Ramona Community Planning Group (RCPG) approved the third iteration of the Ramona Street Extension project.
The project was the main item of discussion at the planners’ July 1 meeting, and the only members of the public in attendance were half a dozen residents of Ramona Street and the immediate area of the project.
This is the same group of people who have attended many meetings over the past couple of years on the topic, wearing the same T-shirts and wielding the same “No Ramona Street Extension” signs. They have lobbied at other planning group meetings, Supervisor Dianne Jacob coffees, and the Traffic & Transportation Summit. While their concerns were listened to once again, the planning group members voted to support the revised plan.
The long and passionate debate has been about the .33-mile improvement to open this section of Ramona Street so it goes through from Boundary Avenue to Warnock. Five homeowners are affected, and one of the main reasons given by the planning group for approval is that the needs of the many outweigh the concerns of the few.
Most of the residents who oppose the road extension understand the need, but they are opposed to the execution of it. Massive changes in grades, excessive widening and high retaining walls right by their homes will seriously impact them, they say.
“If the roadway was just the current 60-foot easement width and followed the existing contours of the land, it would not meet with quite so much resistance,” said Ken Brennecke.
Those protesting the project also complained that only one planning group member has taken the time to come to the site to view it, and that the decisions being made are not informed ones. The neighbors say they have not been given adequate opportunities to offer their input to the plans, and they only see or hear about them at presentations such as the one given by county staff to the planning group on July 1.
The planning group took offense at the accusations from the residents that the neighbors were not consulted, were being kept in the dark, and were not allowed an opportunity to give input. To the contrary, say RCPG members, they have been allowed to speak to the issue as a non-agenda item and listened to at numerous other RCPG meetings over the past six to eight months.
In fact, planners said, the reason this current plan is the third in a series is because the residents’ concerns were listened to and the road plan amended accordingly. And after Jerry Myers shared his concern about the placement of a stop sign at Warnock Drive and Ramona Street during the meeting, the planners and county staff agreed Myers’ idea is a good one.
RCPG member Angus Tobiason said the Ramona Street extension has been on the traffic circulation element since the late 1950s. The road now needs to be built to current standards, not to the substandard design of the older sections, he said.
“The road is being designed to handle traffic at 40 mph which necessitates the leveling to remove excess vertical curves,” said Terry Rayback with the San Diego County Department of Public Works, adding, “There will have to be some design exemptions in order to accommodate existing driveways.”
“We are not keeping people in the dark,” said planning group chair Chris Anderson, commenting that she was not happy about the unpleasant personal attacks directed at her and other group members.
“This is a definite circulation problem, not just for the kids going to the schools in the area, but it’s a connection needed by the whole community,” said planner Kathy Finley.
“I don’t think the residents of the neighborhoods nearby understand how positively this new connection will affect them,” planning group member Dennis Sprong said after the meeting. “Traffic from the whole west side of town will have a more direct route to Main Street without winding through 25 mph residential streets.”
Rayback said design work for the project is approximately 30 percent complete. This work will continue to include details and modifications as individual property owners are contacted and consulted, he said.
The plans will come back to the planning group for public comment when they are about 70 percent complete and again when finalized, which is expected to be June 2011. The project is already funded, so construction could begin by the end of next year, said Rayback.