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The traffic circle at the convergence of Eolus Avenue, Andrew Avenue and Hillcrest Drive in Leucadia. Photo by Samantha Nelson
The traffic circle at the convergence of Eolus Avenue, Andrew Avenue and Hillcrest Drive in Leucadia. Photo by Samantha Nelson
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Encinitas swaps roundabout for all-way stop at Hillcrest Drive intersection

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council voted on Aug. 9 to replace a roundabout with an all-way stop at a residential Leucadia intersection after complaints of unsafe driving and poor aesthetics.

The adopted resolution immediately establishes an all-way stop control at the convergence of Eolus Avenue, Andrew Avenue and Hillcrest Drive.

“It’s an unexpected outcome that everyone in this room, including staff, is not loving this roundabout,” Deputy Mayor Joy Lyndes said.

In 2020, residents told the city the three-way intersection posed a problem for some motorists due to limited sight distance (or visible roadway) when performing certain driving maneuvers. Additionally, residents said drivers frequently struggled to determine which vehicle had the right-of-way.

City staff found the issues credible and recommended putting in an all-way stop, but a group of residents asked the city to explore other options, hoping to minimize the impact of the new traffic control on nearby residences.

In 2021, the city ultimately opted for a roundabout, but the $12,000 traffic circle has turned out to be more disruptive than calming for residents. Long trucks can’t make the turn, drivers don’t yield properly, and pedestrians lack accessible walkways, according to public comments at Wednesday’s council meeting.

Councilmember Allison Blackwell, who lives near the roundabout, witnessed these issues firsthand when a big box truck entered the intersection, came to a complete stop and put its blinkers on, prompting drivers behind the truck to use the wrong lane to navigate around it.

“It was really just nightmarish,” Blackwell said.

Long-time residents, some ranging between 20 to 40 years living in the area, spoke out against the roundabout.

“I’ve lived on Hillcrest Drive for over 40 years and have driven through that intersection, usually every day, without a problem, ever,” Patricia Post wrote in a public comment. “Since the roundabout has been installed, I’ve had five close calls when people have failed to give me the right of way when I’m in the circle.”

Resident Terry Bock said the roundabout is an “eyesore and “totally unnecessary.”

“We’ve lived here for 35 years and there’s only been one accident at that intersection,” Bock wrote. “I feel a yield sign on Hillcrest Drive would be much less expensive to maintain and would eliminate any confusion at that location.”

Other residents supported leaving the roundabout in place but perhaps adding upgrades or sprucing up the intersection.

“Please keep the circle rather than put in stop signs,” said resident Nicola Ranson. “This is to avoid pollution from idling cars. However, a more aesthetic roundabout would be greatly appreciated. Surely, we can have one tree. The yellow bobbles are ugly, for example, and combined with the speedbumps, have made driving along Sheridan Road ugly and unpleasant.”

Others came “full circle,” advocating for the all-way stop proposed three years earlier or suggesting a return to no traffic controls.

Mayor Tony Kranz said he didn’t support removing all controls from the intersection, especially with the council’s “vision zero” goal of eliminating traffic deaths and severe injuries by 2028.

“While I appreciate the fact that there has never been an accident there, it just takes one,” Kranz said.

Abraham Bandegan, the city’s traffic engineer, agreed with the mayor, saying he “cannot recommend a do-nothing scenario” because of the sight-distance issues documented at the time of the initial complaint. A yield sign wouldn’t solve the sight-distance matters, either.

Bandegan’s official recommendation was the same all-way stop presented in 2020.

The resolution passed with Councilmember Kellie Hinze as the lone “no” vote, who noted that stop signs only work when people follow them.

“I think it’s a little bit of ‘the grass is greener’ right now, where we can recognize the problems that we have with the traffic circle and then once we put in the all-way stops, we’ll be able to see the problems with all-way stops,” Hinze said.

The resolution was approved with amendments that additional signage and painted lines will only be installed if necessary, helping to address residents’ aesthetic concerns.

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