'Road kill' in our debates over growth
By Lisa Ross
November 4, 1999
Road Kill is the subject of intense
conversation in SANDAG subcommittees, city halls, business
associations and smart growth policy workshops as struggling
transportation planners consider reviving several roads eliminated
or downgraded in the region's general plans over the past
Yesterday, San Diego City Council's Land Use and Housing
Committee considered the controversial deleted road issue
and recommended that roads across the San Dieguito River Valley
and Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve not be revived.
The catalyst for this born-again road revivalism is the San
Diego Highway Development Association's 1997 GAPS Report that
blames the sorry state of our transportation systems on gutless
officials who succumbed to NIMBY's and environmentalists when
they deleted or narrowed 29 road segments. The report suggests
that if many of these roads were alive today, we'd be cruising
our 2.5 family cars through the county with the greatest of
While some of the extinct road segments in the report might
deserve a second look, two of the most problematic are commanding
the most attention -- one, a Camino Ruiz extension from SR
78 to SR 56 across the San Dieguito River Valley then over
Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, the other another four-lane bridge
across the canyon at Camino Santa Fe.
Among other politically explosive roads deemed feasible though
not necessarily recommended by the report are La Jolla Scenic
Drive through Soledad Natural Park.
No one can blame the instincts of the SDHDA, and many of
us admire their nerve if not their political smarts. Others
welcome the chance to bid one last fond farewell to roads
once dead and gone if for no other reason than to remind transportation
planners that San Diegans often give up convenience to preserve
their community's quality of life and San Diego's natural
However well-intentioned, moving forward with Camino Ruiz
and Camino Santa Fe breaks faith not only with homeowners
in our newest master-planned communities who came to depend
on their community plans, but with property owners and developers
who struggled to meet environmental and planning restrictions
when they designed their projects. After a gut-wrenching decade
of achieving enough community and environmental consensus
to pass muster with the voters and decision-makers, putting
these roads back would be a costly setback to these developers,
driving housing prices higher.
Unquestionably, the region's health demands transportation
improvements: traffic jams on Interstate 15 and Interstate
5 is an economic and psychic drain. And, business centers
such as Sorrento Mesa struggle with access for their customers
and employees. But relief does not necessitate destruction
of beloved parks, endangered habitats, and community plans.
There are other highway improvements not mentioned in GAPS
that make sense and could achieve a high level of support.
For example, a fly-over connection from I-5 to Lusk Boulevard
over Sorrento Valley would clean up one of San Diego's quaintest
traffic snafus, providing efficient access to the Sorrento
Mesa employment center without destroying Penasquitos Canyon.
And, funding a number of missing direct freeway connectors,
including SR 56's northbound ramps, would be cheerfully welcomed
by impacted communities and commuters to our growing north
county business centers.
But, not all roads lead to Nirvana -- there are other interesting
traffic solutions resulting from modem planning principles
already in the works.
- Our newest master-planned communities, like Carmel
Valley, 4-S Ranch, Black Mountain Ranch and Pacific Highlands
Ranch are designed as live-aboard communities with shopping,
recreational centers, employment centers and schools within
walking and shuttle bus distance of residential neighborhoods.
- Many new communities, like San Elijo Ranch, will
be wired for the information age, anticipating the steep
growth in telecommuting and e-commerce over the next ten
years that will reduce the number of short convenience trips.
- As new high density developments along transit corridors
and urban in-fill projects move ahead, public transportation
will become more feasible.
- Improved air, water and rail cargo facilities could
cut truck traffic in half.
Several decades ago, the Army Corps of Engineers offered
to build a six-lane highway through Sausalito to relieve the
bumper-to-bumper congestion in that Northern California tourist
mecca. The road would have eliminated downtown Sausalito.
The mayor declined the opportunity.
San Diegans also will likely decline the chance to add roads
that promise marginal traffic improvements while destroying
such beloved recreational and preserve areas as Peñasquitos
Canyon, the San Dieguito River Valley and Mission Trails Park.
And, our sense of fair-play will prevent us from breaking
deals struck with property owners who will bear the impacts.
Spending time and public resources on reviving dead-end roads
is a trip to nowhere.
Ross is a member of the Carmel Valley Planning Board.
Copyright 1999 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.