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Turning left leaving campus reignites controversy in Point Loma

San Diego police issued tickets to several Point Loma Nazarene University students for making illegal turns just outside the school’s front gate in March.

After one of PLNU’s neighbors notified authorities of an increase in traffic, police began patrolling Lomaland Drive and its cross streets, Moana Drive and Tarento Drive.

The San Diego Police Department could not determine the number of tickets given to PLNU students before The Point deadline.

Senior Emily Hill received a ticket for making a left turn on Moana Drive March 20. A police officer flagged Hill down on her way to a bachelorette party after she turned left on Moana.

“While I sat there and he wrote my ticket, about four or five other cars did the exact same thing I had just done,” said Hill via email. “He looked at me, shrugged and said, ‘Well I can’t catch everyone.’”

Hill claims she has never seen the sign during her two years at PLNU and said the ‘no left turn’ sign is inconspicuous.

“I think that putting the no-left turn sign in a different place that is not on top of the stop sign would help with its visibility,” said Hill.

Hill must attend traffic school in addition to paying a $231 ticket.

Hill said the police officer who wrote the ticket mentioned that ‘the community had been complaining about all of the traffic,’ but San Diego Community Relations Officer David Surealo, said it was only one neighbor’s complaint that led to the no left turn enforcement on Moana Drive.

“I just asked for extra patrol after getting an email,” said Surealo via telephone. “A citizen came to a community meeting in early February and was passionate about us enforcing the stop sign [then sent an email afterward].”

Surrealo said he notified the school’s Assistant Director of Public Safety Glen Laster and Director of Public Safety Mark Galbraith, once he received the email that enforcement of the sign would be taking place soon.

The stop sign was installed in 2007 to improve pedestrian safety, according to PLNU’s Report to the Planning Commission.

Neighbors in 2011 petitioned that a four-way stop sign should be added to Hill Street and Tarento Drive, located a block away from Moana Drive.

In 2007 a traffic issue plan called ‘Mitigation for PLNU Traffic Project’ was approved unanimously in the Peninsula Community Planning Board Minutes, but contains little information about what and why it was proposed, though it mentions that a neighbor initiated the plan.

In an article by The Point Weekly from Sept. 9, 1998, Deputy of Traffic Engineering Allen Holden said the reason for the signs was complaints from San Diego council member Byron Wear, a resident along Moana. The complaint resulted in the signs being tested over a period of 90 days. Most residents in this article were concerned about the safety of their children and the speed of student traffic through the area. Initially, one suggestion was a blockade to eliminate traffic completely.

“Paul Grimes, the spokesperson for city councilman Byron Wear, said the new signs were a reasonable compromise for neighbors who live on the street,” the article stated. “According to Grimes, when the school was being built, the university agreed to a conditional use permit, in which temporary blockades would be used and a traffic study would be performed to see the impact. But there was too much opposition, and in a forum in 1994, the city agreed with the university that the barricades should not be installed because of safety problems that would be created.”

A December 1998 Point Weekly article said most of the complaints came from PLNU.

“[The signs] are illegal because you have to do a traffic study before you put in signs, and they didn’t,” said Physical Plant Director Richard Schult to The Point Weekly.

In that same 1998 article, Holden said that the process for putting up signs meant observing the situation, checking visibility of the signs and making sure they are needed. Barry Ryan, the vice president of university relations for PLNU at the time, said the rationale for the signs was related to the conditional use permit (CUP).

“The traffic study mandated by the CUP was not done to the satisfaction of some neighbors, despite the fact that the city engineer said it was fine,” Ryan said.

One student believes the enforcement isn’t stopping people from making left turns on Moana Drive because there are ways to avoid the sign.

“Instead of turning left on Moana [out of PLNU], I turn right into the church parking lot, turn around and then drive straight through the intersection,” said Junior Hannah Carignan via email. “It’s ridiculous that we’re not allowed to turn left there. I think there’s a better way to spend tax dollars.”

Senior Elsa Joaquin pulled over to answer a phone call to avoid getting a ticket for talking and driving, but received one for making the illegal left turn.

“I was driving to get dinner when I received a phone call and to avoid talking on the phone, I quickly reacted and turned left onto Moana,” said Joaquin via email. “If they made the sign bigger it would help, and if it wasn’t above a stop sign and was on my left hand side so I could see it before I turn, that would make it visible.”
Despite the lack of visibility, Hill said that the police officer who issued her ticket said to tell everyone that police officers would “be enforcing this sign from now on.”

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This Point Weekly from Sept. 9, 1998 addressed the no left turn decision.
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