Residents argue over Temple Hills pathways

Eleven speakers weighed in at Tuesday's City Council meeting on a proposal for pedestrian improvements in Temple Hills.

City staff culled that proposal, along with some others, from the Complete Streets Task Force's recommendations.

The council ultimately approved a $295,000 allocation for six proposed Complete Streets projects. Details for the pedestrian improvements, whose suggested funding is $100,000, were not revealed.

"I know a lot of people in that area, and some of them are completely entrenched in that, 'There will not be any pathway next to my house, and I will take it to court, and I don't care what it costs,'" said former Environmental Chairman Chris Prelitz. "I can't see pulling [$100,000] form the Complete Streets budget because there is a high likelihood of this not being successfully completed in our lifetimes."

At least one speaker supported the project.

"I support the staff recommendations to set aside money until a viable project can be identified," said Doug Cortez, a Temple Hills Neighborhood Assn. member. "Temple Hills is really not divided on this issue. Every homeowner adjacent to the easements is opposed to converting them to public staircases and paths, and all the neighbors nearby have also spoken out on them."

The neighborhood group was formed to challenge the long-standing Temple Hills Community Assn., which supports public pathways down the hillside from Thurston Street to lower Temple Hills Drive.

Six speakers opposed developing identified easements as public pathways, some of which are already in use.

Stephanie Webster said that she was informed of an easement near the home she bought in Temple Hills, but she said it is only for utilities. She has retained an attorney to preserve that status.

Others contend that the pathways were identified by the Temple Hills developer for pedestrian access.

"I don't see how the city can even question that this pathway [No. 4] is a legitimate pedestrian corridor," Dorothea Yellott said. "I can testify from personal experience that my family, friends and many neighbors have used this pathway since the early '70s. The previous owners' children told my children where it was."

Yellott said the recent addition of gravel to the pathway has made it slippery, but closing it would pose an even greater risk for residents walking to and from downtown and school.

"This is an issue of great importance for Temple Hills," Lou Novak said. "It is suicidal to walk down Temple Hills Drive. I live in a neighborhood where I can't get off the hill without using my car. Is that what we want?"

Novak said he couldn't blame Cortez for objecting to a public pathway near his home, but he took issue with the comment from Prelitz that the pathways project was unlikely to be completed in this lifetime.

"It's not easy, but I beg of you to try to do something," Novak told the council.

One alternative raised at the meeting was the installation of sidewalks down upper Temple Hills Drive, but that was dismissed by Caroline Wright, who lives on Canyon View, a center of support for pedestrian pathways.

"A sidewalk won't stop cars from flying by," she said.

The council adopted Complete Streets' concepts in 2009. They include minimizing automobiles' roles in Laguna Beach and emphasizing a pedestrian-oriented environment.

A task force came up with 80 recommendations after 33 months of research and meetings, from which 24 were proposed to the city staff.

"The staff selected six, with only two from the top 10," Miklosy said Tuesday.

Approved Tuesday

•Bus tracking system: $10,000

Temple Hills Improvements: $100,000

Downtown bicycle racks: $15,000

Coast Highway sidewalk study: $100,000

Pedestrian access from Top of the World to the Fire Road: $50,000

Glenneyre Street evaluated for possible bike path: $5,000

Contingency fund: $15,000.

— Each item was voted separately so that Councilman Kelly Boyd could participate on items he did not have residential or business involvement in.

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