Planners give nod to long-festering crosswalk project at OB Elementary
by Tony de Garate
Feb 12, 2014 | 1823 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Local planners gave hearty approval Feb. 5 to a new $13,000 project outside Ocean Beach Elementary School calling for a raised, concrete crosswalk with curb cuts that will allow wheelchair access and act as a speed bump.          Photo by Tony de Garate I The Beacon
Local planners gave hearty approval Feb. 5 to a new $13,000 project outside Ocean Beach Elementary School calling for a raised, concrete crosswalk with curb cuts that will allow wheelchair access and act as a speed bump. Photo by Tony de Garate I The Beacon
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“I get more cheers than jeers,” said Joseph Piña, the parent who a couple of years ago decided something had to be done about all the harried drivers and near-misses threatening the safe arrival and departure of youngsters at Ocean Beach Elementary.

The thank-yous are heart-warming and memorable for Piña, the first parent to step forward after the school had discontinued its student crosswalk guards. Recently, Piña got a big hug from a misty-eyed mother who spotted him in his neon-yellow vest that says “Emma’s Dad” on the back. She told him to keep up the good work.

Yet Piña also hears pushback from some drivers who snub the handful of volunteers and their efforts. There’s a particularly cringe-worthy comment some make that belies the orange cones, sandwich-board signs that say “School Crossing” and high-energy volunteers who work smack-dab in the middle of the 4700 block of Santa Monica Avenue where mostly kindergarten-age kids cross.

“It’s not a real crosswalk,” one driver said mockingly.

It’s a remark usually borne of frustration from parents who are too time-depraved to observe laws — and common-sense practices — when it comes to double parking, U-turns, hurried drop-offs and three-minute parking zones.

But when the Ocean Beach Planning Board this month voted on what to do about that curious spot that has two parallel lines that were originally painted yellow but then topped with black paint days later because of a city miscue, the decision brought nothing but cheers.

The board Feb. 5 settled what supporters hope is the final detail holding up construction of a new, “real” crosswalk. After hearing audience members sound off on four options, the board voted unanimously in favor of the “shovel-ready” alternative: a raised, concrete crosswalk with curb cuts that will allow wheelchair access and act as a speed bump.

The project will cost around $13,000 and already has the necessary funding, said John Ly, aide to District 2 San Diego City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer, who sought the board’s help to reach a consensus on the design.

Some parents had expressed support for an alternative that eliminated curb cuts, with the speed bump/crosswalk flush with the sidewalk. The design, based on a crosswalk at the Belly-Up Tavern in Solana Beach, could have included landscaping and features intended to improve accessibility and stormwater flow.

But when Ly revealed it would require further design and cost more than $60,000, support for that alternative evaporated and swung to the “take-the-money-and-run” option, as Piña put it.

“As long as we can at least get something to slow people down,” said Suzy Reid, a mother of two Ocean Beach Elementary students who holds leadership positions on the school’s Site Governance Team and School Site Council. “All of our parents are really looking forward to this. We’ve been talking about this for years.”

A timeline was not available. Gary Pence, the city’s senior traffic engineer for the project, said in an email he needed time to work out details between the school and the city’s Streets Division.

The yellow-line crosswalk that used to be there is an oddity of almost folkloric proportion. Immediately after it was painted, the city realized it committed a violation because a mid-block crosswalk has to be accompanied by a streetlight.

When a work crew returned days later, it laid down black paint directly on top of the yellow lines without blending, so the outlines are still prominent.

Public pressure for a streetlight intensified last year. It was installed on the south side of Santa Monica Avenue two months ago.

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