Peninsula Planners Approve City Plan to Reduce West Point Loma Blvd from 4 to 2 Lanes and to Eliminate Parking for Bike Lanes

by on April 22, 2019 · 17 comments

in Ocean Beach

Class IV bicycle lane on Wabaska

Opposition to Reduction of Vehicle Lanes a ‘No-Show’ – Were They Properly Notified?

By Geoff Page

When you see not one, but two, TV stations setting up cameras and the room is full of people, you can be pretty sure that something of interest is happening at a Peninsula Community Planning Board’s meeting.  That was the scene for the Thursday, April 18 meeting at the Point Loma Library.  The reason for the cameras and all the people deserves its own story; a recounting of what else went on at the meeting will follow.

This issue, to state it very objectively, was about reducing West Point Loma Blvd. from four lanes to two lanes between Nimitz Ave. and Sports Arena Blvd. to create protected bike lanes on each side of the street.  If you were to state it that way to a sampling of Point Lomans and OBceans, there would surely be a mix of interest, pro and con, in making such a drastic change on a major thoroughfare like West Point Loma.  The result of the plan would be a Class IV protected bike lane with bikes at the curb, a three foot buffer, and a parking lane between riders and traffic.  Above is a picture of the drive down Wabaska Street, that is what it will look like.

The PCPB meeting over this change was interesting for several reasons.  For starters, audience opinion on the issue was fervently, and unanimously, favorable.  No one spoke in opposition. There are reasons for both sides. This issue has been a hot one among cyclists for a long time and they communicate on their own social media. The word went out among them to show up and they did.

What happened to the opposition?

Here is the description from the PCPB agenda of this item: the heading, “West Point Loma Boulevard Bicycle Lanes” was in bold font.  The description was “Review of bicycle lane conceptual plans for West Point Loma Boulevard and recommendation for Board approval and support.” That did not provide a clear picture of the bike lane proposal and probably would not have piqued anyone’s interest.

Had this agenda item read “Review of plan to reduce West Point Loma from four lanes to two and eliminate a large amount of existing parking on both sides of the street to create bike lanes,” perhaps, some opponents would have shown up.  This is, unfortunately, one of those issues people wake up to for the first time when they see it has happened to their street one day.

In fairness to the planning board, it is hard to get people interested in what the boards do.  The rooms only fill up when there is the occasional hot issue, not a lot of people attend every month despite posting agendas and using social media to get attention.  In this case, it looked like only one side knew what was happening and showed up to advocate for their position.  And, as anyone can attest, there are, shall we say, fervent cycling advocates among us. The other side never had a chance.

The element of haste seems to be theme from the city more and more.  In this case, the city is trying to coordinate a street utility project with this new striping configuration.  In order to get it done within the time frame of the utility project, a decision has to be made by May.  The street will be repaired and restriped as a result of the underground work, the question is whether it will be redone as it was or to a new configuration.  The city apparently did something similar on Wabaska when that street was torn up and repaired.

Unfortunately, the victim of haste is usually public opinion, or rather the time devoted to public opinion.

The city did a Power Point presentation of the studies that were done and the two options they wanted the board to consider.

The second option of the two was a striped bike lane outside of cars parallel and diagonally parked.  The cyclist would be exposed unprotected to traffic.  As with all city presentations, they need to watch carefully.  Just the two choices they presented caused suspicion having seen this sort of thing before.  The choice was between a very safe bike lane protected by parked cars or a dangerous bike lane completely exposed to traffic and, with the added danger of riding behind cars backing up.  Not much of a choice really.

The problem is preserving some parking and accommodating a bike lane.  The Class IV lane was the only one that made any sense; the exposed version wasn’t even a serious idea. But one downside of the Class IV configuration is that it considerably reduces parking along the roadway.  The city did a study of the parking along the north and south side of the road to see how much the existing parking was actually used.  They studied the north side from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and produced a percentage showing how much of that time the spaces were used.  The numbers were not high, less than 50 percent. But, what happened on the south side threw cold water on the city’s studies.

The information for the parking studies on the south side showed higher percentages for use over 50 percent.  But, what jumped out from the slide was that the south side was only studied from 6:a.m. to 11 a.m., five morning hours instead of the 12-hour study on the other side.  When no one else asked the question about this difference, this reporter did. Let the reader be the judge of the response. The answer offered – it was street sweeping day.  That’s right, the reason the city’s study did not have consistent information on both sides of West Point Loma was because they went out there on street sweeping day.

Some statements are so astonishingly stupid, asking follow up questions like “Why didn’t you go back the next day,” or “Why didn’t you check the street sweeping schedule for the road before you went out there, it’s posted on signs,” seems fruitless.  This did not appear to bother anyone else on the board.

Having dealt with the city in the past, the idea that they were hiding the actual usage of parking on the south side is very plausible. Not knowing the exact details of any study the city does should evoke skepticism immediately.  None of the audience wanted to say anything, in fact, this reporter got a negative reaction from one cyclist just for asking about the time difference.

Another slide from the city showed various stretches of the existing roads and the traffic grades for those pieces.  Roads are graded just like school, from A to F, to show a Level of Service or LOS.  The pieces shown had LOS grades of C, D, and E.  Despite reducing West Point Loma from four car lanes to only two, the city claimed the LOS would not change one bit on all of the pieces they studied.  You don’t have to be a traffic engineer to wonder about that one.

Some board members expressed support but even some of those comments just lead to head shaking.  One board member exclaimed that we had a perfect example of the Class IV bike lane on Wabaska that worked beautifully.  This comment did not seem to consider that the Average Daily Traffic index for West Point Loma Blvd. between Nimitz and Sports Arena dwarfs the ADT index on Wabaska.

Frankly, making such a major change on this road should have more public input that it has – that is the only problem with the plan.  The City is using an existing project as an excuse to make a decision quickly.  Cycling enthusiasts are all for it and they have the upper hand. Environmentalists concerned about meeting the city’s climate action plan are for it.  But, any possible opposition to this plan has probably heard nothing about it.  That is a mistake and unfair.

And, the bike lanes sound, and look, like a good thing.  The graphic showing the cyclists riding in safety and just two lanes of traffic is very appealing.  Bike usage would surely rise if there were these safe lanes to ride in. But, the city’s own prediction of people who will be biking by 2035 is only 18 percent.  That is less than one in five people.  Translate that into cars and it is not a big reduction, the remaining four fifths will have to use two lanes instead of four.  No one would argue that a reduction in traffic would be great, the question is how.

The city did not have information on the cost for doing this project, which is mostly just street striping. Because that is all it consists of, the comment was made that it could easily be changed back if it proved unworkable in the future. That is somewhat true. The cost involved would be whatever was spent on the first configuration and the cost to stripe it back to four lanes.  The redo would not be cheap as it involves a very busy roadway.  Easy to do, arguably, but not cheap.

Something that not a lot is heard about is maintenance. In fact a board member did mention this.  With the rising inventory of cycling related facilities in the streets from areas painted green to sharrows and bike lanes, the question of cost to maintain this striping is a legitimate one. Striping and road paint takes a beating and has to be maintained.  Nothing has been discussed on this important issue.

Jen Campbell Wants Input on Proposed Changes to West Pt Loma

District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jennifer Campbell is looking for input on this plan.  The planning board vote was one she wanted to hear.  If anyone in the community is not in favor of this proposal, they would need to send an email to Campbell, the only opportunity to speak up at this point.

Other Business

The PCPB’s monthly meeting did cover other issues and topics. Because the April meeting is the first meeting after the March elections, the chief order of business is seating new members and electing officers.  Seating the new members had to wait until after a discussion of three election challenges the PCPB received, one of which was from this reporter.

The agenda did not call for a discussion of the challenges; the plan was simply to announce there were three challenges, that they had all been denied, and move on.  Board member David Dick was not in agreement with this plan and explained, correctly, that the board was supposed to vote on the challenges.

Dick was successful in a motion to have the board hear the report and vote on the denial. A  discussion was held and it was clear there was little enthusiasm in the room for affirming the challenges, regardless of the complaints.  The details of all this would only be of interest to those directly involved. If the election were declared invalid, a new election would need to be held and no one wanted that.

The denial of the challenges was upheld and the new members were seated.  Oddly, the report denying the election challenges also pointed out egregious actions on the part of one candidate – now a new board member – and a sitting board member, that could be considered serious violations of the by-laws.

The candidate is Margaret Virissimo who was re-elected after resigning from the PCPB only last fall after a complaint was filed against her for lying on her PCPB candidate application and abusive actions on social media and private messaging. The sitting board member is Don Sevrens. Both Virissimo and Sevrens were the subjects of complaints about election violations last year and are the subject now of additional complaints regarding their actions this year.  Enough of that.

The newly elected chair is Robert Goldyn, who was the chair last year.  This is not a job that generates a large number of volunteers as the position involves a lot of time. A vice chair, second vice chair, secretary, and treasurer were also elected before the board began to move on with the agenda.

Government Reports

Todd Gloria’s representative, Michaela Volk, mentioned that Gloria is supporting Assembly Bill 1731 that will limit short term vacation rentals by not allowing rentals for more than 30 days a year in a home unless the home is the permanent residence of the owner. This law would have a big impact of what is happening now regarding STVR’s.  The only weakness in the bill is verification and enforcement of the permanent resident requirement.

Council District 2 representative, Miller Saltzman, talked about what Dr. Jennifer Campbell is looking at.

  • Scooters were first and her position on these was covered in the April 19 OB Rag story here.
  • The city’s Park Master Plan is being reviewed for the first time in 50 years and public input is being sought now.
  • The housing Commission recently received $20 million from the state and will use the money for rental assistance.
  • The vehicle habitation ban is before the city council.

More Cycling Striping

Another cycling issue was discussed.  A letter proposing striping improvements at the intersections of Sunset Cliffs, Nimitz, and Interstate 8 was approved by the board.  The letter expressed that the area in question was dangerous for cyclists and asked the city to place some temporary striping “until safer facilities are designed in the future.”  The PCPB asked the city to “apply NACTO paint treatments.” NACTO is the National Association of City Transportation Officials.  The letter did not say which NACTO standards to apply.  How this could affect traffic is unknown at this time.

The PCPB voted to support an Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association letter to the mayor, the city attorney, and Dr. Campbell urging the city to take action to restrict vehicular camping.

Businesses Want 2-Hour Parking Limit on Voltaire

The board also voted to support a request by business owners on the north side of Voltaire Street between Mendocino and Catalina for a two-hour parking limit where none exists now.  The obvious motivation is to ensure there is some open parking for business customers to come and go.  There was no opposition to this proposal.  The major opposition would be expected to come from the apartments that line the south side of Voltaire. These apartments were built before more stringent parking requirements and do not have enough parking for residents.  This will push some parking onto the nearby side streets now.

 

 

 

 

 

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Michael April 22, 2019 at 1:11 pm

They did the same thing in Seattle on a street I lived on. It was an absolute disaster and traffic backed up to gridlock. Literally. The irony is there will be a lot more pollution from cars sitting idle while one or two bikes zip by.

I love riding my bike around here and it is fine. Why does a bicycle need so much space for “safe” travels?

Unfortunately, the spandex army is organized and typically out represents a silent majority of folks who are taking their kids home from practice or just returning home from a long day at the office.

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Avatar ZZ April 22, 2019 at 2:22 pm

I really doubt the claim about parking usage. I drive this stretch several times a week, usually it looks like 90% of street spots or more are full.

1 lane plus parking would be a disaster, since right now people block the right lane for 20-30 seconds to parallel park in the street spots. Not a big deal when you can go around them on the left lane. But if they are blocking all traffic?

Making it 2 lanes without any street parking would work, but that is a lot of street parking to remove.

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Avatar ZZ April 22, 2019 at 2:30 pm

This would be a real disaster for the businesses on the east end of WPL like Barron’s, Grocery Outlet, as well as those just past on Midway/Sports Arena. I doubt a lot of people beyond Old Town and the Peninsula are going there. This would make it far harder for about 1/3 of their customers to get there.

Moreover, it would also add to traffic on Nimitz/Sunset Cliffs/8/Sea World as people decide to get on the highway to Claremont and Mission Valley rather than deal with a long 2 lane trip to the Midway area.

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Avatar ZZ April 22, 2019 at 2:36 pm

Yet another point: is there actual demand to bike this area? There’s already a bike bath to OB along the San Diego river, and it is quite nice. Much of Voltaire also has a bike lane into OB from the East. WPL itself doesn’t need a bike lane, it is walking distance to the beach.

The actual number of people who’d use this bike lane would have to be pretty small. And it wouldn’t be a very nice ride either, with annoyed stuck drivers and fumes the whole way, and dangerous Nimitz and Midway intersections on each side of it.

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Avatar Sam April 22, 2019 at 2:55 pm

I agree with ZZ. It sounds like the only thing to do now is contact Dr. Campbell’s office and hope that she has enough juice to have this plan reconsidered.

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Avatar Debbie April 22, 2019 at 4:22 pm

Anyone notice the new fence on the bridge over Nimitz at Voltaire and Wabaska is already damaged. When is this going to get fixed?

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Avatar Chris April 22, 2019 at 7:39 pm

The bike lanes are going to be a double edged sword. Will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

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Avatar kh April 23, 2019 at 2:11 pm

The Board has an obligation to seek input from and advocate for the broad interests of the community, especially those who don’t organize into a coalition advocate for their own interests.

If the public notice or awareness was that obviously inadequate, it shouldn’t have been voted on.

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Avatar Geoff Page April 23, 2019 at 4:57 pm

I very much agree, kh, I think this is an area where the PCPB could use some improvement. Two years ago, they voted to send a letter to the city and the letter contained a suggestion of Famosa Canyon as a good place for affordable housing. This was not publicized well enough either. The following year, when the community became aware of the possibility, they bombarded the PCPB with opposition. To the board’s credit, they agree to rescind that letter on the grounds that it did not receive enough public input. To make such a drastic change to a major thoroughfare, the PCPB should have actively sought community input, the city certainly didn’t. Some of what comes before the planning boards really warrants some time and effort to ensure that people have had a chance to provide their opinions. That did not happen in this case.

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Avatar Paul Webb April 24, 2019 at 9:35 am

This is an issue on which I am really torn. I would avoid riding my bike on WPL through this stretch because there is simply not enough room for a bike and a car to share the right lane, particlularly along the blocks starting with the gas station and continuing to Midway. On the other hand, reducing WPL to one lane of traffic in each direction is going to cause real congestion problems.
I don’t have an answer as to the best way to proceed, but I do think that there has not been anywhere near enough public deliberation on this proposal. You know, many years ago Dusty Rhodes (you know, the person Dusty Rhodes park was named after) came to me when I worked at the Coastal Commission regarding his concerns for emergency egress from the OB/Point Loma neighborhoods. I didn’t think it was much of a problem then, but the increase in traffic congestion in the ensuing years makes me really wonder what we would do in the event of a emergency evacuation, particularly if one occurred in conjunction with a heavy beach usage day or a special event like fireworks or the street festival. To further limit ingress/egress from this area is not, IMHO, wise at all.

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Avatar Geoff Page April 24, 2019 at 1:18 pm
Avatar Paul W Grimes April 29, 2019 at 9:03 am

This item was before the PCPB Traffic Committee 2 or more times. There was assurance the final presentation would also be brought to the Traffic Committee and the plans would be sent in advance to review. For some reason the issue was added to the Board agenda a few minutes before the Brown Act deadline 72 hour prior to the meeting and both proposals included road diets from 4 to 2 lanes of travel for about half the street. The Traffic Committee didn’t get its promised review. Additionally, the Board meeting was on a religious holiday and during Spring Break.
I support the bike lanes with painted buffers, but the proposal take too much of the street to two lanes and the City could extend 4 lanes westward past Adrian without much adjustment. I oppose the Cycle Track option due to the opportunity of retaining a few blocks of 4 lanes and parking gains with the standard bike lane proposal.
One would wonder if the City took into account the huge increase in scooter and small motorized bikes in these proposals. Scooters appear to me to be outpacing bike use and the “protected” bike lanes will attract these mostly inexperienced rental riders. Is this safe?
Parking is needed on this street overnight as there are many multi-family units along the near the route. A parking study mid-day doesn’t reflect the critical need. I walked the entire street a couple weeks ago at 8am on a Sunday and there were just 7 open spaces on the entire street. I spoke with the Barron’s manager who advised me many of the 15+ cars in their lot were parked illegally and are subject to tow. He said sweeping days are much worse. Both proposals wipe out all parking on the east end of the project and are about even in count on the west portion of the project – the bike lane proposal will double the sweeping day shortages on the east end of the street and take the shortage to 24/7.
Undoubtedly, the biking community put out an All Point Bulletin to support of the Class IV proposal. They showed up and convinced the Board, which is great for their side. Special interests have a way of showing up while the masses who just live their normal lives aren’t clued into issues that can have a major affect on parts of their lives.
The SD River bike route, which runs parallel and uninterrupted from Dog Beach to nearly Mission Valley is a scenic alternative few utilize. I walk this path almost daily and bike utilization is very low except on weekends and in Summer. One wonders if the City takes ADTs for bikes before proposing such major changes. Do they have a record to verify “if they build it, they will come”?
The Class IV proposal “protects” the bike path on 60% of the street, but only about 1/3 of the entire street has bike lanes protected by parked autos. The other 2/3 of the distance has bike lanes plus painted buffers, some more than standard width. This bike route is to tie into the Sports Arena bike route, which has “unprotected” bike lanes and most of Sports Arena Bl. street doesn’t have room for a painted buffer. One glaring part of the new bike lane proposal is that there is no room for a bike lane westbound as you enter the project at Midway Drive – maybe sharrows would be painted on this busy lane. Apparently the City won’t adjust even small raised medians to improve this project.
I couldn’t attend the meeting, but the article paints the Board presentation and/or discussion of standard bike lanes as “unprotected”. The City of San Diego Street Design Manual shows the standard street with 4 lanes, parking and a painted buffer and doesn’t use the term “unprotected”. I understand the desire to get the best safety, but bikes and cars have issues on streets and one study I read showed that Class IV bike lanes have 18% more “accidents” between bikes and cars at intersections than standard bike lanes on streets due to visibility issues – there are a lot of driveways and intersections on WPLB.
The City has a long way to go if Class IV facilities are to be the norm. Rosecrans has a narrow curb lane without any buffers. The new Nimitz Rosecrans intersection has a very narrow bike lane in front of Ralphs. Will the City be proposing more streets to have road diets to provide the extra protection the Street Manual doesn’t require?

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Avatar Geoff Page April 29, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Just one comment on Mr. Grimes comment where he stated “but the article paints the Board presentation and/or discussion of standard bike lanes as “unprotected”. I think if you look again, the choice described was clearly between a protected and an unprotected bike lane. Protected meant there were parked cars and a three-foot buffer stripe between bikes and moving traffic. Unprotected meant there was nothing between the bikes and moving traffic.

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Avatar Paul W Grimes April 29, 2019 at 5:30 pm

Geoff:
Looking at the 2 proposals, they are identical from Midway to Chapman and from Mentone to Nimitz and that equals about 40% of the entire street.
As for the remianing 50% of the street, all the bike lanes adjacent to parking on the “unprotected” option have a 3 foot painted buffer between the traffic and the bike lanes.
It appears the City was trying to gain more parking by installing diagonal parking on the both sides of WPLB in the middle of the project (600 feet on one side and 300 on the other). This slightly realigns (swerves) the street by 3 feet at Rialto. While it looks like they are “unprotected, the 19 foot allocation includes a buffer of about 3 feet. Additionally, it appears green paint would by placed on the bike lanes in front of diagonal parking.
If the City wanted to retain a larger buffer it could have not installed diagonal parking and not lost any current parking. By removing the diagonal parking the “unprotected” proposal would have provided more parking than the Cycle Track and provided at least another 3 feet of painted buffer on each side of the street.

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Avatar Geoff Page April 30, 2019 at 10:02 am

My comment was only about the difference between protected and unprotected. A bike lane behind parked cars is protected. A bike lane outside of parked cars next to traffic is unprotected. A painted buffer between a cyclist and traffic is not protection. Add to that the problem with people opening their car doors without looking and the once option was clearly unprotected.

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Avatar ZZ April 30, 2019 at 12:50 pm

The diagonal parking on Newport/Voltaire is a disaster since it is full of extra long vans and pickup trucks that jut into the road and force the driver to nearly stop or to go into the oncoming lane to go around it.

What a disaster all of these WPL plans are. So much money spent to make things worse.

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Avatar Geoff Page April 30, 2019 at 3:22 pm

I agree about that diagonal parking. But, then they compounded the problem by putting sharrows on the road so if a bike is in the lane, it’s impossible to get around without going into the other lane. I never understood this. One block away is a parallel street with no diagonal parking and it’s not a major road like Voltaire. I don’t get why cyclists insist on riding that stretch of road. Yes, there are businesses to go to but many of the riders I see, ride the road all the way to the beach, makes no sense.

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