Council adds crossing guards near Shorecliffs Middle School

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The selected image: Elizabeth Sullivan, a San Clemente sergeant for about 20 years, escorts Laurie Headrick, a teacher assistant at Marblehead Elementary School, through the intersection of Vista Hermosa and Via Turqueza on Wednesday morning December 15. Five other crossing guards like Sullivan will soon be stationed on Vista. Hermosa, near Shorecliffs Middle School, to help manage a well-known and dangerous intersection near I-5. Photo: Shawn Raymundo

By C. Jayden Smith

Parents of students at Shorecliffs Middle School can now breathe easier in the morning, as city council voted unanimously last week to add five crossing guards near campus.

The move is another step in an ongoing saga in which parents and local teachers worry about the safety of young students crossing the intersections of Interstate 5 northbound and Avenida Vista Hermosa.

The council voted to change the city crossing guards contract for the 2021-22 school year, stationing three more guards at the I-5 and Vista Hermosa intersection at the start of the next semester. Originally, the meeting agenda only listed a credit of $ 16,077.60 to add two guards at the intersection of Vista Hermosa and Outlets / Shorecliffs access road.

Kiel Koger, San Clemente public works manager and city engineer, said the city will spend an additional $ 25,000 to park the three guards near the I-5 intersection.

Safety concerns reached their highest level after an incident reported on August 25 in which a child on an electric bicycle was struck by a vehicle attempting to turn onto Vista Hermosa from the I-5 exit.

The driver posted details on Nextdoor and was planning to speak at the December 7 board meeting, but was denied a chance to do so as a public hearing on another topic took a long time. Several other parents and children who were present to defend the student safety measures also left early.

Amy Swanson, mother of a Shorecliffs student who she said was not walking to school due to previous road hazards, spoke at the meeting. She filed an investigation and demand with city council several months ago, which ultimately brought the contract amendment to the meeting’s agenda.

Swanson said in an interview on Dec. 10 that she had walked through the I-5 intersection several times and that made her and other parents in the Marblehead community “very nervous”.

“After the release of Nextdoor, a relative contacted me and asked if I could weigh in on the situation to see if we could get a permanent fix on it,” she continued.

She then called the city, the California Department of Transportation and CUSD administrator Lisa Davis to determine who was responsible for adding crossing guards and fixing the intersection.

During Swanson’s public comment to council, she expressed her displeasure with the Town Staff Agenda report which failed to include a finding that crossing guards were needed at intersection I -5, in addition to the Vista Hermosa / Shorecliffs access road.

“I ask you to demand an explanation from your staff, I ask you to listen to the people in your town, I ask you to protect your children and I ask for adult crossing guards at this intersection,” says Swanson.

Mayor Gene James said after the public comments ended there was a general consensus that the way the northbound exit was “terribly” was designed.

“Anyone who’s ever made a right turn on a red (light) out there will know that to make a right turn on a red, you as the driver… have to get completely into the lane of the crosswalk,” James said.

James then brought forward a motion to deliver the three additional crossing guards at the I-5 intersection, which received support from other council members, who also commented on the danger of the area.

Koger explained that the city did not recommend adding three crossing guards at the I-5 / Hermosa intersection because it only met one of the three necessary criteria: volume of pedestrians, conflicts with vehicles and distance. visibility for drivers.

He also responded to criticism that the city was leading a “wait-and-see approach” with Caltrans, who could also step in to help resolve the issue. He said city staff were waiting for the state agency to complete its survey of the intersection before reviewing whether to add guards.

Caltrans was studying the geometry of the area at the time of the council meeting, according to Koger.

“They said they could possibly reorient the two crosswalks to make them more visible,” he said. “Geometrically speaking, that makes sense. They said they could possibly add signs, other bells and whistles, to get the attention of people (in) that area.

Cars using the Vista Hermosa exit may make a “free right turn” into a lane not controlled by a signal but accessible to pedestrians. The bend is approached by vehicles coming from the direction of the Outlets in San Clemente and heading northbound on the I-5 freeway.

“In the end it would be amazing if they put in place pedestrian access on both sides of the road, bike paths and all the things you need for good walking trips, but that would require the bridge to be redone, and I don’t. see Caltrans do that, ”Swanson said Dec. 10.

She added that with the new San Clemente Outlets cinema appealing to kids, she and other parents know more needs to be done.

The amendment is intended to respond to the urgency of the matter while waiting for Caltrans to complete its study and take action.

“The unanimous decision of city council to approve crossing guards to make our children safer to and from school is a very good step towards addressing this bridge at the I-5 intersection,” Swanson said. .

the San Clemente schedule has contacted both the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and Caltrans for comment. Neither was available for comment at the time this story was posted.

C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before earning a bachelor’s degree in digital and audiovisual journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden enjoys college football and bothers his dark lab named Shadow.

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