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Volume 15, Issue 22  | March 17, 2023Subscribe

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Traffic calming measures approved for Bluebird Canyon, Temple Hills but no speed bumps


 A local committee approved additional traffic calming measures for Bluebird Canyon Drive and Temple Hills Drive this week.

In a series of split votes and a reconsideration and then dialed-back follow-up votes on Thursday (Oct. 27), the Parking, Traffic, and Circulation Committee approved several measures, but stopped short of recommending speed tables, humps, or bumps.

At their September 22 meeting, they discussed improving enforcement citywide and how to slow drivers down on the two popular residential streets.

Following the recent installation of some traffic calming measures, speed surveys were recently conducted on both Bluebird Canyon and Temple Hills drives. Speeds remained unchanged on Bluebird and slightly increased on Temple Hills.

Additional traffic calming measures proposed by staff, included narrowing lane widths and painting wider striping lines. Installing speed humps was on the table as an alternative.

Committee member Gary Kramer made a motion, regarding Bluebird Canyon, to approve the additional calming measures, but no speed table, humps, or bumps at this time.

There should also be “heightened traffic enforcement” to get people to slow people down, Kramer said. 

After some discussion, the request for a speed trailer was included in the motion. 

The speed trailer is mobile, so that can be included as a tool of enforcement, explained Associate Civil Engineer Josh McDonald. But a permanent radar is a different item, he noted. 

If they don’t try anything, they won’t be able to assess what helps, Committee Chair Lauriann Meyer said. 

The motion passed 5-1, with committee member Brendan Gagain dissenting. The striping might not be necessary if they can get the increased enforcement with the trailer, Gagain said, explaining his vote. They could get feedback on those items first before spending money on the striping, he suggested. 

After hearing Gagain’s reasoning, committee member Lawrence Esten made a motion to reconsider the previous vote. His point was well taken, Esten said. 

Gagain made a follow up motion for Bluebird Canyon, similar to the initial motion but without the striping. It included a request to increase police enforcement with use of the mobile police radars. It passed 4-2, with committee members Andrew Baxt and Kramer dissenting.

In a separate vote for Temple Hills, Kramer moved to proceed with the recommendation of widening of the striping and add speed tables where recommended on Temple Hills and increase traffic enforcement. The motion failed with a 3-3 vote.

Esten made a follow-up motion for just the striping and enforcement, but no speed tables. It passed 4-2, with Kramer and Baxt dissenting.

Traffic calming measures approved Bluebird and Temple Hills map

Click on photo for a larger image

Rendering courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

A map of the proposed locations for traffic calming measures along Temple Hills and Bluebird Canyon drives 

Based on discussions with city staff relative to resident concerns of speeding in both areas, AGA Engineers, Inc., a consulting transportation firm, proposed additional traffic calming improvements in an effort to reduce speeds along the corridors. 

There were some improvements that were already implemented throughout the last few years, said AGA Engineers Vice President Ruben Perales.

These improvements include the installation of: speed tables between Thalia Street and Dunning Drive; transverse edge line (speed reduction) pavement markings; traffic calming signs; speed limit pavement legends and radar speed feedback signs.

Speed calming measures installed on Bluebird Canyon Drive in recent years include: Edge lines for narrowing of travel lanes; speed limit pavement legends and a radar speed feedback sign.

This was done to try to narrow some lanes out along the Bluebird Canyon Road which studies show that narrowing the lanes typically reduces speeds, he explained. The narrower the lane gets, the driver is more inclined to slow down, Perales said. 

They did some follow up speed surveys in the area and unfortunately there was still some speeding along the corridor, he noted. 

They recommended implementing the new Caltrans standards of a wider stripe that will narrow the lane even more, Perales said. 

“This would, in turn, narrow the lane even more in hopes of slowing down traffic,” Perales said. 

Studies have shown that travel “lane widths of 10’ generally provide adequate safety in urban settings while discouraging speeding,” Perales reported. 

Currently the width of the existing travel lanes along Temple Hills Drive and Bluebird Canyon Drive are 11 feet. AGA proposes to further narrow the travel lanes down to 10 feet along the Temple Hills Drive and Bluebird Canyon Drive corridors and utilize the current Caltrans standard six-inch striping for greater visibility of the travel lanes. 

The committee also considered the installation of speed tables at select locations along the Temple Hills Drive and Bluebird Canyon Drive project corridors, but ultimately decided against it for both locations. 

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The Laguna Beach Police Department just expanded its traffic enforcement unit, Beres said. The chief promoted two motor officers, he confirmed.

“We are doubling the size of the traffic enforcement unit,” LBPD Professional Services Administrator Jim Beres said. 

They’ll go through an initial training period for a few months before they’re actually out in the field, he added, but they should be ready to go in early 2023.

“That’s going to significantly increase our traffic (enforcement) capabilities,” he said. 

The police department also have a couple of mobile speed signs, aka speed trailers, Beres confirmed. They get a lot of requests for them, he noted, there’s basically a waiting list. 

If the committee has the desire, they could recommend to council that the city purchase more of them.

It is one tool they use and it catches the attention of the driver, Perales agreed. 

LB Fire Department Chief Niko King didn’t support the speed humps or bumps either. While he appreciates the level of analysis of traffic calming programs, as the fire chief, he looks at the community and the fire risk.

“This is a box canyon and, of course, everyone knows the fire threat that exists here in Laguna Beach,” King said. “I look through the lens of those very low frequency but high-risk events.”

If the city has to evacuate the area, he considers how they would organize getting residents out while sending emergency vehicles in.

“So I’m generally opposed to any kind of devices that are going to be slowing emergency vehicles down, as well as slowing personal vehicles down, in the event of an evacuation, especially in these high fire hazard areas,” he said.

He understands the “nuisance and a hazard” of speeding vehicles in the community, but as the fire chief, that’s his main concern. 

“This one, in particular, because of where it lies, geographically, in the community, I’d be opposed to any devices that are going to slow traffic down,” King said. 

Resident Keith Lee welcomed King to town, who started in Laguna Beach this summer, but said he’s not yet an authority on Bluebird Canyon. 

Calling the speeding a “nuisance” is an understatement, he said. It’s a “serious danger” and it’s been a 12-13 year long ordeal, Lee said

Making it a wider center lane stripe won’t make a difference, he said. People are going to hug the center lane and come hauling down the road.

“You can paint whatever you want down that street it’s not going to slow people down,” Lee said.

They need something that is not a “suggestive measure” but a physical slow down 

He doesn’t want a police officer sitting around handing out tickets, Lee said. 

Place a speed hump there and the problem is solved, Lee said. 

“It’s going to be effective, it’s going to be safe,” he said. 

Temple Hills resident Deborah Sanchez said the environmental issues are minor compared to the safety issues created by speeding drivers. 

“The small amount of impact that someone using a speed table creates versus the life of someone in our community is significant,” she said. “I don’t think that can be measured.”

While Sanchez appreciates the fire chief’s comments, they’ve had several accidents due to speeding that create more emergency response to the area.

Although not everyone was a fan of the recommendations. 

Resident Mary Fegraus said she understands the concern about the speeding, but suggested that more police patrol would help. If people saw drivers actually getting ticketed they might slow down, she said.

She’s also firmly against the speed humps or bumps on Bluebird Canyon. She also noted the environmental problems from the constant braking and accelerating.

Cameron Fraser said there’s only been a couple of accidents on Bluebird Canyon in the last 20 years. It’s a steep road, so residents need to be careful and teach their kids the same, he explained. 

A slow table might be reasonable, he added, but more police enforcement will work the best.

Only a handful of other speakers commented on the item, but they agreed that enforcement is the answer and strongly opposed the idea of a speed bump.

They heard a lot of opposition for Bluebird, Kramer noted. 

But on Temple Hills there’s a higher frequency of accidents and he’s heard from concerned residents in the past few months. Speed tables might be in order in the future, he said. 


Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.

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