North Coast Current

Leucadia Streetscape plans remain in place, but concerns still loom

Coast+Highway+101+grates+can+be+found+throughout+downtown+Encinitas%2C+installed+as+part+of+a+streetscape+project+several+years+ago.+A+similar+project+is+now+slated+for+Leucadia.+%28Photo+by+Jill5141%2C+iStock+Getty+Images%29
Coast Highway 101 grates can be found throughout downtown Encinitas, installed as part of a streetscape project several years ago. A similar project is now slated for Leucadia. (Photo by Jill5141, iStock Getty Images)

Coast Highway 101 grates can be found throughout downtown Encinitas, installed as part of a streetscape project several years ago. A similar project is now slated for Leucadia. (Photo by Jill5141, iStock Getty Images)

Coast Highway 101 grates can be found throughout downtown Encinitas, installed as part of a streetscape project several years ago. A similar project is now slated for Leucadia. (Photo by Jill5141, iStock Getty Images)

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After more than a decade, the city of Encinitas aims to begin construction of the Leucadia Streetscape Project in October, pending full approval of the project plans from the California Coastal Commission, anticipated in August.

The project is a redesign of the approximately 2.5-mile stretch of North Coast Highway 101 from the intersection at A Street to the intersection at La Costa Avenue. The intention of the project is to create safer traveling conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists who frequently travel along the crowded road.

In addition, the City Council also aims to make travel safer for motorists by lowering the speed limit, reducing road lanes from four to two, and creating up to six roundabouts at various intersections.

However, the project has faced opposition from some members of the community.

Encinitas Residents Coalition President Leah Bissonette said that she and numerous members of the community she has spoken to while canvassing the neighborhood have expressed concern about the reduction of lanes the project proposes.

“What we get from people is they say ‘no the city wouldn’t do that, that would be insane,’” Bissonette said.

Supporters of the coalition have rallied behind the motto “One Lane? Insane!” circulating through social media and fliers located around Leucadia.

The coalition is now attempting to stop the current project proposal through legal action. It has filed an objection to the Coastal Commission in hopes that the project will be resolved in a way that is more acceptable to the community.

Additionally, it has filed a writ in the Superior Court to challenge the city’s Environmental Impact Report, in which Bissonette said she believes “a number of things were overlooked,” including traffic and emergency vehicle response times.

The coalition has begun a GoFundMe account to help pay for legal fees, which has so far raised just over $2,500. It has also received checks for various amounts.

Although the streetscape project has no shortage of critics, there are also many in the community who feel the project is long overdue.

Fred Caldwell, a business owner who runs an antique shop on the Leucadia highway, is one such person. Caldwell noted that several of the improvements that are going to be made to the street by the project are ones that have been desired by the community for around two decades.

“We want trees, better sidewalks, lighting at night, bike lanes, better drainage,” Caldwell said. Designated bike lanes were of significant importance as Caldwell has seen safety issues with bicyclist along the road in the past.

“A couple years ago, there were no markings at all for bicycles for two miles along here,” Caldwell said. “And that’s when we had our worst problems; people were getting ‘doored’ in front of my shop, where the car door opens and the guy on the bicycle goes head over heels.”

Caldwell said he believes the addition of roundabouts and street lamps at night will provide a higher level of safety for those traveling the route.

Doug Fiske, a resident of Leucadia who lives west of Highway 101, said he disagrees with the notion that roundabouts will make the street safer, however.

In a blog dedicated to the opposition of the project, Fiske asserts that statistics cited by the city touting reduction of vehicle accidents apply to larger four-way intersection roundabouts, not the smaller T intersection roundabouts proposed in the project.

Fiske also noted that bicyclists traveling through these roundabouts would either be required to step off their bikes and travel through the pedestrian crosswalks or enter the roundabouts alongside motor vehicles, leading to reduced bicyclist safety.

Fiske also shared the concerns of the Encinitas Residents Coalition regarding traffic buildup.

A sign welcomes drivers to Leucadia, pictured Aug. 12, 2017, southbound at La Costa Avenue and Coast Highway 101. The stretch of historic highway through Leucadia is slated for major changes in the coming months. (Photo by Doug Berry, iStock Getty Images)

During a City Council meeting March 21, Fiske shared photos he took of various traffic jams he had been stuck in as a result of motorists from Interstate 5 converging onto Highway 101. He proceeded to assert that the traffic would only be exacerbated by the reduction of lanes.

He further expressed concern that the increased traffic would lead to spillover traffic on the two streets adjacent to Highway 101, Vulcan and Neptune avenues.

However, Councilman Tony Kranz rebutted Fiske, contending that motorists from Interstate 5 would not tolerate the longer traffic.

“I assure you that people will not back up past La Costa Avenue,” Kranz said at the meeting. “They will divert to (Interstate) 5 and sit in the traffic and move faster.”

Kranz is a proponent of the project, and voted to approve moving forward with it in March.

“We have currently a highway that was designed decades ago, and has really not seen any significant improvements over the last many years,” Kranz said in an interview. “We are working with a plan that has been, I think, well thought out.”

Kranz emphasized that the project’s primary goal has been to create a streetscape that is much safer and friendlier to pedestrian and bicycle travel, and he said he believes that the City Council has taken adequate steps to ensure that.

“It isn’t all about moving cars as fast as you can,” Kranz said. “It’s about creating a place for people to gather, and to enjoy the beauty of our community.”

The Leucadia Streetscape Project remains a topic of controversy among residents and business owners along the stretch of highway.

“I think whether the design itself actually turns out to be OK or not, I think the problem is that a lot of people feel kind of slighted and feel kind of angry that their input wasn’t taken into effect,” said Jean Paul St. Pierre, who goes by J.P., a business owner of the Surfy Surfy Surf Shop on the Highway 101

St. Pierre said he is generally supportive of the project, such as the idea of more crosswalks and the addition of parking spaces, but still holds some reservations.

“I think it’s perfectly natural for a city to invest in infrastructure every 50 years to keep it going,” St. Pierre said. “Overall, do I think we should have a streetscape? Yes. But I don’t like seeing all the angst and anxiety and people yelling at each other; it’s kind of split the town apart.”

Linus Smith is a North County freelance writer

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7 Comments

7 Responses to “Leucadia Streetscape plans remain in place, but concerns still loom

  1. J Wang on July 12th, 2018 8:41 am

    “I assure you that people will not back up past La Costa Avenue,” Kranz said at the meeting. “They will divert to (Interstate) 5 and sit in the traffic and move faster.”
    This implies that the only deterrent the plan has in place to discourage commuter traffic is to make the PCH so unbearably slow that it is no longer a viable route for commuters to take…
    But what of all the Leucadia residents who use this road to get to work in the morning or home at night? We don’t have the option of bypassing our homes with a skip and a hop over to the 5.
    Streetscape does nothing to address the main bottleneck along this stretch of highway, namely the intersection of PCH and Leucadia, where the train tracks adjacent to the intersection require the signal to have incredibly inefficient timing.
    Yet traffic(and emergency response vehicle times) will be reduced by halving the number of lanes without addressing the main bottleneck?
    Consider me unconvinced.

  2. Alex on July 14th, 2018 8:47 am

    Mr Kranz is saying it’s ok if the 101 is a parking lot from leucadia Blvd to la Costa; we will be able to gather and enjoy the community while stuck in gridlock. People aren’t going to magically ditch their cars to bike and walk because streetscape makes traffic horrible. Instead they will find alternate routes and there will be traffic on streets in leucadia that never had it before.

    All of the exhaust from the idling cars on the 101 also won’t make it appealing to gather and enjoy the community when you have to inhale diesel fumes, and businesses along the 101 will suffer if customers can’t access the businesses.

    This is an ill concieved plan that will mostly benefit the spandex wearing out of town bicyclists who use our streets as their training grounds while creating a traffic nightmare for everyone else.

  3. Alex on July 14th, 2018 8:48 am

    Mr Kranz is saying it’s ok if the 101 is a parking lot from leucadia Blvd to la Costa; we will be able to gather and enjoy the community while stuck in gridlock. People aren’t going to magically ditch their cars to bike and walk because streetscape makes traffic horrible. Instead they will find alternate routes and there will be traffic on streets in leucadia that never had it before.

    All of the exhaust from the idling cars on the 101 won’t make it appealing to gather and enjoy the community when you have to inhale diesel fumes, and businesses along the 101 will suffer if customers can’t access the businesses.

    This is an ill concieved plan that will mostly benefit the spandex wearing out of town bicyclists who use our streets as their training grounds while creating a traffic nightmare for everyone else.

  4. Morgan Mallory on July 14th, 2018 9:01 am

    I support the long awaited and deserved Leucadia Streetscape improvement.
    This road was designed in the 20’s and it is due for improvements.
    I support 1000 new trees, a safer environment for cars, bikes, pedestrians and creating a pleasant atmosphere for businesses and residents to flourish.
    This project has been throughly vetted by the community and refined and defined through six options directed by public input.

    I encoutage folks to be aware of the facts.
    Details are available through the city’s website or L101’s website.
    Support Streetscape.

  5. Rebecca on July 23rd, 2018 11:02 am

    I think it would be nice if there was a sidewalk and some additional trees planted along this route. However, this much more drastic plan is absurd. It will turn the 101 into a parking lot, screwing area residents and deterring tourists from visiting.

  6. Anton Gerschler on September 12th, 2018 8:55 am

    Streetscape: If we build it, they won’t come.
    Stop the Freeway 5 overflow

  7. Fred Caldwell on October 15th, 2018 6:21 pm

    A few years back I was T-boned at where El Portal meets N Coast Hwy 101 by a man who ran the stop sign. It totaled both of our cars. Turns out T-bone crashes happen on this 2 mile stretch more frequently than anyone knows. Around Athena St. more than one person was killed in a car exiting onto the Hwy there. Ask any resident west of the hwy how easy it is to make left hand turns to go north and you’ll find out what a white knuckle event that usually is. In the last few years, I’ve decided to start taking pictures of these 90 degree crashes to keep track of the fraction of them that occur. According to the US Dept of Transportation, roundabouts save lives, gas, money and time. They tout there are 90% LESS fatal accidents at roundabouts. No wonder insurance companies also endorse them. Traditional Intersections work well on paper and in theory, but computer models of them don’t factor in the damage they cause. Why? We’re human and run red lights light rabbits. Over 9000 people in the USA die at our Traditional Intersections each year. That’s over 25 people a day – but you’ll never hear about that on the evening news. Roundabouts effecting safe left hand turns in Leucadia are long overdue and I’m looking forward to them and the many other benefits the Streetscape will bring to everyone.

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Leucadia Streetscape plans remain in place, but concerns still loom