A resolute contingent of residents opposing a traffic signal at Miramonte Avenue and Covington Road backed by hundreds of petition signatures successfully moved the Los Altos City Council on Tuesday night toward reconsidering the issue.
The council agreed to revisit the topic at a future council meeting, after a previously scheduled May 10 public meeting on the signal’s design.
“My primary question is safety. What is the fundamental reason we are doing this, and is there empirical evidence it enhances safety for children, not motorists, for children?” said Councilmember Ron Packard.
After hearing numerous complaints that the signal would be unsafe for the hundreds of students that use the intersection, council members said they want hard data presented on whether or not the signals will improve or degrade safety.
is from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Grant Park Center, 1570 Holt Ave. It was left up to city staff to determine when to put the issue back on the council’s agenda, although Mayor Val Carpenter advised not waiting long after the May 10 event.
Tuesday’s meeting kicked off with the presentation of a petition signed by 366 residents within a half-mile diameter of the intersection.
Eleven residents stood up during the public comment section of the council meeting to voice their opposition.
This was not the first time—another large group of speakers spoke during public comments at the March 27 meeting to protest—and speakers promised it would not be the last.
As a result, council members said later they were willing to discuss the issue again, even though they had previously approved the project.
“I think that when this many residents speak up on something it causes me to want and sit back and say, lets take another look,” Packard said.
Neighbors living near the intersection called the proposed traffic signal unsafe for students that walk and bike through the intersection en route to Blach Intermediate School, as well as other nearby schools.
“This traffic signal will create a Miramonte highway,” Ed Saadi, who lives near the intersection on Loma Prieta Court, told the council.
As originally proposed by consultant Fehr & Peers, the signal would be a "resting red" signal, which means that all four directions of the intersection have a red light until an oncoming vehicle triggers the signals. In essence, it acts as a four-way stop most of the time. However, during peak hours, it would allow more than one car through the intersection at a time, if no cars were present from the other directions.
Since the light was first discussed at a , at Los Altos High School, residents have contended that the presence of the light will encourage drivers to speed up to catch it, raising speeds, and increasing the danger for pedestrians and bicyclists.
"The issue of the signal just keeps rearing its ugly head," said Saadi, who said he'd appeared before the council four to five times in three years. "No matter how many people voice their opinions against the signal, no matter how many reasons residents give as to the concerns over the safety of their children ... it falls on deaf ears."
Saadi and others said they had no trouble collecting signatures from residents worried about safety. The petition states that the light is unsafe, but gave no facts to support the statement. At least twice council members asked for evidence to back up the claim, but speakers could not immediately produce any.
The safety issue frustrated council members; Councilmember Megan Satterlee pointed out that the original Fehr & Peers study was focused on pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
The neighbors’ other refrain, besides safety, was how a traffic light would degrade the picturesque neighborhood character.
“Last time I checked we live in Los Altos, not Mountain View,” Saadi said.
“Los Altos did not happen by accident,” said Michele Coldiron, who lives near the intersection on Miramonte. “The residents want to keep the small-town feel of the place.”