Grover Beach is going ahead with a series of long-awaited bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements on portions of North Oak Park Boulevard, but similar changes proposed for the south side of the same roadway are being delayed for further review.
- File Photo By Kasey Bubnash
- CHANGE IS COMING At its Jan. 21 meeting, Grover Beach City Council delayed discussing safety improvements on North Oak Park Boulevard after a pedestrian was hit and killed by a car at the intersection of North Oak Park and Brighton Avenue.
At a meeting on April 20, Grover Beach City Council reviewed several proposed changes to stretches of Oak Park Boulevard that city staff say would make the roadway safer for bikers, pedestrians, and drivers alike. While council members were able to agree that the projects proposed for the northern portion of the roadway are necessary, community concerns about lost parking left South Oak Park Boulevard up for debate.
"We get comments from people all the time: slow the traffic, slow the traffic," Councilmember Mariam Shah said at the meeting. "Well the best way to slow the traffic is to narrow the travel lanes, and one of the best ways to narrow travel lanes is to increase visibility by taking all the cars out of the way and putting in a bike lane."
Initially that was the plan for the stretch of South Oak Park Boulevard between West Grand and Mentone avenues, where city staff planned to eliminate curbside parking on both sides of the road to make way for a buffered bike lane. The proposal also included changes to the lanes near Oak Park's intersection with West Grand Avenue that staff say would reduce turning and merging conflicts.
But, despite recently installed parking spots on Longbranch Avenue, several residents who live or own property on South Oak Park Boulevard called into the April 20 meeting with concerns about the potential ramifications of lost street parking. Residents wondered how delivery drivers or contractors would access their homes, and said the loss of curbside parking could cause visitors and residents to illegally cross the busy street to get from the Longbranch parking spots to their homes and apartments.
Several community members said City Council should consider widening the road or removing the medians on Oak Park Boulevard to make room for the bike lanes.
Public Works Director Gregory Ray said at the meeting that while the median could be removed, it would be counterproductive to the city's goal of improving street landscaping and reducing traffic speeds, which the median was installed to do.
"But also there's the cost," Ray said at the meeting. "I mean, eliminating those medians would come at a much higher cost than simply eliminating the parking and striping a bike lane."
Still, City Council directed staff to scope out the possibility of removing or narrowing the median on South Oak Park in hopes of keeping curbside parking. City Council also directed staff to research the potential cost and timeline associated with conducting a traffic study on the roadway, which would be needed to determine whether a portion of South Oak Park Boulevard could be downsized from four lanes to two.
This recommendation was given despite staff warnings of a potential minimum three-month delay in the project and increased costs at an economically uncertain time. Proposed street repairs to South Oak Park were already estimated to cost about $1.4 million, according to a city staff report.
"As we enter this next budget year, we're going to be entering some choppy waters when it comes to our financial projections and what's feasible from a cost standpoint," City Manager Matt Bronson said at the meeting. "So I want to just make sure the council is aware that to do this right means it's delayed significantly and potentially there's a cost that would make it a more difficult project to fund over this next year."
In the meantime, the city plans to move forward with proposed changes to North Oak Park Boulevard. High-visibility crosswalks will be installed at the intersection of North Oak Park and Saratoga Avenue, street parking will be eliminated near intersections and outside Oak Park Christian Church to improve visibility, and a streetlight will be added to each of four intersections north of Ramona Avenue. The city also plans to prohibit right turns on a red light at the intersection of North Oak Park and West Grand Avenue.
The changes at North Oak Park, which were initially delayed after an Arroyo Grande man was killed while attempting to cross the road on foot in January, are expected to cost the city an estimated $126,500. Δ