OBPB discusses traffic and ADA improvements

Bo Willsey, Andrew Waltz, Tracy Dezenzo, Jane Gawronski, Richard Merriman, Numan Stotz and Jenna Tatum
(Savanah Duffy)

During the Ocean Beach Planning Board (OBPB) meeting on Aug. 7 at the OB Rec Center, discussion centered on the City’s recommendation for board approval to make American Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements to the existing walkway at Dog Beach (located near the west end of the San Diego River Bike Way).

Also under consideration were three proposals from the board’s Transportation Committee.

Dog Beach ADA Access

City reps explained that the City wants to replace 5,500 square feet of concrete ADA-accessible ramps connecting the Dog Beach parking lot to the beach and concrete plaza with an improved ADA-compliant sloping sidewalk (less than 5 percent slope with no handrail.)

The project was initiated as the result of a lawsuit filed against the City, primarily due to the slope of the current ramp, but also due to cracks in the pavement and excessive sand that makes it difficult for wheelchair access.

Among other things, they said, the work would include replacement of adjacent concrete sidewalk and asphalt, relocation of trash cans and replacement of curbs, gutters and ADA signs, along with re-striping of existing ADA parking stalls. However, the project does not propose any change to existing parking capacity.

The pricetag is $1.1 million, with construction estimated to begin in the winter and continue for six months.

Board secretary Tracy Dezenzo queried: “This is a lawsuit, right? So somebody is going to force the City to re-do this concrete walkway. So, what’s even the point of asking the planning board for our approval if it’s going to happen?”

The project manager explained that part of the required process was to come before the public with the proposal, so the City wants the board’s recommendation, and added that “it’s good to have the conversation.”

A motion was made by planning board member Dan Dennison to recommend not approving the proposal for the time being, and the board also recommended that ADA-access improvements be placed on the berm that is currently in use by people with disabilities. A friendly amendment was made to recommend that ADA-access be placed in a more appropriate location, such as closer to the ocean, lifeguard tower or end of the bike trail. The motion was approved 12-1-1.

Transportation Committee Action

1) Traffic diverters to be evaluated: Since Bacon Street is now a bike boulevard, the committee discussed adding traffic diverters on Bacon Street at Santa Monica Avenue and Niagara Streets. The intent is to push traffic traveling down Newport Avenue, to the left or the right, in order to keep cars off of Newport and Bacon, because those areas are pedestrian- and bike-heavy thoroughfares.

Dezenzo explained via e-mail that depending on the type of diverter installed, a person would drive up to a diverter and a) have a choice of a left or right turn, or b) only be able to make a right hand turn. Either way, the driver will not be able to proceed forward.

Cycling advocate Nicole Burgess explained that this would be an experimental project to calm down traffic for residents living on Bacon Street and help create a better road facility for active commuters. She said it would not result in a loss of parking.

“Those poor drivers are like, ‘Why did I come this way?’ ” Burgess said about motorists who get stuck on Newport Avenue. “We’re really just telling them, ‘Don’t go that way.’ ” She added that the City would come in and do an evaluation, schematic drawings and a proposal — it would not just put up diverters without any discussion.

A motion was made (and passed unanimously) to recommend the committee do additional research, look at potential “place-making” ideas for the diverter locations, and prepare renderings for a presentation to the OB Mainstreet Association and the OB Town Council for feedback, without recommending actual implementation at that time.

2) Pier safety improvements: After a hit-and-run incident involving a reckless driver on the OB Pier in June — who injured a couple and sideswiped a police car — the committee proposed that some sort of permanent barrier be erected to prevent people from driving their cars on the pier. According to Seamus Kennedy, rep for District 2 City Council member Jennifer Campbell, the City is unwilling to install anything more permanent than the flex posts currently at the pier entrance, as anything else might impede emergency vehicles.

Concern was raised about the pier’s physical capacity to handle the weight of vehicles (emergency or otherwise), and installing electronic barriers that may weaken the pier’s structure. A suggestion was made by OBPB vice president Kevin Hastings to install the barriers at the foot of Niagara Street, if the pier is not strong enough.

A motion was made and passed unanimously to send a letter to the City recommending the installation of permanent, robust physical barriers that are easily removable to prevent access of unwanted vehicles to the pier.

3) Traffic calming on W. Point Loma Blvd.: Because of heavy and fast-moving traffic on West Point Loma Boulevard, Dezenzo said community members have asked her for a crosswalk at Cable Street to get to the bus stop on Voltaire and Cable streets. In an effort to calm traffic there, the committee came up with the solution to add traffic circles or roundabouts at the intersections of WPLB/Cable Street and WPLB/Abbott Street.

A motion was made and unanimously passed to recommend the City study the feasibility of installing a roundabout or traffic circle with crosswalks as a traffic calming measure at WPLB/Cable Street and WPLB/Abbott Street.

—The OB Planning Board next meets Wednesday, Sept. 4 at the OB Rec Center, 4726 Santa Monica Ave.


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