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Residents weigh in on improving walkability of Olivenhain

ENCINITAS — Olivenhain residents are known for getting around on horseback, but community walkability took center stage during a workshop Tuesday night at the Olivenhain Meeting Hall. 

In September, Encinitas launched a two-year effort to craft a citywide pedestrian plan. By getting input from Olivenhain residents and Encinitas’ other communities, the city’s goal is to prioritize infrastructure improvements.

Residents are encouraged to stroll through their community if there are plenty of sidewalks, enough space on sidewalks for multiple uses and nearby vehicle speeds aren’t excessive, said Leah Stender, program manager with WalkSanDiego.

WalkSanDiego, a pedestrian advocacy nonprofit, partnered with the city to conduct the workshops.

Stender noted that several Olivenhain residents cited discontinuous sidewalks on Rancho Santa Fe Road and other streets as a challenge.

“There’s a gap from how you get from this section to further down the street,” Stender said. “There’s just not necessarily a safe way for you to get there.”

To improve connectivity, some advocated that the city move forward with building the Trail Master Plan in Olivenhain, which was passed by the City Council in 2002.

Because it’s a rural community, several residents made the case that Olivenhain hasn’t received its fair share of money for improving walkability in the past.

Despite not being as dense, Olivenhain needs funds for traffic calming to lower the speed limit on key roads, Suzie Behr said. She said this is important because Olivenhain has seen a big jump in traffic from surrounding areas in recent years.

“We’re being dramatically impacted — that’s not going to go away,” Behr said. “So it seems we need more priority.”

If cars are required to slow down, residents would feel more comfortable walking along the roads, she added.

City staff members clarified that state law dictates speed limits. However, Stender noted cities can control speeds with infrastructure like signage or roundabouts.

As well as weighing in verbally, residents turned in maps noting which areas are ripe for walkability enhancements.

Stender said that the community walking plans, once finished, would increase the city’s chances for receiving funding in the future. Transit agencies are more inclined to allocate money to projects that have been vetted by the community, she said.

Prior to Tuesday night’s gathering, the city held workshops in Cardiff, New Encinitas, Old Encinitas and Leucadia. And come next spring, the city will visit each of the communities again to collect recommendations on improving routes to schools. With that feedback, the city will return to the communities with draft walkability plans a few months later, according to Christy Villa, an associate city engineer with the city.

Those who didn’t have a chance to attend the first round of workshops have until early spring to give their two cents by taking an online survey on the city’s website.

“Each of the communities have unique visions that we want to capture,” Villa said.

A $183,000 California Department of Transportation grant is paying for the two-year planning process.