San Juan Hills High School students who walk to and from campus along a San Juan Capistrano utility access road won’t have to worry about the city closing the trail.
Nor must they worry about the city banning short-term parking along a stretch of Camino Lacouague, a dead-end street currently used by parents as a drop-off and pickup point reached from San Juan Creek Road.
The City Council voted 3-2 on Sept. 5 to leave the status quo mostly intact. Steve May, public works and utilities director, said it seems to be working well.
Council members made it clear they didn’t want to close the half-mile trail, and city staff said pushing the drop-off/pickup point out onto San Juan Creek Road could have unintended consequences.
Since the school opened in 2007, some neighborhood residents have voiced concerns about traffic congestion on Camino Lacouage on school days — students walking in the street, illegal U turns, students’ cars filling up a nearby park’s parking lot, vandalism, concerns about safety and concerns about privacy.
A 2016 letter from attorneys for the Hunters Creek homeowner association to the Capistrano Unified School District put the district on notice about safety concerns on Camino Lacouage.
City staff said the biggest impact is in the afternoon and only lasts about 15 minutes. “A big rush, and it’s over,” May said. In the morning it lasts longer, he said – fewer cars but more spread out.
Sheriff’s Lt. Scott Spaulding said vehicle speeds are low, parent drivers look out for the students, students are aware of the cars, drivers perform U turns in a safe manner and he was unable to find any record of traffic incidents causing injury since San Juan Hills High opened.
Spaulding said that because it’s a dead-end street, there are no signs banning U turns and U turns would not be enforceable in court unless done unsafely.
City Manager Ben Siegel said about 200 students per day use the trail as a shortcut to and from the high school. This avoids their parents having to use a much longer route by car and add to traffic jams on Avenida La Pata and Stallion Ridge, to and from the campus.
The city is experiencing serious traffic impacts at the entrance to the school, Siegel said, and use of the trail and Camino Lacouague helps reduce those impacts.
“We’ve had a lot of police resources and traffic safety issues at that intersection over the initial two weeks of school,” Siegel said.
City staff presented four options – close…