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Santa Barbara Will Consider Raising Speed Limit Near Cabrillo Boulevard Playground

The Ordinance Committee recommends several speed limit changes in the city, including a decrease in the Oak Park area

The Santa Barbara Ordinance Committee is recommending several changes to city street speed limits. Among them is a proposed change for the playground zone on Cabrillo Boulevard, raising it to 30 miles per hour from 25 mph.
The Santa Barbara Ordinance Committee is recommending several changes to city street speed limits. Among them is a proposed change for the playground zone on Cabrillo Boulevard, raising it to 30 miles per hour from 25 mph.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

Raising the speed limits in front of Chase Palm Park on Cabrillo Boulevard will be one of the changes in local speed limits likely to go before the Santa Barbara City Council for a decision next Tuesday.

That came after the city's Ordinance Committee unanimously forwarded the changes Tuesday to the full council, which will make the ultimate decision on whether to change speed limits at various locations across Santa Barbara.

One of those areas up for a change is the portion of Cabrillo Boulevard between Garden Street and Calle Cesar Chavez, which currently has a 25 miles-per-hour speed limit and city staff have recommended it be raised to 30 mph because that's closer to what most people in the area drive anyway.

Traffic engineer Derrick Bailey said that the California Vehicle Code has requirements on how speed limits can be changed, and a survey must be done to see how fast people are actually driving on the streets, and then set a speed limit based on prevailing speeds.

"We do have to follow the procedures when establishing speed limits," he said.

If the city were to put up speeds that they felt were appropriate but didn't follow state code, the laws would not be enforceable, Bailey said.

Bailey told Noozhawk after Tuesday's meeting that the city gets many request to lower speed limits because many people think that will slow drivers down.

"The reality is that most drivers will drive at a speed they feel is reasonable given the roadway conditions, regardless of what the actual speed limit is," he said, adding that the 25 mph zone on Cabrillo Boulevard is a great example because it is "widely disregarded."

"Most drivers are driving in the low-to-mid 30s," he said. "By setting the speed limit based on actual travel speeds, as required per the California Vehicle Code, we are legalizing what most drivers are already doing. The high-end speeds — the upper 15 percent — are those that exceed the speed limits, and are typically those that the police target for enforcement."

The city also looks at other factors beside speed, like the configuration of the road, bicycle and pedestrian collisions, and other factors, but "that really only tells us whether we should round up or down 5 miles an hour," he said.

In addition to changes on Cabrillo, the city is proposing four new speed limit zones — two on Cliff Drive and two on Las Positas Road.

Bailey said people have asked if the speed limit could be lowered in those areas.

"The answer is no, based on the speed data of what people are driving," he said, adding that people on Las Positas continue to drive 55 miles per hour, the speed limit there.

A speed limit of 55 mph will remain on Las Positas road, from Cliff Drive to a point 870-feet north of Las Positas Place.

Cliff Drive would also have a speed limit of 40 mph from Loma Alta Drive to Las Positas.

The streets on Bath and Castillo, north of Mission, were recommended to be dropped to 25 miles per hour, as well as Calle Real between Oak Park and Las Positas, be dropped from 40 down to 30 mph.

The changes to Cabrillo Boulevard would expand a 30 mph zone from Castillo Street to Calle Cesar Chavez. The area of Cabrillo between Calle Cesar Chavez to Highway 101 would be 35 mph, if the changes are approved.

Bailey said the playground on Cabrillo is fenced off from the north side and the crossings are focused at traffic lights, so safety concerns when the park was built "never materialized."

The city will also be putting up more consistent signage along the roadway, he said.

Councilman Randy Rowse, chair of the Ordinance Committee, said that with all of the construction in the lower State Street area, "nobody will be doing 30 mph for at least two years."

The changes would also extend a 35 mph zone along Shoreline Drive from Castillo Street to La Marina.

The city is also looking at extending those zone to 1,000 feet near Roosevelt Elementary, Notre Dame Santa Barbara and Monroe Elementary schools.

Local agencies can extend a school zone from 500 feet to 1,000 feet with a local ordinance, and the 25 mph speed limit applies in that zone during school hours.

Some of the places where children are crossing the street are farther away from school at those locations, Bailey said.

Santa Barbara Police Sgt. Mike Brown said that extending the zone will attempt to slow down drivers before they reach the school.

"We're not catching them until they're at the school area," he said. "It just makes it safer for everyone around."

Public comment only brought out one speaker, who said that increased speeds increase the severity of injury exponentially if a pedestrian or cyclist is struck by a vehicle.

Councilwoman Cathy Murillo, another Ordinance Committee member, said she was surprised there weren't more people that commented on the changes.

"This is huge to a lot of people, this is what they want to talk to me about," she said. "I'm glad it's replaying on television. It's a really important discussion."

The speed limit item is tentatively scheduled to go before the full council next Tuesday, and if it approves the changes, the new speed limits will take place 30 days later, Bailey said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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