Peninsula Planners Rescind Request for Stop Sign Along Voltaire

by on May 22, 2023 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

There were two main items of interest at the Peninsula Community Planning Board’s regular monthly meeting, Thursday, May 18: traffic and cell towers.

The PCPB has resumed in-person meetings at the Point Loma/Hervey Library the third Thursday of each month. Zoom meetings have been discontinued.

Voltaire Street traffic

The traffic issue on Voltaire drew a number of people to the meeting. The agenda item was:

2.  Letter rescinding request to install a stop sign along Voltaire at Bolinas or Soto or Guizot and request traffic calming measures, traffic study and more enforcement and to expedite the installation of the approved and funded flashing pedestrian beacon and flashing speed indicator signs.

First, the letter they wanted to rescind. That letter was dated December 27, 2022. It was addressed to the District 2 councilmember and was titled “Stop sign installation request for Voltaire at Soto or Bolinas or Guizot.”

The gist of the letter was that community members who lived in the area wanted a stop sign at either of those three intersections. It is not known if any of the PCPB members actually looked at these three intersections before writing the letter.

Guizot and Soto are both below the crest of the hill to the east and do not have enough of a sight line for westbound cars. Bolinas would be the only logical choice as it sits on the crest of that hill with long views east and west.

The PCPB letter did not stop there. They asked the city to consider lowering the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph on Voltaire, which is clearly a good idea.

Then, the letter lapsed into the mobility community jargon about Vision Zero and vulnerable road users and citing AB 43, Friedman, Traffic Safety legislation. None of this was necessary and it just dulled the point of the letter.

Then, oddly, the reasons for the request to lower the speed limit were after the request, not before. The letter stated:

This should address local community member’s concerns such as a lack of stop signs along Voltaire Street, vehicle high speeds, several near misses between pedestrians and vehicles observed by community members living along Voltaire Street.

The letter was based on anecdotal information, nothing was provided to support the claims about Voltaire. That said, traffic on Voltaire is bad due to speeding. (This writer lives a half a block away and can support the claims about speeding but not about any near misses with pedestrians.)

The PCPB did not mention that the recent placement of bike lanes on Voltaire has made the street even more dangerous. The traffic lanes for cars are substandard now, having been narrowed below the recommended land-width standard. Mobility advocates have said that narrowing traffic lanes is one way to calm traffic. That has not worked on Voltaire at all.

The December 2022 letter was sent to the District 2 office and to Gary Pence, Senior Traffic Engineer City of San Diego Transportation and Storm Water Dept. The letter can be seen on the website here

The new letter, approved at the May 18 meeting, is also addressed to the District 2 office and to Pence. It is titled “Voltaire Street Corridor Traffic Safety Request.” It states it has three enclosures, a copy of the first letter, pictures of damaged vehicles along Voltaire, and affidavits from neighbors.

The first paragraph of the new letter states the PCPB wanted to rescind the previous letter for a stop sign due to “potential traffic congestion” concern expressed by residents who live on Voltaire. The residents who attended were united in their concern that the problem of traffic, that already backs up regularly on Voltaire, will be exacerbated with a stop sign.

A copy of a letter from a homeowner on Voltaire to District 2 and Pence was included as support. It was signed by several other residents on Voltaire.

The second paragraph of the new letter asks the city to expedite placement of an “approved and funded flashing pedestrian crossing beacon at Voltaire and Froude and the flashing speed indicator sign along Voltaire.” Providing pedestrian crossing infrastructure at an uncontrolled intersection, one block away from a traffic signal and a crosswalk, is a head shaker. A crossing at Bolinas made better sense.

The new letter also requested a second flashing speed indicator.

Then, in the third paragraph, the letter jumps back to why the PCPB wants to rescind the previous letter. The PCPB now requests a traffic study, a reduction of the speed limit, and an increase in traffic enforcement between Froude and Catalina on Voltaire. Lack of enforcement is by far the biggest problem.

The letter goes on to request a speed reduction, as did the first letter, from 30 mph to 25 mph.

The attached photographs showed vehicles that looked like they had been sideswiped. This has always been a problem on Voltaire. The substandard lane widths for cars now, due to the bike lane placements, may get credit for some of these accidents.

There were also three pictures of the same accident, no other accidents were shown or mentioned.

More powerful support for the problems on Voltaire, other than anecdotal accounts, could have been found in the accident records obtainable from the city. It would seem that someone, of the nine members of the PCPB’s Traffic and Transportation subcommittee, could have added some documentation with a little research.

The new letter was approved. The PCPB has rescinded their request for a stop sign.

Rock Church cell phone towers

This will not be an accounting of what occurred in the meeting for this item. After many years of involvement with this planning board, this writer has seen several instances of the cell tower dispute. The folks against it have experts who say the transmissions are harmful to health and the folks on the cell tower side have experts who say the transmissions are harmless. There does not seem to be a definitive source to settle the argument.

There are two documents posted to the PCPB website about this. One is a long letter from a private individual asking the PCPB to support in stopping the cell tower installations at the church.  The news media has also covered this dispute fairly well in the last few weeks. The letter contains details of what is happening.

The second document is a copy of a legal filing naming an individual as the “Petitioner” and naming the city’s Development Services Department as “Respondents.” The Rock Church is named as the “Real Parties in Interest.” The action is titled “Verified Petition for Writ of Mandate.”

The petition asks the court to overturn the Development Services Department decision to grant a permit for the cell tower installation.

Considering that the issue was in the courts, the PCPB was understandably reluctant to take a position. The board did note that these kinds of installations used to come before the PCPB before installation. This one did not and may be another symptom of the city pulling away from the community planning groups by not sending projects like this for review.

Public discussions like this are what the city wants to limit, for any development.

The board also indicated that it did not appear the installation actually had the proper permits. In the end, the board voted to send a letter asking the city to review the process for this project to make sure it was followed properly.

During the discussion, it was made known that there is similar problem at Fire Station #22 on Catalina Blvd.

Other news

  • Tracy Dezenzo from the OB Planning Board said there will be a discussion with the group developing the affordable housing project on Abbott Street at the June planning board meeting.
  • Dezenzo is also on the OB Town Council and announced a pier workshop will take place at the May 24 meeting.
  • One project was reviewed and approved involving relatively small changes to a large property on San Antonio Place. It was not clear why it came to the PCPB as there was no Neighborhood or Coastal Development permit request.

Perhaps it was a sign of the community planning group’s status in the city now that not a single representative from any public agency like the District 2 council office, the mayor’s office, the planning department, the SDPD, or any state or federal offices bothered to show up.

“Government and Community Reports” has always been a part of planning group agendas and representatives used to attend. This was the first time this writer ever witnessed a complete lack of attendance by government representatives.

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