Contract moves city closer to Complete Streets

Laguna Beach officials on Tuesday approved proposals favored by Complete Streets advocates, but stopped short of a trial roundabout on Glenneyre Street.

The City Council awarded a $200,000-maximum contract for the preparation of a Mobility and Complete Streets Plan, approved sharrows and signs directing bicyclists off Coast Highway onto neighborhood streets, enhanced some crosswalks and relocated the site for a trial roundabout from Glenneyre Street.

Council opposition to the Glenneyre roundabout was based on the requirement to eliminate one traffic lane in each direction on a street used more by locals than visitors.

"The council made it very clear that we did not support reducing lanes on Glenneyre," said Mayor Kelly Boyd. However, it took three votes to get that done, partially due to the absence of Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson.

The council voted unanimously to move cyclists off of the highway and for crosswalk improvements, then split 2-2 on the Glenneyre roundabout. A third vote unanimously directed staff to come back with a design for a roundabout at Catalina Street and Las Robles, as suggested by Boyd.

Public Works Director Steve May said a preliminary plan for that site was already in the files.

Supporters of the Glenneyre roundabout contended that opposition was partially due to fear of the unfamiliar, that a trial installation would reduce concerns once locals became used to it and would make the street safer for all users, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorists — the goal of the state's Complete Streets mandate.

"I do not fear (roundabouts); I grew up with them and they can work," said Councilman Robert Whalen, who opposed one on Glenneyre. "Laguna Canyon Road and El Toro would be a prime location and CalTrans is interested."

Councilwoman Toni Iseman supported both alternate locations.

"I am a big fan of roundabouts," Iseman said.

Diamond Crestview resident Matt Lawson said he isn't.

"Americans — especially us older drivers — aren't familiar with roundabouts and find them confusing if not dangerously distracting," said Lawson, who once lived in an area where roundabouts were common and didn't like them. "Even if we assume that local residents will become accustomed to dealing with these traffic circles, what about the millions of visitors we host every year?"

Lawson said the funding proposed for the roundabout could be better spent on adding bike racks or sidewalks.

The council approved a $37,000 contract for enhancing the crosswalks on Glenneyre from Mermaid to Calliope streetsand bike route signs and sharrows, or shared roadway markings, from Mermaid to the incline past Calliope Street, then down Bluebird Canyon Drive to the stoplight on the highway.

Bike route signs and sharrows directing cyclists from North Coast Highway to Cliff Drive will be delayed until the next resurfacing project.

RBF Consulting was awarded the contract to prepare the Laguna Beach Enhanced Mobility and Complete Streets Plan. The majority of the funding for the project comes from a $180,000 state grant awarded the city.

"I am excited to see this go forward," said Chris Prelitz, chair of the city's Complete Streets Task Force. "We need experts."

Complete Streets cheerleader Billy Fried, who writes a column for the Coastline Pilot, fired off a litany of superlatives in support of the contract.

"This is thinking about tomorrow," Fried said. "Part of this grant is for outreach — it has to be."

May said the plan is just one aspect of the city's efforts to improve traffic circulation in Laguna. Other efforts include analysis of Laguna Canyon Road, the city transit system operations and the Downtown and Laguna Canyon Parking Management Plan.

Staff plans to combine the efforts as much as possible, May said. When studies overlap, the city will hold combined public meetings or workshops.

Staff recommendations on the road and transit system are expected to be complete by the end of the year, which will allow time for them to be incorporated into the Mobility and Complete Streets Plan.

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