Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Bird Rock Solution

I drive through Bird Rock on the way to a couple surf spots in that zone. I hadn't purposely gone to Bird Rock to review the streetscape and roundabouts, but this weekend I took the Bird Rock challenge.

Before my trip south, I stopped at an Encinitas restaurant for breakfast. There was sidewalk dining and lots of people walking. No nearby roundabouts. Just traffic signals and four lanes of traffic.

People in Bird Rock love their little coastal urban village.

Except for the street sign overkill, Bird Rock was nicely landscaped and inviting. Palm lined streets have been iconic of So Cal and I expect the Bird Rock landscaping style and urban elements will become just as symbolic of So Cal. Bird Rock is the future.

From a UT article about Bird Rock:
What's being "modeled" are its five roundabout traffic circles which are generating interest from other communities

From the same UT article:
"The key is really not just having people with the technical skills, but attracting people to come out. It is very important to get consensus on what the problems are first. Too often, there's a rush to get to solutions."

When the streetscape project started I was very excited that the 101 would be spruced up. I wasn't alone in thinking the scope would be sidewalks, benches, lights and landscaping. The solutions that have emerged go beyond that scope and we are dealing with parking, traffic, and sidewalk usages, I think. Forgive me if I missed it, but I still don't know if the problems/issues/scope was ever explicitly agreed upon.

It would be a good idea to do that early. For instance, if speeding cars or specific intersections are something to work on, we should be including the traffic commission now so we don't drag this process out.

From a La Jolla Light article:
Part of the reason for customers returning was the community had become more "walkable." "It's totally changed the vibe of La Jolla Boulevard," he said, "made it more convenient for people to actually use it."

La Jolla Bloulevard was walkable before the streetscape.

It has changed the vibe. A romantic view would be the that the Boulevard is more like a courtyard or a town square, except there isn't open space in the middle. There are still bursts of traffic, buses, and Harley motorcycles. It doesn't feel like a small town downtown main street. It is new urbanism.

The roundabouts probably kept the traffic from the acceleration-deceleration cycles that would occur with traffic signals, but we aren't talking about putting roundabouts in at every block like Bird Rock, are we? Bird Rock is only a few blocks long. I think people are thinking about a few roundabouts across all of Leucadia. I don't know if Bird Rock is a good overall comparison.

The buses had to go real slow.

From an older La Jolla Light article:
Five roundabouts will replace stop signs along La Jolla Boulevard in the business district. Traffic will narrow to two lanes from four, and diagonal parking will be added on half the street. Concrete medians decorated with trees and flowers will run down the heart of the thoroughfare.

From a UT Article:
Some worry that the roundabouts will push drivers onto residential side streets to avoid the boulevard, despite the installation of smaller traffic circles there to discourage that behavior.

"Five roundabouts – one on every intersection – has to be overkill by any standard," said David Little, who thinks drivers will try his nearby street as a through route. "This plan sacrifices residential streets for the sake of businesses and condominiums on La Jolla Blvd." ...

"There's just a different feeling in the air," said Filter, a resident of La Jolla. "The community is really embracing it. They want it to be a retail district."

The Bird Rock roundabouts weren't that interesting. I am hoping that Leucadia's roundabouts are unique in some way. I am definitely in favor of community created/sponsored art in the center of ours. Something that doesn't facilitate turning Leucadia into Anytown, California.

It is a retail district with sidewalk benches.

I tried to talk to a few folks from that zone about the infrastructure changes. I spoke first with Don Schmidt. Don lives within walking distance of the roundabout zone.

Don told me the community is still divided on the application of roundabouts in Bird Rock. He noted that the roundabouts cost ~$5 million and that timed lights would have cost far less. Don made the point, "This is slowing traffic down, but [retailers] want to capture the traffic."

Don surprised me when he told me about how the upkeep of the street is being funded. The community is taxed to maintain the new street landscaping. A maintenance assessment district was set up where residents of Bird Rock will pay $60 to $90 a year; merchants will pay an average of $500.

Don also noted that he was skeptical of the sales pitches that surround the "walkability" movement. (It is worth noting that Don walked from his home to the coffee shop where I met him.)

It seemed that Don supported the assessment district, but he did see the assessment as a kind of subsidy of the merchants and their property owners. If the goal was to convert the publicly owned thoroughfare into a bazaar-like destination, I can see his point. It made me wonder how the City of Encinitas is going to pay for the streetscape. The City loves to say they don't have enough money to fund our current landscaping.

Don couldn't say if there had been traffic diverted to other streets. He noted that it would be good to look at the traffic data for La Jolla Mesa, Solidad Mt. Road, Van Nuys and some of the other PB back streets. It seems to me that evaluating the impact requires looking at that sort of data.

It is my opinion that we should encourage long distance commuters to use the freeway. It is also my opinion that we should not do things that encourage locals to avoid using our city's arteries. For better or worse, the 101 is an artery. It is not currently a country lane or a side street. If we want to rededicate its use we should start by establishing this position.

I don't know if what is proposed is going make a real change in usage, but we shouldn't pretend that there is no chance of permanent negative consequences. I propose that we do field tests before committing millions of dollars on a particular approach.

I also spoke with Peter Morris, owner of Smashing Designs in La Jolla. Peter lives in P.B. and commutes into La Jolla. He says that about 25% of the time he will commute via La Jolla Boulevard. He humbly admits that when he first heard about the roundabouts he thought it was "the stupidest idea." He adds, "My foot is now in my mouth."

The traffic moves way better than he thought it would and he says he never comes to a complete stop though Bird Rock.

The Bird Rock project hasn't changed his driving habits and he doesn't know about others purposely avoiding Bird Rock because of the project (or that people were using it more). However, he was already going around Bird Rock most of the time.

I found it really interesting that one block over was the street locals biked and walked. It was a residential street, not mixed use.

Closing Note: On the way home I wanted to stop for lunch at Wahoo's. That's in La Jolla. I didn't really care if there is no streetscape improvements or roundabouts there, but I did care that there was no available parking. I couldn't find a place to park so I bailed and ate at home.


  1. Hey Kevin- Thanks for spending some time visiting birdrock. Now its time you learn about the Hwy101 streetscape process.

    The entire first workshop was devoted to learning what issues are important to our Residents. The design team listened and then developed the objectives of the streetscape which was widely supported by the partipants of streetscape workshop 2. From what I recall the top few were:

    1. Preserve/promote Tree Canopy.
    2. Slow Vehicular speeds.
    3. Create a walkable community.
    4. Create a safe place for bikes to visit businesses.
    5. Add more parking for Businesses.
    6. I can't remember all the high priority objectives, but they are recorded.

    Also- I live in birdrock before the streetscape and that street was not walkable, it was blight.

    Secondly. I have many friends that still live there and they love the streetscape.

    Lastly, the bikelanes on the side streets were added as a part of the La Jolla Boulevard project to provide some collateral traffic calming for the adjacent streets.

    Kevin- I strongly suggest you talk to the design team and learn whats been done to date. Hopefully you learn about this important project for Leucadia and will participate in a final workshop that we can have a strong majority support a streetscape project that will better our community.

  2. Thanks KC for that insightful post. I love roundabouts. I have spent many years in Europe and think that they really are the best way to move traffic (think the Arch de Triumphe in the center of Paris, etc). While Leucadia ain't no Europe, roundabouts are great.

    The only problem I see is that if a roundabout is too narrow (eg, the roundabouts on Leucadia BLVD), they have a huge potential to clog traffic if there is an accident within one of them. If these roundabouts are going to be on 101, they need to be at least 2 lanes wide to prevent a horrible traffic jam when the INEVITABLE accident occurs.

  3. roundabouts are not historic 101. if speed is the issue, calm it, don't change the intrinsic beauty of a coastal highway for commercial purposes. driving 101 under the canopy on a straight shot is the historic part of our community. birdrock looks like uber urban anywhere now, not historic. cars, bikes, motorcycles and an open straight road are also an historic part of s. cal.

  4. Leucadia Local- The roundabouts both on Leucadia Blvd. and the ones planned on Hwy101 have sufficient room for emergency vehicles. I have seen cars stop in the roundabout on Leucadia Blvd. and the firetrucks go right around them. They work great.

  5. no shift key-


    If we want historic, lets return Hwy101 to a dirt path. It was a dirt path much longer than it was a 4 lane state highway. In fact, its been a local road almost as long is it was a state highway, about 30 something years.

    Thirty something years is not really "that" historic to me. The new improved mainstreet will be a welcome historic in the next 30 years.

    Lets keep the good part about historic and lets give up the fast deadly roadway with no bikelanes, minimal parking, minimal walking areas and paths for pedestrians, and unsafe intersections for sidestreets.

    Charles Manson is also a historic part of CA, but you don't see folks wanting to keep him in their neighborhoods do you?

  6. Hey no shift key-

    How do you propose calming traffic?

  7. Kevin's actions speaks a million words. Kevin drove to a nice place to eat with outdoors dining instead of frequenting a a local business in Leucadia.

    The reasons the Encinitas restuarants have more successful outdoor seating is clear. Its more enjoyable to be around the street in Downtown Encinitas. People feel safe and more relaxed in downtown Encinitas because the Cars are traveling at 20 to 25 mph and there are suffient walkways and gathering places.

    Without the streetscape the business cooridor will continue to suffer and will remain in its meager condition.

    With the streetscape our community will have a prosperous business district for us all to enjoy. Which do you prefer?

  8. It's so nice to see that someone left Leucadia to experience life elsewhere.

  9. Nobody knows how to yield, that's probably explains the overkill in signs.

  10. You know I get tired of the same pro roundabout person fillling this space with his all repetitive "same-same" posts.

    But thanks, Kevin. Your post was insightful and objective. I definitely feel there should be a substantial assessment for the business property owners who get more parking. If this happens, and I feel it would be a fiasco, the rents would be raised and there would be more mixed use high density development along North 101.

    We are NOT Birdrock, and I wouldn't want to be. What was recorded at the first workshop was that the highest number of "hits" on the boards was under "Keep Leucadia Funky." Someone actually said "no roundabouts," and there was a category for that. The MC, guy, the consultant actually brought up, "whatta bout YES roundabouts?" So that was a category and a couple of people, it looked like put all their dots under pro roundabouts, although we were told to put only one colored dot on the big white page pasted to the board, for each category that we liked. People did want to slow traffic. After Keeping Leucadia Funky came preserving and restoring the Tree Canopy.

    When I spoke to Larry Watt, Director of Public Works about the recent tree massacre along North 101, which began last Tuesday, March 31, when of course there was no Council Meeting the next day, he said that he had been in touch with the North 101 Merchants association. He implied they were fine with eleven more trees being cut. I feel that the people who are so pro roundabouts, and there are very few of them from what I've seen WANTED THE TREES OUT OF THE WAY BEFORE THE NEW TREE POLICY MANUAL COMES BACK TO COUNCIL.

    The City is being a bully in that it is not allowing its various commissions to work effectively as a check and balance to our local government which consists of Council and staff sitting as Judicial, Legislative and executive branches, or as judge jury and executioner.

    Repeatedly, the general public is cut out of decisions. Larry Watt and the City Manager, again, did not send out sufficient public notice of tree removal of this magnitude. It could have come before the Environmental Commission, who does have experts with advanced degrees. From the pictures posted on this blog, many of the trees removed COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED.

    I feel that Council, the three man majority, even more empowered in Maggie Houlihan's absence, participating only by phone, and staff, take every opportunity to to make decisions without public input because no public notice is given in any meaningful way.

    On the surveys that were filled out, providing more parking for businesses was NOT a high priority. And it's ironic that Kevin could not eat at the spot he wanted to in La Jolla due to lack of parking, even though there are five roundabouts there.

    This and the underground walkways for pedestrians under the railroad tracks are really just make-work projects for consultants and staff anyway to spin their wheels. Except for the crossing at Santa Fe, there is no funding for most of this. We could have and should have taken the $300,000 plus that was spent on consultants for the streetscape project and put it directly into LARGE, NATIVE replacement treees for the ones removed. The trees could be maintained with recycled water from water trucks. The medians could have been planted with drought resistant plantings. Instead, we have more trees "mowed down," without allowing for true expert opinions just a bunch of guys who want to please the City, and to get more contracts through staff. Again the arborists do not have four year degrees, only have to have three years experience cutting down trees, and are not really experts on preservation.

    This will all come up at tonight's Council Meeting.

  11. anon 851:
    I went to the last workshop and I did ask the design team
    (see http://tinyurl.com/cgguq5). They were vague and unspecific and spoke more about their design elements than the problems. I had been putting my interest in other places so I didn't press the issue.

    The list of problems to be addressed should be written down and established. My experience with the city makes me aware that just because a list was created at a workshop does not mean that that list was adopted? Who approved and adopted a list of goals? Is it written down? (Seems like that should be a prominent feature of the literature regarding this project)

    What does a "walkable" community mean?

    Noting that the Bird Rock streetscape extended to the nearby streets is interesting. They actually added mini roundabouts to the street to the west. The Bird Rock designers were concerned that they would be inducing cut-through traffic to take residential streets.

    anon 6:51 AM,
    I frequent that particular Downtown restaurant the same amount as I did before the downtown streetscape. It was once called Marvelous Muffins. If they swapped places with one of Leucadia's coffee shops I would have eaten in Leucadia. Their menu and service brings attracted me.

    Last time I looked, the Pannikin was doing so well they have been cutting down trees to make more room for customers. The situation is not so simple.

    The only strong conclusion that I had after my visit to Bird Rock is their traffic related design is nothing like the options currently proposed.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. I like the roundabouts. Bird Rock does seem a little contrived but it works and it was a shabby stretch. Leucadia is not a drab stretch like Bird Rock but I think it would be a positive change.

    Also, picture those roundabouts with mature trees in the center.

    Lastly, cars not having to stop-and-go reduces both noise and emissions.

  14. Anon 7:46--

    There are plenty of people that are pro roundabouts and think that the city's most recent removal of the trees from the median was asinine.

    I am also aware that there are plenty of people that don't dig roundabouts. Many of them are the types who like to do things "mindlessly", where they approach a stop sign and take their turn as the rule book says. Having to think when approaching a circle, needing to figure out if the traffice is going to exit the circle or continue and need to be yielded to, is more than they want to deal with. Forget any efficiencies that result from the roundabout, just don't make them have to think, is the mindset.

    Nobody is right or wrong in their approach to driving, but one approach to traffic is definitely more efficient.

  15. Anon7:46=L__n- Please don't cloud the issues, your reducing the speeds doesn't work. What ever happened to the 16 year old kid that was traveling at 85MPH on 101 and T-boned the pizza chef?? Nothing happened to the kid. He walks free and the speeds on 101 are what the driver decides it to be.

    Put in the roundabouts, cut the speeds, landscape the borders and the medians. Build it and they will come.

    Stop parroting the glass man, trying to keep 101 a traffic corridor. Make Leucadia a destination!! Make Leucadia safely walkable!!

    As I used to tell BOB, yes Leucadia is walkable, just not safe. He would respond with some idiotic comments about the evils of oil, and then leave the meeting on his scooter or beatup old car. both of which polluted more than my new Mercedes.

    Build it!!

  16. If the objective is to reduce CO2 emissions then compared to a stop sign they are better. Compared to no controls they are worse, SO WE We will be polluting more with roundabouts.

    Compared to a traffic light, they are worse if the lights are timed to give priority to the mass flow of cars because cars can continue without slowing.

    Do we really want to make this decision based on emissions? Isn't it better to go a constant 40mph than to be forced to slow to 7mph and then accelerate back up to 40mph four times.

  17. You don't slow to 7mph more like 20 mph plus.

    I give 98% probably that Anon 7:46 am is the infamous roundabout hater, fear change at all costs, and thorn in Leucadia side for positive change.....Lynn.

    Of course she would say that sort of thing. Sorry Lynn most people like roundabouts unlike you. We don't like to wait and waste our life while a mindless box tells us when to stop and go.

  18. Sub Palace and Leucaida Glass collected over 1000 signatures that do not want five roundabouts.

    Most residents and many businesses do not want five roundabouts and eliminating one lane going northbound.

    It's easy to call names behind your cowardly cover of anonymity. At least I have the courage to use my name and share what I feel and well over 60% of the people who filled out the survey at the last workshop feel. Over 163 people filled out the surveys. Easy to put down the Chamber of Commerce and certain individuals, like me, rather than support your prejudicial opinions, and to stick to the issues.

    That you do your usual ad hominem attacks, proves the weakness of your facts, your honesty and your courage, anon 10:15.

    Your poor opinion of me or my driving abilities is irrelevant to me. You only speak for yourself, coward.

  19. Lynn-

    While I agreed with many of your points about the pedestrian crossings, I am nearly polar opposite of your positions on Streetscape. Oh well, I hope you go the next workshop and provide your comments. All public comments are encouraged.

  20. No one would move a coffee shop to Leucadia in its current state. The Little Breakfast Shop is hanging on by a threat and the outdoor experience is nasty compared to a restaurant in downtown Encinitas.

    Good luck to any business remaining in Leucadia.

  21. Shift Key SputteringApril 08, 2009 9:56 PM

    Anon 10:51:
    The city of encinitas brags about the "Historic 101" designation it spent money to receive. Isn't this designation for the 101 as a highway with asphalt and cars? My point is changing the traffic infrastructure of a "historic" roadway is killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Is the city willing to give up the "historic" designation to placate retail merchants? Walkability to stores is not the same as being able to walk in your residential neighborhood. If you want a Birdrock atmosphere, then admit it. Birdrock is not Leucadia, never has been and never should be. Birdrock sold out. Leucadians don't.

  22. Dear Sputtering-

    I don't think Birdrock "sold out". I think birdrock is 20 times better than it used to be. Most of the residents in the area agree.

    If making leucadia more walkable, with less 85mph dead spots, with bikelanes and tall tunneling tree canopy is considered selling out, I think you need to reconsider your definition of selling out.

    Sorry Sputtering, I guess we don't agree. I think keeping the existing unsafe and ugly conditions is a sell out for not allowing a vision and recognizing a better Leucadia.

  23. Why are we even thinking of spending mega millions of tax payer dollars for a few property owners that pay very little in the way of property taxes. What did we spend in the real Downtown from A to F Street? There it benefited owners and residents not only on one side of the highway but those on the east side as well. Let alone those who walk from all over town from the beach to the City Hall and the neighborhoods beyond. There are also four legal access crossings in the real Downtown where in Leucadia there is only one. Sounds like a few property owners that want the rest of us to pay for upgrades for their businesses or a few transplants that have lived here about 15 minutes wanting it to be like Bird Rock or La Jolla.
    Like I said before, if its so great to have roundabouts move to somewhere that already has them. But leave Leucadia as it is.
    How about we go through Leucadia from Roberto's to Pannikin and see who wants roundabouts and extra parking. I bet its those who bootlegged in additional units and removed or never had their own parking. We don't need to subsidise them.

  24. Tax Payer as WellApril 09, 2009 7:16 AM

    Tax payer-

    Obviously you don't get it. A walkable, beautiful, and prospering mainstreet benefits all Leucadians and Encinitian alike.

    I would love to safely walk down our mainstreet without thinking a speeding vehicle is going to have a blow out and take out my family. I know others agree.

    I heard the same arguments for people against the downtown mainstreet, but in the end the city knows this is a good investment and needs to be done.

    The streetscape will be good for all properties owners in Encinitas and will raise property values from the coast to its eastern border. Remember the people east of El Camino Real still have ownership and connection with our beaches. I live east of the tracks and see the great value in the project.
    Sorry Tax payer that doesn't get it. The nice neighborhood that surround our mainstreet recognize and want a beautiful and safe mainstreets that will compliment their community, not make it feel like shanty town with death around each corner. We are not moving. I hope you learn to appreciate the nice streetscape once its in place.

    So I would ask why don't you want a safer and more beautiful and prosperous mainstreet?

    God bless,

    Tax Payer as Well

  25. The Pannikan is going out of business?

  26. probably not, but many others have and will be.

  27. Unfortunately, it seems as if the Leucadia Steetscape is about as dead the the Cardiff Specific Plan. Back to more consultants until there is no more money to do anything. Why is this so hard?

  28. Bull. It is not dead. If we did not have people passing around petition that were bull shot, , trying to scare people to support their personal agenda and Chamber members supporting their cause spreading more untruths we would be further along.

  29. Walkability can only be achieved through roundabouts, it is proven. No other traffic measures will slow cars driving 85 miles an hour. Sure, roundabouts are more expensive and will permanently alter the historic corridor but it is also well known that when 101 was a dirt highway, the horse and buggy commuters had to negotiate roundabouts made of piled horse doodoo in which native plants flourished. And, all the merchants along 101 prospered because navigating the horse doodoo roundabouts was so exhausting that the travelers had to pull over for sustenance, of one sort or the other, in order to make the whole trip trough Leucadia. Bring on the doodoo roundabouts!

  30. laughing out loud, bonddi!



  31. Come on folks,

    The first issue is that there was an agenda before even the first workshop. The first two were heavily loaded with the business community and the few who are involved in every council meeting, commission, etc.

    If helping the biz community is a priority, then it should be added to "restore the canopy", "keep Leucadia funky" and "decrease speed". (btw, decrease speed does not necessarily mean 25 mph! sheesh)

    Roundabouts are a means to an end. If they truly serve their purpose, then MAYBE they are worth the very high cost. But, the consultant has the spread of roundabouts on his agenda and is therefore not that trustworthy in that regard (biased, at least).

    Someone wrote that no traffic control uses less gas than roundabouts (and yes, you do slow down to 7-14 mph, not 20 like was replied). That also applies to flow - you get more flow without anything than you would with anything. So, we have to be clear about our priorities and what we are comparing to.

    Sorry, Dr. Lorrie, the streetscape is not dead. It's morphing, and as a result it is going to take more time commensurate for its expanded scope.

  32. Kevin - nice posting.

    I like how you summarized your experience within Encinitas prior to heading down to Bird Rock - "There was sidewalk dining and lots of people walking."

    A key objective within Encinitas / Leucadia needs to be stay focused on helping drive local business. Lets face it, nothing is going to substantially control bad drivers - I live off Leucadia Blvd and see cars using the roundabouts as intended (yield as appropriate, slowly progress) to unfamiliar (come to a complete stop and wait) to pure abuse (cut-off drivers, not slow down below the 40 mph they were doing before the roundabout). This latter group should not be a key focus - if we keep our primarily objective focus on business sustainability (not saying new development, taking primarily about existing local business) then walkability, adequate parking, beautification and traffic control will become a result of the solution (vs. the focus of the solution).

    Trying to solve all problems results in the old saying of "paralysis by analysis".

  33. I've lived in Leucadia for over 12 years. I rarely travel outside my 5 mile bubble yet I have never eaten at a restaurant north of Leucadia Blvd. Just sayin....


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