OB Planners and Town Council Consider Converting 5 Blocks of Bacon Street to One-Way ‘Slow Street’

by on May 8, 2020 · 16 comments

in Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach organizations are considering turning 5 or so blocks of Bacon Street into a “slow street” which means converting it into one-way traffic going southbound, leaving the northbound lane for pedestrians, skateboarders and bicyclists. It would be from Voltaire to Saratoga.

On Wednesday night at their electronic meeting, the OB Planning Board voted in favor of making the temporary conversion. The initiative for this, for the proposed street change came from the Slow Street Initiative of the city of San Diego. Streets are blocked off with signs to through-traffic – and a section of Diamond Street in Pacific Beach has already made the conversion, as well as a street in Normal Heights.

For the last couple of years, OB planners have been talking up the idea of making Bacon a “bike-friendly” street.

Those in favor think now is especially the time to make the changes, as it would make it makes it easier for people to run, bike and walk during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially since sidewalks don’t always provide six feet separation.

OBPB member Craig Klein had a concern and said, “”If delivery trucks stopped, that one lane would be blocked and no traffic could get through during delivery. I don’t see how that’s workable.” Yet it was pointed out that the section of Bacon is mainly residential.

Board Member Andrew Waltz noted “slowing the streets is worth it for our quality of life from tourist perspective.”

And then on Thursday, the Ocean Beach Town Council also held an electronic, virtual “chat” on the issue. (I couldn’t figure out if a decision was made or not from the record of the chat meeting.) All recommendations will be passed along to Councilmember Jennifer Campbell’s office. 7SanDiego

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Tyler May 8, 2020 at 3:19 pm

As someone who lived on right on Bacon in that corridor for 10 years, I think they are vastly understating the amount of traffic on the street. Abbott is far and away the least busy N/S street. Will all parking spots still be available even with the road diet? It was already really tough to find parking as is for residents.

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Avatar FJL May 8, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Diamond is actually closed to thru traffic but is not a temporary one-way. You can still park on both sides and it’s pretty competitive for spots on this crowded street. Very few pedestrians are using it. I think a waste of time, $$, and cones.

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Avatar Paul Webb May 8, 2020 at 5:43 pm

Reading this article jogged my memory of planning issues encountered in a prior millennium.

Back in the 70’s when I was the paid staff person for the Ocean Beach Planning Board, the city proposed turning Sunset Cliffs Blvd. and Cable Street into a one way “couplet”, with Sunset Cliffs traffic northbound and Cable Street having only southbound traffic. All traffic entering OB on Sunset Cliffs would be directed to either turn left to go up W. Point Loma or right to go to Cable Street, which would be the major route of ingress.

At the time, the majority of the planning board (and I) thought it was a terrible idea, fearing that it would really divide the community and somewhat cut off the blocks between the two streets. I lived in Venice just before moving to OB and I remember that the city of LA had just such a traffic plan in place in Venice, resulting in two expressway-like streets carrying a lot of traffic.

As I have watched the level of traffic grow and grow over the decades, I have occasionally thought that such a street plan would accommodate the traffic we currently experience allowing a better flow with the current increased volume. I always come back, however, to thinking about the horrendous impact it would have on the fabric of our community. It might be good for traffic but bad in every other dimension.

While I like the idea of streets reserved for non-automotive traffic, I’m not convinced that this is a great idea for OB. I remember after one July 4 fireworks show, traffic exiting the community was particularly bad. Committed community activist P.A “Dusty” Rhodes (namesake of Dusty Rhodes park) came to my at my office at the Coastal Commission and asked about the process for getting permits and other approvals for extending Famosa Blvd. through Famosa Slough! While Dusty was a great asset to OB and did many wonderful things for our community, this was obviously a terrible idea and would never have made it through the regulatory process. He was right, however, in his concern over the limited egress opportunities after special events and, especially, if we had to evacuate the area as a result of an emergency.

Our street system is so limited that I am concerned that eliminating one lane of traffic northbound could result in a horror show in the event of an emergency evacuation. Think of Scripps Ranch during the Cedar Fire and you may get what I am talking about.

I’m sure there might be ways to implement the proposed plan that could obviate my concerns, but when I look at how the traffic diets on W. Point Loma and 30th Street were rushed through without a lot of community involvement, I am concerned that moving too fast and without enough thought could damage our community.

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Avatar Dave Chase May 9, 2020 at 8:03 am

I rather Like the idea, and of perhaps doing the same to Abbott and even turning Newport into a non car or pro pedestrian walking mall and green zone as done in Santa Monica and many other towns and cities.
Mahalo Dave

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Avatar Sam May 10, 2020 at 11:24 am

That’s all well and good Dave, but Santa Monica’s promenade has gigantic parking structures all around its perimeter, which could not be accommodated in OB.

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Avatar Pollie May 9, 2020 at 6:58 pm

I agree with Dave Chase 100%. Bacon already gets a ton of bike traffic because the narrow street and potholes force cars to go so slowly.

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Avatar Gregor K Schroeder May 10, 2020 at 8:38 am

Paul, this was a great comment but seems to miss the larger issue at hand. Arguing against taking away current capacity for fear of inability to handle current volumes…what happens as the population of the region increases and current capacity can no longer handle future traffic volumes? Is it even handling it today? We have no more room to add capacity as we did in the past. There is no room for more parking unless we start building multi-story garages. We need to start thinking about prioritizing other modes over the personal automobile right now.

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Avatar Paul Webb May 11, 2020 at 12:14 pm

Gregor, I don’t disagree. We don’t have the capacity to handle today’s traffic volumes, as witnessed by the number of intersections that achieve “F” grades when modeled, much less handle the increased volumes we can anticipate if the city follows its strategy to increase residential density essentially everywhere except maybe La Jolla.

I’m all for prioritizing other modes of travel, but, like most other Americans, I want them to be used by someone other than me. At this moment, I’m not looking forward to using public transit any time in the near future. I look at New York, in particular, where high density and very high reliance on public transit may have fueled the explosion of corona virus cases.

I have said elsewhere on this site that I have been talking to other planners that I know across the state and we are all scratching our heads and wondering if we can continue to push for more transit use and transit oriented development given that we as a society don’t seem to be able to successfully deal with disease outbreaks like SARS, MERS and the current corona virus. I was out of the country during two of the three of these outbreaks, including the current one, and I can tell you from personal experience that boarding the plane to return to the U.S. was an enlightening experience as the U.S. was not taking the same types of precautions as I encountered in Asia during the SARS outbreak and South America during the current crisis.

That said, I am generally in favor of something like the changes proposed for Bacon Street, but I would really like to see SANDAG run its traffic model to see what the changes would bring to the surrounding street network. It can be awfully hard to get into and out of OB at times, and I am truly worried about emergency evacuations, should they become necessary, even without the reduction of one northbound traffic lane.

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Avatar Michael May 10, 2020 at 9:49 am

Close down Newport and let the businesses come outside.

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Avatar Sam May 10, 2020 at 8:15 pm

Where would you propose we build an additional 200 parking spaces that would be lost? Those businesses depend on them to stay afloat.

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Avatar Rick Williams May 11, 2020 at 9:54 am

With folks cycling now more then ever, this is wonderful.

The City has designated Bacon Street as a Bicycle Boulevard, this designation has been underutilized. Bacon Street is the primary cycling street which leads in and out of Robb Field. Robb field then ties the bicycle and walking pathway in and out of our lovely beach community.

Let’s all enjoy our outdoor experience in a safe environment.

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Avatar Geoff Page May 11, 2020 at 12:55 pm

What information do you have about “folks cycling now more than ever?”

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Avatar Rick Willoams May 11, 2020 at 1:30 pm

Great question Mr. Page- “What information do you have”
Our local Ocean Beach bicycle store, Bernie’s located on Cable Street has been exceptionally busy during Covid. I have talked to the owner multiple times during Covid. Roger the owner and his wife are working 12 to 14 hour days six days a week to keep up with demand. Roger has told me that he cannot keep up with repairs and is taking home work for completion in the evenings. I have seen him personally turn customers away and asking them to return the following week, because he is over flowing in work. Additionally his new bike sales have never been better.

This is not an Ocean Beach phenomenon, this is happening throughout the country. I was on the phone this morning with the international bicycle parts distributing company Shimano and with the Michigan based distributor Tree Fort Bikes.
Tree Fort reports that they have four employees working five days a week, twelve hour days, just packing and shipping out new bicycles alone, this does not including their parts division. I was told this is extremely unusual and they actually wish it would slow down, so that they could catch up.

I’m glad to see folks in our little community dusting off their old frames and getting them back into working order. It’s wonderful to see family enjoying the simplicity of cycling together. This pandemic seems to have upside.

Mr Page, thanks again for your interest in our transportation matters down here in the old war zone. I sincerely hope to see you out riding a bicycle soon.

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Avatar Geoff Page May 11, 2020 at 1:51 pm

Thanks for providing the source of the statement. I think the reasons for this are obvious. Let’s see if this is sustained after the current situation calms down. It may be a boon for cycling in general, we’ll see.

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Avatar Doug Blackwood May 13, 2020 at 12:03 am

Bernie’s is one of the few remaining local business’s that really makes a community thrive. Did they change their phone #?
I’am really grateful for the wonderful couple & the essential services they provide at Bernie’s!
Oh, one way streets may add congestion, & speeding. Still pondering this proposal.

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Avatar Rick Williams May 15, 2020 at 10:20 am

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