Additional traffic calming measure coming to Laguna Beach’s Bluebird Canyon Drive

Bluebird Canyon Drive, as seen on Thursday.
Bluebird Canyon Drive, as seen on Thursday. The Laguna Beach City Council voted to have a speed table installed on the street.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

After more than a decade of implementing traffic calming measures with limited effect, a concerning stretch of Bluebird Canyon Drive will be getting a speed table — a flatter, wider version of a speed hump — installed.

The Laguna Beach City Council late last month agreed to the installation on a one-year trial basis.

The city’s parking, traffic and circulation committee has had a history of attempting to address pedestrian safety issues along Bluebird Canyon Drive between Cress Street and Rancho Laguna Road since at least 2009.

Among the steps taken, a speed survey was conducted, reducing the enforceable speed limit to 25 mph from 30 mph. According to a staff report, there were 12 tickets written for speeding on the roadway in 2020, and another 13 citations were issued in 2021.

Several residents appeared before the council to say past measures had not gone far enough.

“I really appreciate what the previous efforts have been,” Kara Lee, a Bluebird Canyon resident, said. “A few years ago, it was approved, that new signage and street striping and lower the speed limits. Unfortunately, all of those are suggestive, and really unfortunately, they haven’t been effective.

“They haven’t slowed drivers down. … Whether you’re walking or you’re trying to pull out of your parking spot, it’s pretty scary on an everyday basis.”

Residents who opposed the additional traffic calming measure cited the speed table being a daily inconvenience and an obstacle in emergencies, when, some argued, every second counts. Another solution was offered: a pedestrian sidewalk.

“I know that it takes the city time to get things like this done, something like a sidewalk,” Councilman Mark Orgill said. “Most of the speed humps that I’ve seen are not the ones that are actually made out of asphalt, but they’re the plastic ones that are kind of overlaid onto the asphalt, and I don’t see the harm of trying one until we get the sidewalk implemented, if we agree to do the sidewalk.”

Laguna Beach Fire Chief Niko King said the speed table would add between seven to 15 seconds to a fire engine’s response time. He also said it would slow down evacuation times.

“For the fire department, Bluebird is a primary response route for us, meaning that there’s several residents that live up there at the top,” King said. “That is the single point of entry and egress out of the neighborhood for the evacuations. … We also discussed how problematic it can be getting large emergency equipment up the road while there’s heavy traffic coming down.”

Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf said she did not like the idea of putting an impediment on an evacuation route, but she was willing to support the speed table, provided it came back to the council for review after the first year. The council also asked city staff to investigate the feasibility of putting a sidewalk in.

“I do see that there’s no place to go when people walk to Bluebird Park,” Councilman George Weiss said. “So there’s a contingent that are on Bluebird that are affected. Then there’s the people that go to that park, and they have families. I think our No. 1 job is to protect the safety of the public, and I see no reason that we can’t install one speed hump and live with it.

“The fire department, that five or 10 seconds is not going to be the difference between life and death, I don’t think, considering it could mean the difference between life and death putting one in.”

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