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City to take a second look at alternative streets

CARLSBAD — With concerns raised over mobility and pedestrian safety, city council decided to reexamine alternative street designs throughout Carlsbad as the General Plan update nears completion.

Alternative streets typically do not have sidewalks, curbs, or gutters and are most often narrower than standard streets. These more rural streets have been maintained to preserve the character of older neighborhoods, particularly those in Olde Carlsbad.

At the request of the Planning Commission, city council was asked to review and consider updating the current policies that manage alternative streets, which were established about 13 years ago.

The original alternative streets policies were established in a report that was issued about 13 years ago.

Since then, local planning approaches to designing streets have changed. In particular, city planners and engineers now recognize streets as public spaces that serve pedestrians and bicyclists as well as cars and should not be designed with an emphasis on vehicle transportation.

“We don’t just build 40 feet of pavement and add a curb and a sidewalk,” said Glen Van Peski, Carlsbad’s community and economic development director.

Streets that have been built more recently, like those in Bressi Ranch, often include landscaping that provide a buffer between the street and the sidewalk. Bike lanes have also become more prevalent.

Today’s street designs strive to “balance all users of the streets including pedestrians and bicycles… and not just focus on cars,” according to Jason Geldert, a senior engineer for the city.

These changes are reflected in the mobility aspect of the city’s General Plan update, which is currently being reviewed for approval.

While council members and city staff acknowledged that alternative streets maintain a neighborhood’s older community feel, they reported that some citizens have expressed concerns.

Mayor Pro Tem Mark Packard said he was worried about lack of sidewalks on Valley Street near Carlsbad High School and Valley Middle School. He said residents have told him that the area is dangerous for kids walking to and from school.

City staff also pointed out that the design approval process for a developer seeking to improve an alternative street is cumbersome and not very clear.

But Kip McBane, a local resident who was involved in establishing the city’s alternative street policies, said he was worried that the city has not consulted residents about potential changes to their neighborhoods.

Speaking specifically about the Olde Carlsbad neighborhood east of Interstate 5 along Carlsbad Village Drive, McBane said, “(Changing alternative streets) is just one small piece of a comprehensive chipping away of the opportunities for creating a long term plan for this area.”

With the majority of Carlsbad already developed, the city is starting to see developers tear down old homes and build new houses in areas with alternative streets like Olde Carlsbad, said Mayor Matt Hall.

But with the General Plan and its guidelines for future development, including streets, still a work in progress, he expressed that it might be best to wait to address alternative streets.

Council decided unanimously to bring back the issue of alternative streets once the General Plan is revised and closer to being approved.