Montecito Union Expedites Pedestrian Safety Plan

Growing Number of Frustrated and Careless Motorists Putting Kids at Risk

<b>CARS VS. KIDS:</b> Traffic congestion around Montecito Union School has prompted its board of trustees to expedite a plan for safer circulation and parking. 
Paul Wellman

A growing number of frustrated and careless motorists in and around the busy intersection of San Ysidro Road and Santa Rosa Lane, where Montecito Union School (MUS) operates across the street from the YMCA, has prompted school officials to expedite their plan to improve the safety of its main drop-off/pickup lots. Walking and biking MUS parents and their children have experienced several vehicular near misses as impatient motorists get backed up behind red lights and crowded crosswalks. As problems mounted, the school posted more signage along San Ysidro and hired crossing guards and off-duty California Highway Patrol officers to better orchestrate the morning and afternoon congestion.

At a June 2 community meeting, Superintendent Tammy Murphy explained that the MUS Board of Trustees recently rescinded its May 3 decision to put a bond measure on the November ballot and will instead draw $2.5 million from school reserves to triple the size of one of its main drop-off/pickup lots and provide designated exit lanes to keep school-related motorists from slowing flow along busy San Ysidro Road.

“This is a big step forward,” Board President Mary Kirkhart said in a statement. “After listening to the compelling urgency to protect our students and the public, the board determined the issue really cannot wait and must be addressed now.” The board also agreed to subject the plan to an environmental impact report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act, though it was debatable whether such a study ​— ​at the cost of $95,000 ​— ​was necessary. “We wanted to leave no stone unturned,” Murphy said. “There’s a high level of scrutiny in this community. We said, ‘Why not do our full, due diligence?’”

The scope of the EIR will also include the school’s broader plan to comprehensively upgrade MUS’s 90-year-old main building and adjacent 60-year-old classrooms now home to kindergarten and 1st grade. The funding for that work would be the focus of a future bond measure, perhaps in 2018, with initial estimates coming in around $13 million. In the meantime, Murphy said the goal is to begin earthmoving on the traffic project next summer and have it completed before the first day of the 2017-18 school year.


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