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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux
Featured image: Courtesy of Brett Sayles/Pexels
The City of San Juan Capistrano is looking at reducing speed limits on several roadways in town, though speed limits for the majority of local roadways will stay the same.
Setting speed limits came before the council during a meeting on Tuesday, April 19, due to the coming expiration of a traffic study conducted in 2012 that set current speed limits. A new traffic survey was conducted in February of this year to “ensure that posted speed limits correspond with current speeds and remain enforceable,” a city staff report said.
“One of the notable items this evening is, tonight, we’re not recommending any speed limit increases,” Public Works Director Tom Toman said.
Speed-limit reductions approved unanimously by the council are 35 miles per hour for Calle Aspero from Del Obispo Street to Peppertree Bend, and Trabuco Creek Road from Rancho Viejo Road to the eastern end; 45 miles per hour for Stonehill Drive from Camino Capistrano to the western city limits; and 25 miles per hour for Camino Capistrano from Ortega Highway to Acjachema Street, and Paseo Adelanto from Del Obispo Street to Ramos Street.
“We know that area is very heavy in pedestrian use—close to Los Rios Park, close to Zoomars, very busy area,” Toman said of the Paseo Adelanto segment.
The reductions are by 5 miles per hour except for the Camino Capistrano portion, which is a 10 mile-per-hour reduction.
The city also set a 35 mile-per-hour limit for road segments that were not previously surveyed by traffic studies: Avenida California from Vista Marina to Camino Las Ramblas; Stallion Ridge (adjacent to San Juan Hills High School) from Avenida La Pata to the western end; and Vista Marina from Valle Road to Avenida California. Similar speed limits have already been posted by the developers of the areas in question, except on Stallion Ridge.
Speed limits will otherwise stay the same on 63 of the city’s 71 road segments. The speed limit considerations approved by the council at Tuesday’s meeting were a first reading, and they become official during a second reading at the next council meeting.
“The traffic survey itself includes consideration of the following criteria: prevailing speeds as determined by engineering measurement, accident records, traffic and roadside conditions that are not apparent to the driver, adjacent land use, and the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians,” Toman said.
Toman also addressed a collision resulting in a pedestrian fatality that occurred on San Juan Creek Road in January 2021, as well as speed limits for the corridor. The primary cause of the fatal collision was said to be an “improper turn” based on the incident report, which was not further elaborated on.
“At that time, we received a lot of correspondence from the community regarding speeding and traffic safety on San Juan Creek Road,” Toman said. “Because we had the citywide traffic and engineering survey slated for later that year, traffic performed a more focused supplemental evaluation of San Juan Creek Road between Valle Road and La Novia Avenue and further east of the terminus.”
“The study evaluated specifically accident history—but rather than just the three-year history that was provided, we studied it for five years to go back,” Toman continued. “We looked at the number of accidents, the type of accidents, the primary causes of accidents. We asked ourselves, is there any need for additional traffic control devices out there?”
The survey found there were 12 reported collisions from 2016 to 2021 in the San Juan Creek corridor: nine broadside collisions, one hitting an object, one side swipe, and one automobile hitting a pedestrian.
“Notably, none of the reported accidents on San Juan Creek Road were related to speeding. With respect to accident rates, the metric for measuring accident rates is accidents per million vehicle miles,” Toman said. “San Juan Creek Road is about 80% lower than the average accident rate countywide. Consequently, the existing speed limits on San Juan Creek Road are considered reasonable based on both the accident history and speed survey data, and are recommended to remain unchanged as recommended by staff.”
Installation of additional traffic devices on San Juan Creek Road are also not recommended.
Councilmembers did not extensively comment on speed limits or the recommendations made by city staff.
In other news from the meeting, City Manager Ben Siegel announced city officials will move forward on three proposals for extended use of the town’s Northwest Open Space from C&C Development, Frontier Real Estate Investments, and Capistrano Vineyards.
The three parties were invited to present their concepts at an upcoming council meeting. The City Council discussed proposed uses of the site—seven were sent in, including some for only the Swanner House or area’s dog park—during an executive session closed to the public on Tuesday.
“Those three were selected for further review and consideration based on their proposed project concept, compatibility with current uses on the property, and operating experience,” Siegel said. “Staff will work with the three proposers to schedule the presentations for a council meeting later this spring.”
Dan Almquist, who heads up Frontier Real Estate Investments, presented his proposal—it includes equestrian uses—to the San Juan Capistrano community during a recent Coffee Chat discussion. Trevor Baird, who owns the downtown restaurant Trevor’s at the Tracks, and local equestrian Kathy Holman are partnering with Almquist for Frontier’s proposal. Baird was also at the Coffee Chat presentation.
A proposal from Pacifico Development called Olas Ranch, which included plans for a wave pool and equestrian space for local nonprofit Surf & Turf Therapy, was not selected to go forward. Former Planning Commission Chairman Harrison Taylor was consulting with Pacifico Development on the project and also presented plans for Olas Ranch at a separate Coffee Chat meeting.
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.