Some Pacific Beach neighbors want the brakes put on the Slow Streets pilot program on Diamond Street from Mission Boulevard to Haines Street, claiming it is adversely impacting their neighborhood and is no longer needed.
The Slow Streets pilot program was introduced by former Mayor Kevin Faulconer to make it safer during COVID for San Diegans to walk and bike by creating more space for physical distancing and reducing congested foot traffic at parks, beaches, and outdoor trails. The program involved the City closing select streets to through traffic to optimize pedestrian and cyclist use to prioritize cost-effective transportation for essential workers during a time of economic strain and decreased transit service. This included erecting temporary barriers and signage, allowing residents to move about their neighborhood while practicing safe social distancing.
But some PB residents, like Jennifer Sprofera on Diamond Street, argue instead that slow streets are less safe and have diminished residents’ safety, privacy and quality of life.
“In spite of it saying ‘not a through street,’ many (drivers) still use it as such,” said Sprofera. “Because [Diamond] was such a high-traffic street, it made no sense to take that from us. It was the east-west route with protected four-way stops at each intersection and a light to cross over Ingraham. Now drivers using other streets must worry about being T-boned. And on Diamond, when crossing north to south, you must worry about crashing into a bike, scooter, skater or pedestrian in the middle of the road.”
“Slow streets are a way to encourage walking, biking, skating and other people-powered transportation by creating spaces where driving isn't prioritized,” said Slow Streets supporter and PB resident Katie Machete. “We know that higher-speed roads are more dangerous for everyone, and we consistently hear complaints from the community about speeding in Pacific Beach. Slow Streets are one way to slow drivers down and protect our most vulnerable roadway users, which is especially important on Diamond Street adjacent to PB Middle School and the PB Rec Center.”
“But Slow Streets offer even more benefits than just safety: over and over we hear how much people love having extra space to exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and connect with their neighbors,” continued Machete. “We hope our Slow Street in Pacific Beach can become a model for other neighborhoods as we rethink the best ways to share our roadway space.”
Neighbor Cindy Van Voorhis agreed with Sprofera.
“Making our streets safer and building on a sense of community are excellent motives, but this closure does not achieve these goals, and the City is putting our citizens’ lives and property at risk for this pet project with no merit,” she claimed. “Our streets are not made safer by creating a complex driving pattern with a myriad of new accident-prone opportunities in a community that ranks both fourth and fifth as the most dangerous driving zone in the city with a demographic of densely-populated highest-risk drivers and tourists.”
Added Van Voorhis: “Diamond Street residents are not safer from criminal behavior or public nuisance because [Slow Streets] creates an increased demand on our already-challenged public and traffic safety resources. This is not eco-friendly because it will cause increased congestion.
“Our City has not performed due diligence or good-faith efforts to explore the wide-ranging impacts this will have on our community. If this precedent is established, not one resident homeowner in this entire City will be protected from this method of haphazard unilateral drastic remapping of our communities.”
Proponents on the other hand contend Slow Streets work effectively slowing drivers and protecting vulnerable non-motorized users while opening streets up more equitably to all users.
PB community activist Regina Sinsky-Crosby concurred with Machete’s view that Slow Streets has successfully promoted traffic safety while encouraging public street access.
“We have a neighborhood begging for slower streets,” she said. “To get the slow we need, we must celebrate and encourage the City to support the slow we have. The Slow Streets, the PB Pathway and our bike lanes are wonderful starts to a holistic, slow infrastructure. I hope Diamond is not only sustained but the start of more, connected, slow streets in PB.”
Added Sinsky-Crosby: “PB has a history of telling people what they can’t do. No skateboarding. No scooters. It doesn’t work. Instead, let’s try welcoming these things by creating specific, safe and enjoyable spaces and pathways for all types of mobility and ability to be enjoyed. Diamond Street is doing just that.”
Neighbors Jessica and Mike Moore believe Slow Streets has had unintended negative consequences on Diamond Street.
“We are not opposed to Slow Streets, we are opposed to Slow Streets on our densely congested main artery that was done inappropriately with zero input from the community,” said Jessica Moore, adding, “We’re just worried somebody is going to get hurt.”
“Slow Streets has been in effect for 11 months,” pointed out Mike Moore. “The initial note was that this would be temporary due to an increase in pedestrian and biking activity when the boardwalk was shut down. Diverting traffic to other streets has completely disrupted the natural flow of traffic in PB.”
Mike Moore added: “Local residents on these streets are ‘not’ happy with the closure of Diamond. [Prior to Slow Streets] we had issues with drivers speeding down our street. There were two dog deaths, a skateboarder hit and numerous car accidents. Five years ago, I worked with the City to designate four-way stops at Missouri and Fanuel and Missouri and Gresham. All other Slow Streets have been canceled throughout the city, except the Diamond closure.”
“There’s a strong possibility that the City is in violation of California Codes 830/835,” contended Van Voorhis. “Our tax dollars are at stake in this irresponsible behavior because if an accident occurs during this closure, the City will be held liable in a court of law.”