, the survey is not a vote of Association members. It will be sent to every property owner who pays an assessment, hitting an extra 300 people who are not registered to vote but entitled to participate.
Another community forum will be held before the surveys are sent out, and the survey results will be forwarded to the county, as it has the authority on the final decision for what happens at the intersections of Via de la Valle, La Valle Plateada/El Montevideo and El Camino del Norte.
In May, the Association board voted its preference for traffic signals over roundabouts, and since that vote the board members have heard very vocal opposition to that decision.
“Our decision focused on safety to the community, operational efficiency, cost, time frame and impact on the environment,” said RSF Association President Ann Boon. “Personally, I believe our decision-making process had integrity, and we made a valid decision. There is no way to know with complete certainty whether signals or roundabouts will be best for our community in the long run.”
The debate of traffic signals versus roundabouts has been ongoing for more than 12 years.
In 2013, the board held an open community meeting to hear the results of the county’s environmental impact report on the intersections, and the majority in attendance expressed support for traffic signals.
There was a call for further study of signals, and the intersection committee was formed. The committee voted 6-1 in favor of roundabouts, but Boon said that decision only served as a “delaying tactic.” One committee chair, while recommending roundabouts, asserted he would see them built “over my dead body.”
At a second forum in April 2015, again the majority expressed a preference for traffic signals, and in May, the board made its decision to support signals over roundabouts.
“We asked everyone to come out, and the people in favor of roundabouts didn’t show up,” said board member Jerry Yahr. “We made a decision based on the information we had and the input of people in the community that attended and participated.”
RSF Association board member Kim Eggleston said the roundabout advocates were disengaged at the time of the well-noticed meetings, and after the May vote, came out and expressed their dissatisfaction with the vote. Eggleston said board members received “inappropriate” email communications from some members with veiled threats of litigation.
“I do know that ongoing divisiveness, bullying and personal attacks are no good for this community. I believe that this board should try to find a way to resolve the dispute in the most equitable and efficient way,” Boon said. “That is why I will personally support letting the decision of what to recommend to the county be made in a community-wide survey.”
Board member Heather Slosar said she thought it was great that the community wants to be involved in this important decision, even if it did come a little late.
Members of the Rancho Santa Fe Beautiful Roads Committee, which organized the petition effort, thanked the board for listening to their concerns. As resident Bill Siino said, a survey will allow the Association to hear the true voice of the community. The members said they looked forward to presenting new information they have supporting roundabouts at the upcoming community meeting.
Several in attendance at the July 2 meeting, held at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club because of the large crowd, spoke against the survey. Resident Dick Doughty questioned whether the survey was consistent with Association bylaws, and resident Rory Kendall said the community has been over-saturated with surveys.
“People had the opportunity to speak and they didn’t speak,” said resident Sam Ursini. “All of the gatherings were clearly announced and everyone had the opportunity to be heard for 2 1/2 years. You had a chance to speak, the board voted — it should be over with.”
Resident Jim Ashcraft said that he didn’t trust the county to do what the survey may say residents want it to do. He said the county’s idea is to move traffic from point A to point B, and that may involve expanding Del Dios Highway to four lanes wide.
“I don’t love roundabouts, but the roundabouts stop the four-lane effort so we can maintain our rural community,” Ashcraft said.
“I think this board is too sensitive,” he said. “I am in favor of roundabouts, but I think the board made the best decision they could.”
Resident Rochelle Putnam, fresh off her term on the RSF Association board, said that the decision of what to do at these intersections is one of the most impactful they will ever make and the board doesn’t want anyone second-guessing its decision.
“There is nothing to lose (by having the survey), and the board will gain a clear perspective on the community sentiment on this topic,” Putnam said.
Said Boon, “I don’t mind being second-guessed or attacked; that comes with the territory. But I don’t think it does this community any good to go on for months and months on an issue when we have other things to deal with. Let’s let everyone weigh in on this, once and for all, and the county will just have to bite the bullet and move on.”