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Sebastappeal by Sarah Glade Gurney

Safety on Our Streets

Jun 26, 2018
by Sarah Glade Gurney

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Ragle Road and Bodega Avenue – Joint App: Sebastopol submitted a joint grant application with the County of Sonoma for funds from Caltrans’ Active Transportation Program [ATP]. The goal of the ATP is to fund projects that increase bicycling and walking [the physically active modes of transportation], like the construction of trails, bike lanes, pedestrian beacons, or crosswalks. 

Our application addresses two roads shared by the City and County: Ragle Road and Bodega Avenue. Proposed improvements would enhance connectivity on the west side of town by linking portions of our respective bike/ped networks. They would also create better and safer access to Ragle Ranch Park and several public schools, significantly for nearby people considered “disadvantaged.”

Two aspects to our application stand out to make it competitive: first, the collaboration between the City and the County, namely Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins; and, secondly, our community engagement.

Thank you to the 70+ people who participated in the public forum in June and to those who later submitted the online “report card” giving feedback about design features to our consultant. Thanks, too, to the citizen volunteers from the surrounding neighborhoods who collected signatures on letters of support for the application. The City may hear back by next December.

Status Update: Sebastopol awaits completion of two pending projects along the Bodega Avenue Safety Corridor: the HAWK [High intensity Activated crossWalK] at the intersection at Nelson Way and the PAWB [Pedestrian Activated Warning Beacon] at Ragle Road.

Henry Mikus, the City’s Engineering Manager, reported to the Council that the HAWK has been delayed another 6 weeks due to PG&E’s discovery that its power pole needs replacement. Dissatisfied with this slow timeline, Mayor Slayter and Staff contacted PG&E to make this project a higher priority. Meanwhile, Supervisor Hopkins secured $25,000 of TOT money(transient occupancy tax on tourist lodging) for the City to use on construction of the HAWK.

Better news - PAWB at Ragle Road: it could be installed by Labor Day. 

New Traffic Corridor Safety Studies: Three sections of Highway 116 will be the subject of future safety studies: (1) the northerly two-way section from Mill Station to Main Street; (2) the one-way couplet area; and (3) the two-way section on So. Gravenstein. The first step is writing and sending out a Request for Proposal [RFP] asking for bids from consultants who will analyze the trouble spots in each section.

Pedestrian Safety Initiatives: Tasha Beauchamp, Co-Chair of Cittaslow Sebastopol, worked with Police Chief James Conner to create several pedestrian safety initiatives for August and September.

A Traffic Hot Line will open on August 1. Callers can register complaints on this telephone number. To date, the SPD only tracks calls requesting officer assistance. The new Hot Line will record information about frustrating and dangerous situations and identify the hot spots in town that need to be fixed. 

The SPD plans Right of Way Stings [ROW] for late August-early September. These publicized “decoy” operations will raise awareness of ROW problems and increase ROW compliance. Publicizing this “sting” practice will reach 1000 drivers for every single ticket written. The PR alone could change behaviors for the better.

In September,  Cittaslow will initiate a Pedestrian Safety Survey. The Survey will ask for ideas and feedback about proposed educational initiatives for drivers and pedestrians.

Future Discussion of Street Camping: Chief Conner provided a detailed report on the RVs parked overnight on Morris Street and how little can be done about them. Several business people and customers raised this issue to the Council earlier in June and returned in July. They voiced concerns about safety and visual blight.

The Chief commented that the practice of sleeping overnight in a car or RV on public streets is not limited to Sebastopol. It arises from the housing crisis, more than from the October 2017 firestorm, and occurs regionally and statewide. Street camping has shifted to “industrial” areas, where the perception is that fewer people will be troubled by the campers’ presence than in residential neighborhoods. The Council explored the issues and asked Staff to return with some possible solutions.

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