Estates wages campaign against road project

By Karen Brainard

As the county moves toward a fall construction start date for the San Vicente Road improvements—a project that has been planned for years—hundreds of residents in San Diego Country Estates (SDCE) are stating their opposition.

Their protest is infuriating project supporters.

Some residents say they were not aware of the road realignment. According to the county Department of Public Works, it was first proposed in the early 1990s because curves in the road do not meet county standards.

This Sentinel file photo shows one of the curves scheduled to be straightened as part of the county’s San Vicente Road Improvement Project.

At the request of SDCE General Manager Mario Trejo, staff from county Department of Public Works (DPW) gave a presentation on the road project during an Estates board meeting in October. Approximately 125 Estates residents attended the meeting, which led to a petition opposing the project. Four of the five directors of the SDCE board endorsed the petition. Secretary Maggie Johnson abstained from voting.

On Monday, Perry Jones, treasurer of the board, said 901 signatures had been received on petitions. Petitions were sent out with each homeowner’s recent association assessment. Jones said some petitions that were returned had more than one signature. He hopes to have all the petitions in by Jan. 15 and is trying to set up a meeting with County Supervisor Dianne Jacob whose District 2 includes Ramona.

“I think there are a lot of concerns on so many levels,” said Doug Kafka, president of the SDCE board. About 11,000 people live in the Estates, he said.

Jones said he knew of about seven people who voiced support for San Vicente Road improvements.

In his three years on the board, Kafka said he never heard about the road improvements and the county should have contacted the board.

SDCE resident Joe Cahak, who said he spearheaded the improvements 15 years ago, is furious.

“They seem to have gone brain-dead on all of this,” he said. “By denying this road standard, we’re literally locking us into this bad road for the rest of our lives. This is our one chance.”

Over 10 years ago, the board at that time unanimously supported improvements, said Cahak.

The San Vicente Road project calls for widening and straightening what are considered the most dangerous curves on San Vicente Road from Warnock Drive to 1,000 feet east of Wildcat Canyon Road. Plans include adding a 5-foot bike lane and a 10-foot pathway for hikers and horses. About 150 oak trees will be removed to improve sight lines, and the road will be designed for speeds of 55 mph but the posted speed will be 50 mph, according to DPW. Project design is scheduled to be completed this spring.

Those who support the changes see them as safety measures for an area that’s been the scene of serious accidents in which many people, including teenagers and young adults, have died or been severely injured.

A Dec. 23, 1999, Ramona Sentinel article states that the SDCE board unanimously approved sending a letter to Jacob “to immediately take whatever steps are necessary” to make San Vicente Road safe. That decision followed the Nov. 8, 1999, death of Deviney Snider, a Ramona High School student who was in an accident on San Vicente Road.

Cahak said he has talked to parents whose children have been in accidents and they want the improvements. He has also contacted Jacob’s office and DPW.

One of the concerns about the project, Kafka said, is that during construction, residents were told they could expect waits of 15 to 20 minutes during daytime hours when one lane is closed, which he said would be inconvenient as well as unsafe for emergency vehicles or in the case of an evacuation. He added that a lane closure would have a residual economic affect as San Vicente Resort could lose golf and dining revenues.

Steve Ron, project manager with DPW, told the Sentinel that the county will try “to avoid any inconvenience as much as possible.”

Those opposing the project also do not want to see the oak trees removed, although Cahak said he was involved in setting up a tree mitigation program.

“To take down 150 old solid trees is quite a shame,” said Kafka. “It’s very much the flavor of what Ramona is to us.”

They also say straightening the road could cause drivers to speed more and question whether horseback riders would ride on a trail next to 50 mph traffic.

Although some say they didn’t know of the project, Ron said that in 2005 the Ramona Community Planning Group added the San Vicente Road project to its priority list and in 2010 approved the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which was then approved by the county Board of Supervisors in January 2011. Ron gave a presentation to update the RCPG on the project in July 2012.

Ron said the project will probably go to the county supervisors in June to authorize staff to advertise and award a contract for construction, scheduled for fall.

Total cost of the project, he said, is about $40 million. That includes $21 million in road improvements; $10 million for relocation of utilities from San Diego Gas & Electric, Ramona Municipal Water District (RMWD), AT&T, and Cox Communications; and costs for right of way, design, and the EIR (see sidebar). Design and construction will be funded by transportation impact fees (TIF) and the TransNet half-cent sales tax.

As the construction period nears, Ron said the county will reach out to the public with project updates.

Kafka said anyone interested in signing the petition opposing the project should call 760-789-3260.

Related posts:

  1. County road project to cost water district about $3.8 million
  2. County updates planning group on San Vicente Road project
  3. County OKs road agreement with RMWD
  4. Board refuses to spend more to save solar project
  5. County updates planners on road projects

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Jan 9 2013. Filed under Featured Story, News, Ramona. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

27 Comments for “Estates wages campaign against road project”

  1. SDCE resident

    I think it is utterly ridiculous to try and halt this project.

  2. Lisa

    I think the retired people who run the estates just dont want to make it more convenient for outsiders to come in. They can do their errands at off peak times so they don't have to worry about getting into town when the roads are busy. This project is good for property values in addition to the safety factor.

  3. Truth Hurts

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the road as it is. Lower the speed limit and step up enforcement and there will be fewer accidents. If you make the speed limit 50 mph you will have everyone going 65 mph.

  4. Mike

    I agree this project is flawed. To spend all this time and money and to not end up with more lanes is ludicrous. Either leave it as it already is or plan to add more lanes. If nothing else, add one more lane out of SDCE to town for evac purposes.

    • SDCE resident

      Oh so that way we can pass people that are going the speed limit or slower because that is soooo much safer. How many trees would have to be chopped down for a four lane road ( since that is one of the opposing arguments)?

      • Mike

        No so that people who are in vehicles which can go the posted limit have a lane and those who are pulling trailers, propane bobtails, etc have their own lane so that they can go the slower abiet appropriate speed without holding up the rest of the world.

        • SDCE resident

          Like on a freeway where only people going the speed limit pass people going slower use the fast lanes …. if you really think that is what people would be going to use those two lanes for you need to wake up. My question about those other trees however stays unanswered.

  5. Sam

    How any SDCE Board Member, Present or Past can plead ingnorance of the planned road improvemnt projects is like saying there was no Fire in 2007. Although I don't reside in the estates, I utilize the road to travel to Lakeside via Wildcat Canyon. I hve lived in Ramona for over 25 years and love it's rural exposure, but I have also watched it's slow measured growth. I see the crosses, the memorials and skid marks tha mark the loss of too many loved ones. If the loss of a FEW trees and straighting/widening of some curves or addition of a now non-existant bike lane will inconvenience a few hundred of several thousand residents, well so be it. Is one life worth one tee time or one meal at the club???

    • oliverwoods

      Sorry, Sam, but in that you are not an Estates resident, your comment carries little weight with those of us who do.
      Erich's comments should help you have a better understanding as to why you see "crosses, memorials, and skid marks."

      • Mike

        But Sam is a tax payer and he is also a RMWD rate payer too. Both of which means he has a vested interest in how his money is spent. Everyone in the water district is going to pay for the pipe realignment, there is no getting around that. If it doesnt happen on this current design then we pay for it on a different one in the future. But lets just pay for this whole thing once and lets get it right the first time. The current design plan is not the best bang for the buck. When the fires or something else occurs again no one is going to be galloping off in the sunset on their pony or their pedal bikes.

        • SDCE resident

          Now that made sense Mike, getting the best bang for your buck. However, the arguments in the letter we received only stated some facts (and some opinions). It did not show me a solution as to what the board would suggest to do i.e how to make it so I get the best bang for my buck, or how to do it right the first time.

      • Life Long Ramonan

        Wow oliverwoods! Since those of us that don't live in the country mistakes hold no weight in commenting then I guess the water rate increase that will be required for the pipeline realignment that will be passed on should only be passed onto SDCE residents. I can agree to that! What a lame brain comment you made to Sam. I've lived in Ramona 60 years which I would say is probably far longer than you have so even though we don't live out there fortunately, we do have the right to our opinions. After all, it is our tax dollars that will get to pay for this fiasco.

  6. Erich

    The speed limit is currently 50mph. Most of the accidents that I've seen and read about involve one or more of these situations: alcohol, youthful inexperience, driving at too high a speed for conditions (rain, fog, etc.–this is often due to inexperience as well), driving while distracted. Unfortunately, these accidents will not stop occurring due to the straightening of the road. In the meantime, massive amounts of money will be spent by a bankrupt county and state for an unpopular project. I would rather see safety improvements made to Hwy. 67 where they would really make a difference.

  7. Torry

    Opponents to this project would have you believe that the most dangerous roads in the world are the straightest. How can anyone believe that making curves in a road less extreme make the road more dangerous? If these curves are not the problem, then why are there so many accidents at these curves? How much longer are we going to shrug off death on this road? How much longer is Ramona going to reject every improvement to our infrastructure? We are funding this project through Transnet Sales Tax dollars (voted on by the people), do you want to send the money down the hill? It is extremely disappointing to see the SDCE board take such a biased and fear-based view, and to use their platform to promote their one-sided argument.

    • SDCE resident

      "It is extremely disappointing to see the SDCE board take such a biased and fear-based view, and to use their platform to promote their one-sided argument."
      I agree with you. The fact that we got a letter in our association assessment to vote against this project is wrong in my eyes. Voice your opinion in the newspaper or online if you must. It only made it clear to me who NOT to vote for come next elections. Maybe I get a letter put in with the next association assessment and ask the residents to vote to recall the board members?

    • oliverwoods

      "If these curves are not the problem, then why are there so many accidents at these curves?"

      Torry, Erich's comments above,should help you have a better understanding as to why you see crosses, memorials, and skid marks.

      Actually I'd imagine that folks driving the "curves" are more alert than when driving a straight road.

      • Torry

        I am sorry to say Erich's comments above do not help my understanding. If what he says is true, it would imply that people only choose to speed on sharp corners that are banked improperly. Crashes occur at these locations for a reason, and it isn't because people only do irresponsible things on San Vicente. Speed is an issue relative to curves. Forcing people to go from 50MPH to 35MPH and then 50MPH and then back to 35MPH creates a dangerous situation. This dangerous situation gets even worse when people drive aggressively, impaired, distracted, when roads are wet, or if there is traffic congestion. Fixing the dangerous corners and widening reduces the risk. Wildcat Canyon south of the casino is a good example of this.

        When will people finally be honest, give up these contrived arguments, and just admit they are afraid of change? I think it is because being an armchair traffic engineer is more fun than spending the day yelling at that pesky Dennis kid from next door. He is quite the menace.

  8. Joe Cahak

    This vote won't stand and we are building the other side and there will be much more said about this and the lack of management continuity. I am forcing the SDCEA board, Supervisor Jacob's office, DPW and RCPG to come together to address the issues and not just throw it out. I was the person that made this board aware of all the plans and begged for their review and inputs. I got their unanimous approvals. I made them aware of plans, got things for us and made it all public for 15 years. You had to have been stone cold blind and ignorant to fail to hear and read about it from me. This is an insult to my 15 years of work to get this to happen and keep it on the county priority list for almost 10years after we had the county create the priority list. Doug also told me no one wants the Bike Lane, why are we paying for it. I said, I helped with the Ramona Master Road Plan, which I brought to the board, so I could ride my bike to town for the first time ever. I have been waiting 18 years. I assure you much, much more will come out and make this board look VERY foolish and irresponsible. We must shame them into the right thing folks. Keep it up and contact me to help.

    • SDCE resident

      Thank you for your initiative Joe. I a would love to have a bike lane on San Vicente. So the argument that no one wants one, or would not use it is an argument from the board that has been shot down already.

    • SDCE Resident

      Here, Here!! The SDCEA mgmt does not represent the community it serves. How can they claim ignorance to the construction?? How can they not be glad that a road that has claimed the lives of several residents will finally be improved? This is our one chance to get this road fixed. Opponents should be run out of office. This board has got to go!!

    • doriangrey1

      Your Road improvement project exists for one single solitary reason Joe. Don't lie about it. It exists to remove roadblocks that exist in the proposed Chuckwagon Residential Development project. Your project is all about increasing the number of houses being built, for which the infrastructure costs of that housing project will be forcefully put on the backs of tax payer's who do not even want those houses built in the first place.

  9. Geof

    I have lived in the estates for a short time. My observation in that time has been that where San Vincente straightens out and continues to Ramona oaks that the speeds go up exponentially. I have clocked some going 65-70 on this 45 mph road and I would say the average to be 10-15 over the speed limit. There have also been 3 serious car accidents on this "safer" stretch of the road since I have lived here which I have found completely surprising considering it is multi lane and straight.I do believe straightening the road will only increase the speeds based on observation, and therefore safety will not increase. Add the extremely high cost per mile, destruction of some of the prettiest old trees in San Diego County that made me want to move here, the increased water bill we will all have to pay and this just does not make any sense to me.

    • Joe Cahak

      Geof your opinions are wrong. Yes speeds and speeding will go up, that is the nature of these things, but the road is currently unenforceable. With the road shoulders widened to full county road standard, we will be able to finally enforce speed on this road. In this case, opinions without facts are worthless. I was involved with road safety and DPW for 1 over 15 years. I took the time and investment to be educated on our roads, the road standard and safety issues. We pay daily now in increased insurance rates, lower property values and sales appeal, not to mention the loss of life and the people maimed for life on this road. Still not worth it? I don't think so. This is an issue for the whole community, not just SDCE. This was a shameless abuse of authority and leadership and against the real welfare of our community and it's citizens. These directors should and will be held accountable and responsible for this, should they succeed I assure you. They will never have my support or vote ever again.

      • Geof

        Well it is a well known fact that for every mile an hour increase in speed that injury goes up exponentially-so if in your words speeds and speeding will go up after these " improvements" this will in fact increase serious injury and what exactly will have been accomplished at so high a cost.

        My observation is that the current road is posted 50 mph with speed restrictions on the curves as low as 35, and rarely do many slow down at all from 50. This creates the hazard which is increased when road conditions are not optimal. Would it not make sense and increase safety if that is the concern, and be more cost effective to simply lower the speed limit for the entire road to 40 mph? Maybe even 35?

        As for enforcement-I'd sure like some where the road straightens once it goes into the estates. Since the road there is " enforceable" why is it not happening? …and yes there have been some extremely serious accidents here.

  10. Herve Auch-Roy

    Re-using an argument very often used these days: "Roads don't kill people. People kill people." Therefore, don't touch the road, but educate the drivers instead.
    I drive out of the Estates three times per week, and 9 out of 10 drivers drive way faster than the posted 45MPH when crossing the Estate sign on San Vicente Road; I tried to follow some of them there, and my readings were up to 85MPH in some cases, both sedans and pick-up trucks.
    No matter how straight and wide we would make this road, people who deliberately drive as fast as possible will always make this stretch dangerous to others, and the faster they'll drive, the more deadly it will be for all of us.
    If you can't drive at the posted speed limit, and if you can't adapt your speed to the road conditions, it means that it's your vehicle which is controlling you, making you just another vehicle's accessory. It should be the other way around: while behind the wheel, you're the boss, you're the one with the foot on the pedal. Be responsible and learn how to use it.

  11. SDCE Parent

    I am all for making San Vicente safer. However, I believe there can be a compromise. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing deal. The road can be made safer by placing those concrete dividers that they have on Scripps Poway Pkwy., as well as, at the bottom of the 67. By placing those between the lanes & guard rails on the outside, we can have a safer road, yet still preserve the beauty of the tree-lined portion of San Vicente.
    Let's work together.

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