Tuesday, September 20, 2011

sol on los

by Herb Patterson

New York City Traffic

LOS stands for Level of Service in traffic engineering parlance and is a measurement of the average time during a specific time period it takes to get through an intersection. ADT or Average Daily Trips is a similar term used to describe the capacity of a given roadway over a period of time. Currently we are revising our General Plan's Circulation Element as mandated by the State and necessary to modernize it. Sounds pretty boring and designed just for policy wonks, NIMBYs, and those disdained activists, but the changes proposed in the Circulation element can drastically change our City and your way of life.

The old Circulation Element has policies in place to aim for LOS C {LOS is measured from A[good] to F[worst]} and put up with D or E if there is no other option. The current Circulation Element has a provision that shuts down development around an intersection if the LOS gets too bad. The current element also has a provision that any major change in the designation of a roadway must be voted on [Encinitas currently has four roadway designations plus a freeway designation]. There is a provision that the traffic conditions be periodically evaluated. The current plan has graphs, maps, and pictorial descriptions of each roadway designation, LOS and ADT figures for major roadways, and was done in 39 pages.

The proposed New Circulation Element accepts LOS D as a baseline and allows even worse [the City has been trying to make this change for quite some time], eliminates the vote on street designation changes, the halt of development at severely impacted intersections, and the requirement that periodic traffic evaluations to be done. The new element talks about more than four street designations, but contains no definitions, no LOS maps, no ADT maps, no current or future future traffic figures. The proposed new Element does have nice color pictures and lots of feel good verbiage. It takes 59 pages to present far less real information than the old Element.

The proposed Element is not even a good start, but it does manage to give City Staff total control over traffic conditions with no safeguards what so ever. The new element gives reasons why “exceptions can be made” so that any additional traffic, regardless of how impacted an intersection or street is, can be justified.

This is not conjecture on my part, because what the City Staff are attempting was actually done in at least one instance, even while the old rules were in effect. I am referencing the shoehorning of Walgreen's into the Bank of America center at El Camino Real and Encinitas Blvd. This totally redundant business contributes additional traffic to the second worst problem intersection in Encinitas and forced unwise traffic lane changes and brought about an as yet to be resolved dispute over a center median on Encinitas Blvd. The plans of the property holders on El Camino Real to develop mixed use multi story buildings exceeding the City's thirty foot height limit in the El Camino Real corridor can't be done under the current rules [ the first most impacted intersection -yes, you guessed it – El Camino Real and Leucadia]. So if you can't do what you want under the existing rules, change them !

So why are the Staff determined to worsen our existing traffic ? They need the additional tax money and development fees to keep the bloated City bureaucracy, the overly generous retirement and health packages, the over promised Hall Park, and their own jobs afloat. Let's not forget the influence of the bought and paid for members of the City Council [Stocks and Gaspar] and the election support that candidates will receive from those benefiting from these changes.

So where does that leave you ? Well, you are going to be subsidizing this whole program with travel times, increased gas bills, and additional wear and tear on the infrastructure. If you don't think this is a good idea, let your Council member know.

Just one more thought – are the rest of the parts of the update as bad as this Element ?


  1. Absolutely correct Herb. This LOS element change allows these significant changes to density to happen. It is very clever on the part of the planners, let's hope it never becomes part of the GP.

    This element is so contradictory to the current methods of evaluation. We currently mandate that every project carry its own weight; it has to provide proper parking, not overburden the existing infrastructure, etc. With this in place, infrastructure is not important, let the intersections fail.

    More than anything, we are giving enormous power to the planning staff (they don't need any more really). The current methods are clear, scientific, and most importantly, transparent. It really is a matter of numbers, and should remain so. I really don't want to further open up the development process to politicians who might lean on staff to "make something happen," because they are obligated to development interests. We seem to have enough of that already in this country.

    It's pretty clear that this planning document want to give numerous "Get out of Jail" cards to the development community. Relieved of height restrictions and traffic remediation, coupled with high density possibilities plus state density bonus laws, its a beautiful thing for development.

    Lastly, I feel the planners running this GP Update, and our own staff, are not giving us professional or responsible service. It's not good planning to say, "let the intersections fail," or "Don't improve infrastructure to accomodate impacts." And we get to pay them for this advise on top of it.

  2. What is the point of a general plan that is essentially a free-for-all? Staff is being paid to come up with this nonsense? When did the public express concern that traffic in Encinitas is too light, that we need seven story buildings, that we like sitting at red lights, that we could care less if our neighborhoods become cut throughs for traffic, that we just can't wait for more people to move here and crowd us out? Multi use is BS for our community. Take a walk through the Pacific Lofts condo area, it is urban decay -- if you like tenements then that is the place for you. Crowded, small units sited on the railroad track shoddily built. This development makes The Lofts look like a palace.

  3. Whoops! From Jerome Stocks reaction to the draft General Plan, he hasn't been paying attention. Go to any of the meetings,Jerome ? Does the draft plan benefit the "wrong" developers ? Do you really need a "Not Endorsed by Jerome Stocks" stamp on this DRAFT? Losing control of your world Jerome ?
    Let us hope so.

  4. In a nutshell...The City is mandated by the State to revise the General Plan (and especially the Housing Element) on a regular basis, we're overdue.

    The State, through SANDAG, tells us how many more housing units we must provide for. The plan has to be reasonable and doable (reviewed and approved), not a piece of fantasy.

    If we do not comply, the State may withhold some funds to us. Has that ever happened? Do we get much? Is it reasonable to just say no? I'd like to learn more about this.

    The State and their reaction is just one element to fear...the City is more fearful of lawsuits on behalf of large developers for non-compliance. These suits can be burdensome and extremely expensive.

    Feeling a little helpless? Me too.

  5. Why don't we de-incorporate and go back to the county?

    The state doesn't mandate over-development and low-income housing in Rancho Santa Fe.

  6. If the City would grant amnesty to owners of all the illegal granny flats we would far exceed any low income housing requirement. How can the State dictate our zoning laws? Something sounds fishy to me.

  7. Very good post,

    No goals, no restrictions, no service requirements, just a fuzzy free for all.

    In addition please reference 6.7 in the circulation element.

    “Emergency Response. Manage the transportation system to balance emergency response time and evacuation needs with community character and traffic calming.”

    I know this is a touchy subject with the roundabout lovers. Please explain the rational. I have tried to find any credible information or studies showing where the potential benefits of traffic calming in emergency response routes out way the compromise in response times. I have only found the opposite.

    Specifically, I have researched other city plans and other city charters for any language that may resemble language of our plan draft. I have yet to find any.

    In addition to this research. I have found that the cities that practice progressive traffic calming, most notably Seattle Washington, and Portland Oregon. Do not allow traffic calming in primary and secondary response routes.

    Go figure.

  8. ADT is a measure of the number of trips generated, on average, by a particular land use. It is not a capacity measurement. LOS is different depending on whether you are talking about intersections or road segments. If we're going to try to talk about these issues, we need to have a common lexicon.

    I agree with Leftcoast - these are contradictory to existing methods and LOS assumptions, but they are mandated efforts and we also need to realize that California law also requires stronger efforts to concentrate development into areas accessible to transit such as El Camino Real and Encinitas Blvd - you know, the effects of AB 32 and SB 375's requirements for "sustainable communities strategies". (http://www.scag.ca.gov/sb375/index.htm)

    The results are what we are seeing here. Guess what folks, as a community we overwhelmingly voted for these mandates and now they are coming home to roost. Regional planning and even local planning are now more integrated than ever. We do not live in a bubble - as much as I personally wish we were back in the "good 'ole days" we do not.

    We could have wide open, traffic free roads, but they's all be east of Temecula and then we'd be complaining about sprawl, GHG emissions and VMT. We chose our future at the ballot box. Everything has a cost and GHG reductions on a regional level are now the priority in California.

  9. And yes, I know we're not under SCAG jurisdiction. Our MPO is SANDAG, but the SCAG link was for informational purposes only. Actually SANDAG is ahead of SCAG in terms of schedule since SANDAG is the first MPO to issue a draft RTP under the current legislative mandates.

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  11. The LOS system is how New York and LA were developed. Do you think they turned out well?

    Herb, What your credentials for us to think you know what your talking about.

    I don't want Encinitas to turn out like New York or LA. Maybe the LOS system doesn't work and the City should abandon it?

  12. Oh we know old angry LA fireman will well qualified. He loves LA streets and the way LA turned out.

    I think we can do better.

  13. You mean AB 32, California's Global Warming Law, requires over-development and the Irvine-ization of Encinitas? Damn! And we could have killed that thing with Prop 23. Too bad the voters didn't have a clue what they were voting for.

    How exactly is gridlock on El Camino going to help global warming?

  14. Nickname...I get it, we are charged with providing our share of state population growth, but my objective is to do so responsibly. Additional development must provide for it's impacts. You cannot expect projects to be excused from solving their own problems.

    This is exactly why we have EIRs. Every qualifying project is analyized to establish impacts and their proposed solutions. If we allow development to occur without any necessary improvements to the infrastructure, that is clearly irresponsible, if not criminal.

    To change the rules to allow development at any cost simply to make numbers is hardly responsible leadership.

    Behind all of this smoke, there is an attorney who has to defend this document, he's not going to recommend approval of anything that will not stand up to a challenge.

  15. My understanding is that the concept is to concentrate development and overall density into areas served by transit with the idea that if it's too congested, people will leave their cars behind. Cars will not be competitive with rapid bus and light rail in terms of commuting.

    That, in turn, reduces long commutes and VMT. That, in turn, reduces emissions. And then everyone is happy right ;)

  16. Really,

    That doesn't seem to work in LA. That only made people want to get their families further from the urban congested core causing more sprawl. Great idea. Let's be like LA!

    Santa Monica BLVD has a bus line and lots of high density development along that route. Works great! Let's be like LA!

    New York has lots of congestion. Their problem is they just need more congestion?

  17. If they gridlock El Camino, West Encinitans can just shop at Lomas Santa Fe where they have good freeway access.

    Solana Beach has good city management and no over-development. They reformed their pensions so they don't have to build to the sky to fund them.

    Sucks to be you though if you live in Village Park or Olivenhain and have to commute through that.

  18. People in Olivenhain or VP will start taking the bus or just not go to work anymore! We won't need the Hall park because nobody is going to drive anymore. The Hall park will only be used by people in Cardiff! Yippee!

    Quality of life no longer matters.

  19. "State population growth" -- didn't more people flee the state than moved into it in the past few years? I am not aware of any law that mandates a California city approve buildings that violate its zoning laws. The GP changes are solely for developer profit and maintaining gruesome pensions. We have to realize that the old path of upward real estate prices and continued building is not the future....we have to look at preserving our existing communities, protecting them from urbanization, and creating a plan that will allow us to sustain our beach community way of life. Seven story tenements will not enhance our community character.

  20. WYC,
    I thought Los Angeles was on board with the new urbanism and transit oriented development. Just like LA, we are not starting from scratch, we have already sprawled and built-out. I guess that the draft GP means we want to be like LA.

    A lot of folks with credentials were involved with designing many of southern california’s metro/suburban areas.

    Credentials is not as important as good data and analysis. If his points are off base it is easy to address his points rather than make something out of his credentials.

    I would like to see some options considered. I'm not seeing where the options were developed, evaluated and weighed in this process (other than fuzzy feelings ratings).

    How about an option that trades sprawled out housing for high density housing? If trip distances really are a driving motivation this should sound like a GREAT option. Trade density from the End of Lone Jack for ECR density? Why not?

    Left coast and others,

    If local CO2 emissions reduction is the motivator, why are we using policy designed to address miles driven? I saw lots of serious enviro's at the GP meeting. They all arrived via car. They were not driving because they were brainwashed into driving. Most would be riding horses, not walking or riding a bike, if cars did not exist. Cars provide a good function can be an efficient means of transportation which increases our quality of life.

    I saw one person who I know rides the bus sometimes, but we must not forget that the bus emits CO2 also.

    The atmosphere doesn't care how many miles you drive. The issue is concentration of C02, no? Assuming local reductions make a difference (a giant unspeakable leap), what matters is how much TOTAL C02 is released by Encinitas residents, not how many miles are driven (or worse, how many per capita miles are driven).

    In response to "people will leave their cars behind". Is there data to say that idea works when applied after the fact to an already built out metro area with thousands of spread out sources and destinations. It is a great idea that seems to oversimplify important realities. I will not be surprised if it actually backfired, and as far as ECR goes, results in increased C02 emissions.

    Then there is the issue of how this is going to impact current residents. Does upzoning ECR mean that people living on Lone Jack or Crest will leave their cars behind? Maybe adding some commercial and industrial (and other destinations like sports fields) in Olivenhain, in the middle of VP and south ECR would reduce the number of miles traveled, by current residents? Was that considered?

    Everyone at Moonlight Lofts drives and some of the retailers drive great distances to get to their shop in the morning. At least one of them likes living in "the country" and Encinitas is too crowded and congested for them these days.


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