OCEANSIDE — City Council decided last week to move forward with a road diet plan for its stretch of Coast Highway that would reduce its four lanes to two, install several roundabouts and establish an incentive district.
For the last 10 years, city staff has spent time studying the design process for its Coast Highway Vision and Strategic Plan, a means to revitalize Coast Highway and make it safer for pedestrians, cyclists and other modes of transportations besides just automobiles.
Staff’s preferred version of the project would narrow Coast Highway’s four lanes to two in Oceanside from its northern to southern city limits.
Additionally, it would implement an incentive district from Seagaze Drive to Buena Vista Lagoon that would allow developers to build past current city height and dwelling units in exchange for more public parking, open space and ground floor commercial area. The Coast News previously reported those additional height limits would stop at 65 feet and allow for up to 63 dwelling units per acre.
During an Aug. 14 workshop, council ultimately decided to go with “Alternative 3,” which would stop both the incentive district and the road diet at Morse Street.
Alternative 3 would stretch from Harbor Drive to Morse Street. In addition to narrowing the road from four lanes to two, this alternative recommends converting six intersections to roundabouts, identifies 11 midblock crosswalk locations and would add approximately 17 new on-street parking stalls.
Alternative 3 was developed in an attempt to address South Oceanside business owners’ and residents’ concerns. Save South Oceanside, a group that was originally opposed to the Coast Highway project, wanted no road diet south of Oceanside Boulevard.
“We’re not going to tell Seaside what’s best for their community if they don’t tell us what’s best for us,” said Joel West, a member of Save South Oceanside, at the workshop of the downtown area.
Council also approved a request by Councilman Ryan Keim to have staff study the environmental impacts of converting Coast Highway between Oceanside Boulevard and Morse Street, also known as “the Dip,” from two lanes to four lanes as part of the project.
Over time, the project has gained both staunch support and opposition from residents.
Friends of Loma Alta Creek wanted no project whatsoever, while Save South Oceanside agreed with Alternative 3 as long as the road diet ended at Oceanside Boulevard.
Though Save South O didn’t get exactly what it wanted, a blog post on its website called the decision “a great improvement” since Save South O formed three years ago, even with the road diet still in the Dip. The group plans to vocalize its preference for four lanes in the Dip as the city studies the environmental impacts of doing so.
Planning Commission Chair Kyle Krahel also spoke at the workshop, emphasizing Planning Commission’s support for Alternative 3 of the project.
“The reason that it was unanimous is because this is smart growth,” Krahel said. We talked a lot about it when we made our decisions that we need more smart growth.”
Krahel said the project would make Coast Highway safer for pedestrians crossing the street, noting roundabouts will help in that endeavor while also maintaining traffic flow.
Deputy Mayor Jack Feller said a road diet was “the wrong thing” to do and noted more focus should be given to completing the Coastal Rail Trail, a bike path physically separated from vehicular traffic that currently begins at the Oceanside Transit Center and continues to Oceanside Boulevard.
Despite his opposition, Feller ultimately voted in favor of Alternative 3 as well as Keim’s request to study converting the Dip from two to four lanes.
Councilwoman Esther Sanchez was the only member to vote against the project. Sanchez said she didn’t feel as though the plan was safer as it would put cyclists closer to parked cars, and didn’t think the plan was consistent with the city’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.
Sanchez also agreed with Feller that more work on the Coastal Rail Trail needs to happen.
Additionally, Sanchez voted against Keim’s request for staff to study converting the Dip from two to four lanes.
“Until the Coastal Rail Trail is completed I don’t feel comfortable doing that,” she said.
Photo Caption: Many South Oceanside business owners and residents want to see Coast Highway between Oceanside Boulevard and Morse Street, also called “the Dip,” converted to four lanes of traffic. Photo by Samantha Taylor.