Residents concerned over city’s traffic plan

DEL MAR — Some residents support a proposal to adopt a specific plan that would help revitalize downtown Del Mar. Other residents are not.

But during a Jan. 12 scoping meeting that gave community members an opportunity to share the topics they want to see addressed in the environmental impact report, there was seemingly unanimous agreement on one issue.
Of the approximately 30 attendees, 13 spoke and nearly all wanted proof that a proposal to decrease the main thoroughfare from four lanes to two and add roundabouts will actually slow cars and improve traffic flow.

David Goodell, a 35-year resident and owner of The Frustrated Cowboy, said he supports plans to increase the density and height of some downtown businesses but doesn’t understand how doing that while decreasing the number of lanes on Camino del Mar, where his store is located, will work.

“We already have traffic problems,” he said. “I have a hard time with that but I’d like to see it.”

Janice Batter, a 60-year resident, said she is convinced increasing density and decreasing the number of lanes will force traffic onto the side streets, impacting residential neighborhoods.

Randy Gruber, a 12-year resident and owner of Americana Café on Camino del Mar and 15th Street, agreed.
“I’m actually for revitalization,” he said. “This town could use some more energy.”

But single lanes and roundabouts will force cars to use side streets, he said. He added that they already get that in the summer with the fair and horse races at the fairgrounds.

As a resident, he said he is concerned about safety. “As a business owner, I’m concerned about the flow of traffic,” he said. “It will have a big effect on people getting into town.”

“I love roundabouts,” Bud Emerson said, adding that he hopes the EIR will verify the proposed changes will, in fact, smooth traffic and decrease emissions.

Payson Stevens, who’s lived in Del Mar for 40 years and worked on two previous revitalization efforts, said he walks the area frequently. “It’s becoming more dangerous,” he said, adding that he believes roundabouts will “make it worse.”

He asked for more visualization of the plan in the EIR.

“I’m definitely in favor of revitalization,” Al Corti said. “But I share a lot of these concerns. I don’t know if this is the right thing to do, but if we can allow more cars, slow down traffic, widen the sidewalks and make it safer, why in the world would I be opposed to that?” he asked.

Loni Curtis, who lives in the southern part the city, said she walks into downtown frequently with her children.

“I wish it was a much nicer walk,” she said. “I’m surprised to see some of the buildings in the state they are in.
“I’d love to see an analysis if we don’t do anything because I think things are going to continue to deteriorate,” she said. “It feels to me like time is not on our side.”

City staff members developed the plan with input garnered through a series of community conversations and workshops.

The goal is to have a draft EIR complete by spring, with City Council adoption of a specific plan, a local coastal plan amendment and certification of the final EIR by August, in time to get the measure on the November ballot.
Residents can continue to provide input by visiting the city’s website at delmar.ca.us.

“A lot of people are very concerned about (the traffic plan),” Planning Director Kathy Garcia said. “We are exploring it as an option, but let’s get the numbers and prove it one way or the other.”

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