VISTA — New speed humps will be installed in four residential areas around Vista in an attempt to slow vehicle speeds after dozens of residents petitioned for traffic calming measures under a revised city policy.
Historically, it’s been difficult for Vistans to request speed humps along residential streets due to restrictive criteria determining which streets qualify. Concerns about the humps’ impact on emergency vehicle access have also limited their installation.
Following conversations among city council members and traffic officials in the spring and summer, the city agreed in June to simplify criteria for speed humps on city streets, removing a prohibitive point system that proved to be too complex and more easily allowing residents to show their support through petitions.
On Oct. 10, the City Council unanimously approved speed hump projects on four streets — Elm Drive, Sunset Drive, Taylor Street, and Lado de Loma Drive —where traffic speed and accidents have been a concern. For each one, the majority of residents living within 200 feet of the proposed area signed petitions in support.
“I’m really grateful to all the neighbors for signing the petition and participating in the process,” said Councilmember Katie Melendez.
In March of this year, the city also approved speed humps at prioritized streets, including Alta Vista Drive, Eucalyptus Avenue, Highland Drive and Vale View Drive, along with other improvements, to reduce traffic speeds. Residents continued to push for this infrastructure in other areas.
The process of getting speed humps is generally led by local residents. Under the new policy, traffic engineers and fire department officials both examine a proposed street to determine if it meets the necessary criteria, and if so, at least 51% of neighboring residents must then sign a petition in support.
“We received many requests for speed humps before June 2023, but rarely a completed petition,” said Traffic Engineer Sam Hasenin. “One street was approved by the Traffic Commission in early October and is scheduled to go before the City Council on November 14, 2023. We also have 15 active requests on which we are going through the initial screening criteria and have not yet moved to the petition stage.”
The proposed site must be a residential or collector street with no more than one lane in each direction and adequate sight distance. Motorist speeds must also regularly exceed 25 mph, which the city determines by collecting speed data.
The largest of the four projects will be at Sunset Drive, with 10 speed humps to be installed between Crest View Road and South Melrose Drive. Over 60 residents signed a petition in support.
Several of them spoke to the council about the dangerously high speeds along the road, where there have been four reported accidents in the past five years.
“We’ve had a lot of issues with people going through peoples fences. I’ve personally had to replace my mailbox a dozen times over the past 30-ish years,” said resident Kathleen Warren.
There will also be five humps installed on Taylor between Goodwin Drive and Voluntary Road, four on Lado de Loma between Guajome Street and the Lowe’s driveway, and two on Elm between Foothill Drive and Independence Way.
Taylor, which many vehicles use as a cut-through to avoid traffic on Vista Way, has been the site of several recent accidents. In March, a pedestrian was killed while crossing Taylor near Cresthaven Road, and a pregnant woman in a vehicle lost her unborn child in a head-on collision with an intoxicated driver along the road near Vista Way in July.
During public comment, one individual said he has ceased his regular morning runs along Taylor because he is concerned about being hit by a car.
Steve Klicka, who lives on Beverley Drive connecting to Elm Drive, said it is difficult to hear cars coming and that pedestrians are not safe walking along the road.
“I’m here to ask for those speed bumps to be installed. I think it would save a life,” Klicka told council members.
Along Lado de Loma, there have been four reported accidents in the past five years. Resident Sid Rothenberg said the street sees “high-speed car chases that would rival any movie chase scene.”
Between all four streets, the humps will cost just over $190,000. The funds were allocated through the city’s 2023-24 Capital Improvement Budget.
Future traffic plans
Overall traffic safety improvements were a central discussion at the Oct. 10 meeting, outside of just speed humps. Hasenin said the city is in the process of implementing a traffic safety plan, wherein the city will analyze collision data from recent years to identify the streets and intersections in greatest need of safety improvements.
These could include pedestrian crossings, traffic signals, roundabouts, raised medians or other measures, depending on the needs of the area.
“We’ll look at the entire city, look at the accidents, and generate these maps, where they kind of show where the concentration of accidents are, so we can focus on the high-accident locations,” said Hasenin.
Councilmember Joe Green also brought forward a discussion item regarding the intersection of East Vista Way and Franklin Lane, where he said residents are unable to make a left turn into the nearby shopping center because of an existing median.
This has contributed to congestion, long wait times and a busy street that is unsafe for pedestrians to cross, he said.
Green recommended implementing a median break, stoplight and pedestrian crosswalk and asked city staff to analyze this area for potential improvements, which was supported by the council.
Mayor John Franklin said that while he supports necessary traffic improvements, it is important first to complete the comprehensive analysis to determine the top areas of need.
Franklin explained how at the council’s Sept. 26 meeting, he voted against a proposed traffic signal at Melrose and Dawson drives because he felt the discussion lacked data about other intersections that require funding.
“I’d just like to have the data, and I’d like the council to have a conversation about which intersections are most important,” Franklin said. “Maybe we need to install two or three right away, and maybe this is one of them … but I would like to have a holistic and logical conversation that will include the data.”
“The reality is, every time we say ‘yes’ to one spending priority, we’re saying ‘no’ to others. That’s how this works,” he added.
Some council members emphasized that they want local residents to be very involved in the process, as they are the ones with the lived experience of driving on the roads and can provide valuable input.
“We have heard, just in the course of today’s council meeting, that there’s a big appetite for calming traffic down in the city, and I don’t want any of our neighbors to be left out of the conversation,” said Councilmember Corinna Contreras.