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Traffic-focused discussion examines citywide enforcement, calming measures for Temple Hills and Bluebird Canyon 


Last week a traffic-focused committee discussed improving enforcement citywide and how to slow drivers down on two popular residential streets.

During their September 22 meeting, the Parking, Traffic, and Circulation Committee heard an update on citywide traffic enforcement efforts and, in another item, moved forward with possible traffic calming measures on Temple Hills and Bluebird Canyon drives, including consideration of speed humps or speed tables.

Following up on a request to the Laguna Beach Police Department to provide the committee with recommendations on how many officers are needed for citywide enforcement to meet resident requests, LBPD Professional Services Administrator Jim Beres reported that the department is in the process of expanding the traffic enforcement unit. They currently have two motor officers, but that will eventually grow to three or four, he confirmed. 

“It won’t happen immediately,” Beres noted. “It is going to take some time because the police department is dealing with some staffing challenges at the moment. We have a lot of vacancies in patrol that they’re trying to fill, but as new officers are hired and fill those vacancies, we are going to almost double the size of the traffic enforcement unit.”

The department will be reorganizing to accommodate for the additional traffic enforcement, he explained. 

The move is based not just on prior PTC recommendations, but the comments from the community at large, he added. 

“This is one of the top complaints and requests that come from residents,” Beres said. “The chief is trying to prioritize and put the correct staff where they need to be to deal with the quality-of-life issues that are of primary concerns to both residents and business owners as well. So he’s moving the chess pieces on the board around so it’s going to result in, eventually – but hopefully not too long – in another one or two motor officers for dedicated proactive traffic enforcement.”

They regularly study the data to determine the busy times and statistics for complaints and calls for service, he said. 

There’s been an uptick in traffic collisions, Beres said. 

“It’s clear to the chief that more attention needs to be paid to traffic enforcement, so he’s making those moves to make that happen,” he added. 

Traffic focused discussion examines police

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The committee discussed increasing police traffic enforcement efforts citywide 

Committee members also asked about the specific statistical information they requested at their July 28 meeting, asking LBPD for citywide data, excluding state highways, covering accidents, citations, speed surveys and staffing data from 2016-2022.

“It would be nice to know which residential roads exactly need police assistance and traffic enforcement,” said committee member Andrew Baxt. “It’s more (about) being as informed as we can and having the data that we need to target these problem areas throughout the city.” 

They hear about issues time and again and it would be beneficial to have supplemental data to support their recommendations, he explained. 

That information would be helpful for the subcommittee working on the city’s overall transit plan and trying to improve how people get around the city, whether it’s by driving, walking, or biking, added Committee Vice Chair Gary Kramer. 

Beres suggested returning to the committee in early 2023 with an end-of-year report with traffic collision and citation statistics. It would be a “big picture overview,” he said. 

Committee members were glad to hear about the additional traffic enforcement officers, but wanted to ensure that there would be coverage of the residential streets and not just the main thoroughfares. 

“There’s a little bit of a concern that any new officers would still be going to the busiest roads and not residential roads,” Baxt said. 

Committee Chair Lauriann Meyer hoped the new traffic officers will focus on the internal streets, which is one of the committee’s main concerns, she said.

“We know that Coast Highway and 133 is a big deal, but we need to spread them out,” she said.

The internal streets will be considered and patrol routes will be partially based on complaints on where the need is, Beres said. 

“Once the officers are hired, trained and released for duty – they’re out there actually driving around (and) patrolling – we’ll obviously update the committee and let you know,” the areas of focus, he said. 

After Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road, the priority is on Temple Hills Drive, he added.

Traffic focused discussion examines Bluebird and Temple Hills map

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Courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

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

The need for better enforcement on Temple Hills Drive was also mentioned during a discussion on a new business item later on the committee’s agenda.

Committee voted 6-0 to move forward with noticing about potentially installing additional traffic calming measures along Temple Hills Drive (between Thurston Drive and Dorn Court) and along Bluebird Canyon Drive (between Cress Street and Rancho Laguna Road).

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The item will be noticed to residents in the area and placed on a future PTC meeting agenda as “old business,” during which the committee will discuss options and vote on whether or not to recommend one or more of the proposed measures to City Council.

As advised by a consulting traffic engineer, staff proposed several ideas, including narrowing lane widths, painting wider striping lines and installing speed humps.

Speed surveys were recently conducted on both Bluebird Canyon Drive and Temple Hills Drive, staff noted. According to the results, speeds remained unchanged on Bluebird Canyon and slightly increased on Temple Hills.

They’ve heard concerns from residents, said Associate Civil Engineer Joshua McDonald. The project has gone through numerous iterations through PTC and council, resulting in the installation of various traffic calming devices, most recently edge line markings.

“We’ve conducted additional speed surveys through here and these installations have not really…caused anyone to slow down,” McDonald said. 

The speed tables on the lower straightaway on Temple Hills Drive is the only location where their efforts have been effective, he added. 

They reconsidered what can be done to help and the traffic engineer listed the most recent suggestions, including speed humps.

During public comment, Temple Hills Drive resident Dustin Pettit acknowledged the speeding that occurs on the road, but was concerned that the noise pollution and brake dust would be extremely elevated with speed bumps. Squeaky brakes and the daily braking and accelerating of the school bus in front of their house would be an issue, he said. 

“There’s just a lot of traffic there and it’s going to be a lot of noise,” Pettit said.

Although the Bluebird Canyon residents who spoke during the meeting supported the measures, including a speed hump, over the annoyance they might cause. 

Martin Zola said he has family members who have speed bumps near their property and it was a “very unpleasant situation” because of the brakes and vibration that “rattles through the house.” Although it is annoying, improving safety is more important, he added. 

“I do recognize that Bluebird Canyon as it approaches Bluebird Park is a dangerous situation and I think the risks and dangers to pedestrians override residents’ concerns about the inconvenience,” Zola said.

Kara Kruse Lee, a Bluebird Canyon Drive resident for more than a decade, agreed. 

“We’re more concerned with safety than we are an inconvenience and maybe (annoyance from) someone’s squeaky brakes,” she said. 

She’d rather have a safe street for vehicles to pull out of driveways or walk to the park or up the hill to hike.

There have been a number of traffic calming measures installed on Bluebird Canyon over the years, she noted. They were encouraged by some, including a stop sign by the park and additional striping and signage.

“Unfortunately, it has not slowed people down,” Kruse Lee said. “I really strongly feel that the only thing that’s going to resolve this is something that’s not negotiable like a speed table”

Her husband, Keith Lee, said the striping and signage are only “suggestive” ideas for drivers.

“It’s been going on for a long, long time and nothing’s changed and the measures haven’t worked,” he said. “We’re pleading for something that’s not suggestive, but a physical thing that makes you slow down a little bit for, but it would make a huge, huge difference.”

They urged the committee to install a soft and gradual speed table.

Natalie Hall, who has lived on Bluebird Canyon for about three years, said many parents in the neighborhood are concerned. She regularly visits their local park and several parents choose to drive their kids instead of walking along the road. 

“This street is a huge concern, it’s a huge problem,” she said. “I do hold my breath every single time I pull out of my driveway.”

Her husband, Jack Hall, said it’s only a matter of time before there’s an accident. Painting lines or adding an officer to the traffic enforcement unit isn’t enough, he commented.

“To put a fine point on it, someone is going to get hurt, at some point, on this street,” he said. “At this point we need a speed hump, it’s the only measure left.”

There are speed humps that help on other city streets, he pointed out. 

The couple urged the committee to consider a 25-mph rated hump – not a bump, which they acknowledged is more annoying.

As they understand it, residents on the street have been trying to get a 25-mph rated speed hump for about 13 years, Jack Hall said, and it’s been on the PTC agenda a handful of times.

“It feels like if it’s appearing on your agenda that many times there’s probably a problem,” he said. 

Resident Lorna Shaw agreed that it makes a notable difference depending on the type of speed hump or bump installed. The bump by the high school “would be unbearable on Temple Hills” as opposed to the type of speed tables already installed at the lower part of Temple Hills, which would be “reasonable” at the proposed section of upper Temple Hills.

“You can actually still drive your car and not shake your teeth or your car terribly much by going over them,” she said. 

The type of speed hump or bump has not yet been determined, McDonald noted during the staff response. 

It depends on what’s suggested the traffic engineer and then what the PTC ultimately recommends, he explained. 

Committee members agreed that they need more data about what proposed measures would be better or worse in certain locations.

McDonald confirmed that staff would return with a more detailed analysis from the engineering consultant by the next meeting.


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

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