Laguna Village work OK'd, but no stoplight

The Laguna Village Shopping Center in San Luis Obispo will get a wider driveway and streamlined access, but no stoplight for now, the City Council decided Tuesday night.

The council voted 3-2 to approve the $85,000 plan, which was prompted by the center’s business owners lobbying for a stoplight that would create an intersection between the Laguna Village driveway on Madonna Road and Pereira Drive.

The decision followed nearly six months of discussion between city staff and representatives for the shopping center, who said a stoplight would alleviate traffic congestion and improve access.

Mayor Dave Romero and City Councilman Allen Settle voted against a phased plan that did not include the stoplight. They both said they would prefer to add the stoplight immediately.

Kristie Molina, owner of the shopping center, will pay for the improvements and future modifications, such as the stoplight.

“It is for our survival,” Molina said. “That is how important these improvements are.” City staff has strongly advised against a stoplight. They said it would create even more safety problems and traffic congestion at the intersection.

However, public works staff told the council Tuesday that additional traffic studies have indicated that a signal might improve access.

The council agreed to a phased approach to begin immediately that widens the shopping center’s driveways, removes some sycamore trees on Madonna Road to increase visibility and changes the traffic lane configuration on westbound Madonna Road to prevent traffic from backing up in front of the shopping center.

The traffic conditions will be monitored for one year following completion of those improvements. If additional improvement is needed, a stoplight will be added at Pereira Drive.

However, if the light causes traffic to back up in front of the fire station on the corner of Madonna and Los Osos Valley roads, the light will be removed and a partial signal to control traffic in and out of the center will replace the four-way signal.

The city restricted left turns from Madonna Road into the center in 2007 in response to a high rate of broadside and pedestrian accidents. The move irritated business owners, who say it has hurt their sales.

In September, Molina agreed to pay the fine of anyone who was ticketed for making an illegal left turn into the plaza.

Molina said it was unfair that customers were penalized for doing what they did for years before the city took away the ability to turn left legally off Madonna Road in 2007.

That left turn will be restored with the first phase of improvements.