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Step on a crack, report back: Costa Mesa seeking feedback on pedestrian hazards during walk audits

Consultants, city staff and officials cross Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa during a walking audit.
Consultants, city staff and officials cross Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa during a walking audit to guide future street design to help determine a pedestrian master plan.
(Scott Smeltzer/Staff Photographer)

The city of Costa Mesa wants to become more walkable, but exactly how and where improvements to the pedestrian experience may be made must be determined, literally, one step at a time.

In that spirit, staff from the Public Services Department have organized a series of six walk audits that lets interested citizens travel pedestrian corridors in a socially distanced group and track hazards in real time.

The first audit took place Wednesday near Costa Mesa’s Triangle Square and drew about 15 people, including residents and city staff.

Public Services Director Raja Sethuraman, who donned sneakers for Wednesday’s walk, said the audits will play a crucial role as the city develops a pedestrian master plan to identify and correct any perils that confront walkers as they traverse city streets.

Roger Pelayo, left, from Koa Consulting with city employee Jennifer Rosales examine a walk audit map Wednesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

A master plan will drive the creation of policies and amenities designed to improve walkability and channel funding to where it’s needed most. Working with a grant from the Southern California Assn. of Governments, the city has dedicated about $135,000 toward the project, Sethuraman said.

“A lot of cities do circulation plans that focus more on street and vehicle traffic, and sidewalks have standards but they’re general standards,” he added. “Having an audit like this will give us a better perspective. If you just do the plan from sitting in the office, you won’t have an idea of the details and minute things we can do.”

Led by representatives from Koa Consulting, Inc., a coterie of pedestrian researchers outfitted in neon green smocks ventured along 19th Street with cellphones and clipboards in hand to see what they could find.

Consultants, city staff and officials walk along 19th Street in Costa Mesa during a walking audit Wednesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Fewer than 100 steps into their journey they began spotting hazards.

One vehicle attempting to turn right out of a shopping plaza had pulled far ahead of a traffic stop, forcing a pedestrian to dodge in between cars to cross the lane. Nearby, abandoned metal newsstands jutted out at unsafe angles, restricting passage.

Auditors were encouraged to scan a QR code that allowed them to photograph their findings and “pin” them onto an interactive map with notes on what they saw.

Transportation services manager Jennifer Rosales said anyone walking in Costa Mesa can visit the project’s website, at bit.ly/CMPMP-WA, to take a survey and learn how to use the public feedback tool on their own walks about town.

Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner Dianne Russell fills out a pedestrian walk audit booklet on Wednesday, March 31.
Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner Dianne Russell fills out a pedestrian walk audit booklet on Wednesday, March 31.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

During Wednesday’s audit, Flo Martin, who’s lived in Costa Mesa for 54 years and is a member of the city’s Bikeway and Walkability Committee, documented evidence with her cellphone camera.

“Drivers currently — and I’m not mincing words — are reckless, and they don’t give a darn about pedestrians,” she said. “And it’s getting worse.”

Martin recounted almost getting hit in a signaled crosswalk at Harbor Boulevard and Peterson Place a few weeks ago by a distracted driver.

“On my way home, walking, I broke down and cried, because I realized I’d almost bought the farm,” the 79-year-old said.

Costa Mesa resident Blaise Patzkowski, 33, attempted to pin a portion of a sidewalk outside of a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, where tree roots had cracked and uprooted concrete. An attorney who has done a lot of work on personal injury cases, he knows the dangers such scenes can present.

“I actually represented a woman whose heel got caught in a crack in a parking lot,” Patzkowski said, stressing the importance of identifying safety issues before someone gets hurt.

“This is a great opportunity to look for things that could improve and be made safer,” he added. “If that happens, maybe nobody will need a personal injury attorney.”

Future walk audits are scheduled for Saturday and April 10, from 10 a.m. to noon, on April 7 and 14, from 1 to 3 p.m. and on April 15, from 9 to 11 a.m. For more information visit bit.ly/CMPMP-WA, or email Lorena Hernandez at lhernandez@katherinepadilla.com.

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