Council to Tackle Traffic at Next Meeting

The site of the proposed condo project on Glorietta

The theme of Tuesday’s City Council meeting is traffic. The council will address three different traffic-related items, including a look at parking and traffic issues on Glorietta Boulevard between Orange Avenue and Ynez Place, a call for an outside firm to audit the Tunnel Project, and the introduction of an ordinance establishing the Coronado Transportation Commission.  

First up is a public hearing on a proposed condominium project at 1600 Glorietta Blvd. The building would provide an underground parking garage for residents and a reconfiguration of street parking for visitors. These amenities would require roadway alterations that have recently revived long-standing grievances over traffic issues in that area.

For years residents have complained about buses, Navy personnel and others using the tiny corridor as a cut-through route to the Coronado Bridge. The problems were discussed in reports and public hearings conducted in December 2008 and February 2009

A study by the city’s engineering department in 2008 found that an average of 529 vehicles and 8 buses travel along this route every day.

Efforts to resolve these problems and explore alternatives were put forward. Ideas included prohibiting left turns onto Glorietta from Orange, creating a cul-de-sac that prevents cars from entering the street, or turning Glorietta into a one-way street.

The Glorietta Bay Inn, which sits at the corner of Orange and Glorietta, objected to the first idea. Banning left turns would force hotel guests traveling south on Orange to make a U-turn to reach the building. For the same reason, hotel management opposed the cul-de-sac idea. Several residents also objected to making that stretch of roadway a one-way street.

“Over 90 percent of our guests arrive by turning left from Orange Avenue, onto Glorietta Boulevard, and then into our parking lot,” owner R.B. Woolley Jr. said in a Dec. 23, 2008 letter to the city. 

One idea that resonated with residents was forcing tour buses off the street. But the Hotel Del demurred, saying it had no control over the routes that buses choose to take. The Hotel Del also dismissed a plan to move its bus-loading area from Orange Avenue to R.H. Dana Place, calling it “impractical.”

The proposed condominium development affords the city a new opportunity to revisit these issues. The Glorietta Bay Homeowners Association and several residents have already weighed in. 

In a letter to Mayor Casey Tanaka last week, Timothy J. Sullivan, an attorney for the homeowners association echoed the objections that were raised in the 2008 study and 2009 hearings.

The letter also said, “Vehicles exiting the proposed condominium project will be blinded to the oncoming traffic due to parked vehicles on each side of the proposed driveway… and will be forced to swing into the traffic in order to avoid parked cars.”

To avoid this and other hazards noted in past studies, the homeowners have suggested making that section of Glorietta a two-way street from Orange Avenue to the end of the Glorietta Bay Inn, then making it a one-way street from Ynez Place toward Orange Avenue. They have also suggested converting the current parallel parking into diagonal parking. 

Sullivan’s letter said these changes would reduce traffic and create more parking spaces, so vehicles could safely exit from the proposed underground garage. It will “create a safer environment for the surrounding residents and traffic in general,” he wrote.

From this micro perspective on traffic, the council will move to a more macro view when it formally establishes its new traffic commission.

The Coronado Transportation Commission (CTC) will be charged with reviewing all suggestions and reports made thus far and developing a plan to elevate traffic congestion. Previous suggestions by the council and citizens include: signal synchronization and modernization, increased traffic enforcement, and greater cooperation with the Navy to resolve commuter traffic issues.

The contours of this new commission were established from public comments made at a town hall meeting on Sept.8, 2010. The City Council held a special meeting on Jan. 10, 2011 to review these comments, update current traffic issues, solicit further public opinion, and formalize the direction and structure of the commission. 

The idea of a traffic commission was born out of the death of the tunnel project, officially known as the Transportation Corridor Project. The voters rejected the idea of building a tunnel to relieve commuter traffic in June 2010. 

While the tunnel is ancient history, there are lingering concerns. Councilwoman Barbara Denny has said she is not convinced that all the money used in the tunnel study has been accounted for. At the Dec. 7 council meeting, she placed an item on the agenda that called for a “professional, certified, third-party audit.”

Her suggestion received unanimous support. The council will decide on Tuesday whether to hire Lance, Soll and Lunghard to conduct the audit. If they authorize the audit, the firm will examine the financial records from the project to ensure the money spent was “duly authorized and properly recorded.” It will also confirm the full and final cost of the project and verify how much money is left for other transportation projects.

The estimated cost of the audit is $30,000. Money from the bridge toll funds will be used to pay for it. Thus far, the tunnel project has cost $13.1 million from the general fund, federal grants and bridge tolls, according to city staff.