From community workshop document
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At a planning-group meeting Monday night (December 5), City Heights residents gave mixed reviews of the city's revised plans for a stretch of El Cajon Boulevard.

Several City Heights Area Planning Committee members blasted the proposed route and its mixed uses, saying their town is being used as a conduit for communities at either end.

"It's for Hillcrest and SDSU, and we're just a corridor," said Kenton Finkbeiner. "It's really not meeting the needs of our community."

His colleague, Jim Varnadore agreed. "We've been somebody's passageway for too long," Varnadore said. "What we should be thinking about is safety that protects pedestrians, not what a few bicyclists want."

The plan would take away left turns to the south and parking along one side of El Cajon Boulevard between Highland Avenue and 50th Street in order to add bike lanes and a few pedestrian amenities.

Maria Cortez, a neighborhood advocate who lives on El Cajon Boulevard, didn't like that the bicycle lanes mean that businesses lose their parking.

"The bikes don't go on El Cajon [Boulevard]. The bikes aren't going to stop at markets on our street," Cortez said. "I would like to see some improvements but not by taking away parking."

Cortez urged the city to consider the SANDAG plans for bikeways on Meade Avenue, Orange Avenue, and on Howard (all are parallel to El Cajon) and not create redundant bikeways. But Randy Van Vleck from the City Heights Community Development Corporation said the nearby projects may not come through.

"Let's not rely too much on the SANDAG projects," Van Vleck said. "They're still up in the air; they are on the back burner." Van Vleck has been active in planning the SANDAG bike routes since at least 2011. He is also a member of BikeSD, a bicycling advocacy group. At least two of those projects are funded and, according to SANDAG, more than 30 percent of the way to finishing design and engineering. They expect to break ground in 2017.

Maureen Gardner, from the city's traffic engineering group, presented the three alternate plans for the stretch from Highland Avenue to 50th Street. A review of dangerous intersections by the city auditor released in September found that there had been at least 33 crashes involving pedestrians in that half-mile stretch of El Cajon Boulevard from 2001 to 2015. At least 33 people were injured and one pedestrian was killed. The area includes the Little Saigon district and proposed plans incorporated a design to create a gateway feel, with features that reflect the area.

The original 14 versions of the plans to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, culled from workshops between April and October, were winnowed down to 3 plans that can be found online.

"In order to provide bicycle lanes, parking has to be removed on one side of the street," Gardner explained. "We heard a lot of pushback on the loss of parking...." One version of the plan eliminates southbound left turns to cross-streets, alleys, and driveways from El Cajon.

"It's an inconvenience but it really enhances safety," Gardner said. The plan eliminates 57 percent of conflicts between cars, walkers, and bikes, she said. (A pedestrian collision study by Chen Ryan Mobility analysts found that such turns were the key factor in at least 38 percent of crashes where the driver was at fault.)

Before they started drawing plans, city engineers studied the street. They looked at speeds and car trips, did parking surveys at three different times of day, talked to business owners and residents. They looked at car crashes and crosswalks. There wasn't an official working group, Gardner said.

"The folks who were most vocal contacted us and we met with them three or four times, sort of an ad hoc committee," she explained. Several planning group members said they didn't like how the process went because they weren't notified.

"This is the first time I'm seeing this," said planning group chairwoman Patty Vaccariello.

Planning committee member Krista Berry agreed.

"If I wasn't able to participate, I wonder how many other people weren't able to participate," Berry said. "In these types of projects, you need to find a balance, but I think if we have better bike safety, more people would ride."

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Comments

Steve Horvath Dec. 6, 2016 @ 10:27 p.m.

Can you trust SANDAG? Took away parking on Kettner Blvd. near train station for espress busses. Busiest travel week of the year for Amtrak during Thanksgiving and MTS security giving tickets for dropping off in red zone. Very limited white zone for drop off. It had been suggested that Kettner to be one way between A/B streets and Broadway by train station and have designated bus zones on east side of street!

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bbq Dec. 7, 2016 @ 6:56 a.m.

Back in the day, how I've wondered when I would be able to use that, in the late 1970s I lived in North Park. As an Olympic hopeful, anytime I went out on a training ride to the east we always used Howard/Orange, El Cajon Blvd. was avoided at all costs, as were University and Washington in Hillcrest. The issue here is the bike routes do not and should not be located on the principle business routes through a community. I do agree that sections of town do require the traffic calming, specific markings such as sections of the coast highway due to limited alternative routes and the scenic aspects, but when reasonable alternatives such as Howard/Orange in this case and Robinson in Hillcrest they should become the principle cycling routes. Perhaps we allow some minor zoning changes that would allow cycling and pedestrian friendly businesses to relocate, a coffee kiosk or Bike repair? To the businesses and motorists work with the cycling community and vice versa. Great communities only get there through compassion and cooperation. BBQ

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Cassander Dec. 8, 2016 @ 10:31 a.m.

You're absolutely right, bbq: side streets such as Howard/Orange and Robinson are the natural place for locating bike paths, not major thoroughfares. However, this whole pro-bike agenda has never been about providing safe or sensible passage for bicycling--it's about throttling vehicle traffic and creating sham "transit corridors" that will allow developers to build without providing parking.

Why else would SANDAG and the city duplicate effort, putting bike paths just a block away from the others' projects? For SANDAG, anti-car projects like this give it carbon offset credits that allow it to expand highways for north county. For the city, expanding the areas that can be defined as accessed by a "transit corridor" allows developers to claim density bonus and other shortcuts that shaft the community of parking and other infrastructure then pocket the difference.

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pjamason2 Dec. 9, 2016 @ 2:15 p.m.

Bike routes should absolutely be on the principal business routes through a community - how else do bicyclists access the businesses there? This is also where transit routes are often located. Bikes are a good first/last mile option when using public transit.

In Hillcrest, Robinson was infeasible due to the bridge over 163 being too narrow to accommodate a bike lane.

What in the world does your Olympic training have to do with safely accessing El Cajon Blvd. businesses and bus lines by bike? Perhaps you could try some "compassion" for bicyclists who are just trying to get to these. Maybe businesses could show some "cooperation" regarding on-street parking, since only 46% of it is being used in this corridor.

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bbq Dec. 12, 2016 @ 6:36 a.m.

Pjamason2, The issue is safety and access, I'm not an advocate of us vs. them which this boils down to more often than not. If a reasonable alternative exists or could be made to exist it should be reviewed. As for access to El Cajon Blvd there are cross streets every couple of hundred meters. If you can read a street sign you know what block you are on and can access your location/destination. I favor cycling as a transportation source but not if it makes the cyclist a target which makes many of these proposed routes less tangible in the eyes of the non-cycling/commuting public. If a proposed route is already congested with many stop signals and cross traffic how does making it worse benefit the cycling community? I would personally rather see Orange and Howard become "Traffic calmed" 30 mph through streets with minimal stop signals, so a nice steady cycling commute could be achieved, just a thought. Sorry about your lack of compassion and cooperation with the rest of the community. BBQ

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shirleyberan Dec. 7, 2016 @ 9:34 a.m.

Adams Avenue has become biking friendlier. I don't see any reason to spend for lane changes in City Heights on El Cajon Blvd. One minute they tell us to take buses and trollies, then they decide we're all 20something and should crotch-ride to work and school behind exhaust fumes for a healthy alternative. A Dangerous traffic mix considering the number of druggies in cars in that area. Bike riders like to take the lane as if they are keeping up with traffic flow, all hard to watch out for. Irritating, Irrational. Bikes can safer and easily use side streets. We are not switching to bicycles. What are we, 10? What happened to the plan for affordable electric cars and convenient charging stations? If they build that, they will come.

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