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Grover Beach residents criticize delays on North Oak Park projects 

For years, Grover Beach residents have complained that stretches of North Oak Park Boulevard are confusing and dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians to navigate. And despite a recent fatality at one particularly notorious intersection of the roadway, community members will have to continue their wait for change.

click to enlarge PENDING At its Feb. 3 meeting, Grover Beach City Council further delayed a discussion on traffic safety issues at North Oak Park Boulevard, citing a pending investigation into the death of an Arroyo Grande resident who was hit and killed on Jan. 21 while attempting to cross the road on foot. - FILE PHOTO BY KASEY BUBNASH
  • File Photo By Kasey Bubnash
  • PENDING At its Feb. 3 meeting, Grover Beach City Council further delayed a discussion on traffic safety issues at North Oak Park Boulevard, citing a pending investigation into the death of an Arroyo Grande resident who was hit and killed on Jan. 21 while attempting to cross the road on foot.

Grover Beach City Council voted at a meeting on Feb. 3 to delay a discussion on potential safety improvement projects for North Oak Park Boulevard, citing the pending and multi-agency investigation into the death of Justin Kissinger, a 33-year-old Arroyo Grande resident who was hit and killed on Jan. 21 while attempting to cross North Oak Park Boulevard on foot.

The decision was met with outrage from community members who live near the intersection of North Oak Park Boulevard and Brighton Avenue, which sits just feet from where Kissinger was killed.

"Two weeks ago, a young man died in front of my house," Grover Beach resident Susie Reade told council members at the Feb. 3 meeting. "He was killed by a combination of speed and stupid. Although you can do nothing to address stupid, you do have the power and the obligation to address the speed on North Oak Park."

Reade said the city should install a four-way stop at the intersection of North Oak Park and Brighton, that a lit-up crosswalk should only be added once the four-way stop is in place, and that any potential safety measures should not be delayed because of the investigation into Kissinger's death.

"As a neighborhood, as a community," Reade said, "we urge you to take immediate action to protect the public from this most dangerous and deadly intersection."

Several other residents agreed and questioned whether the investigation into Kissinger's death would really give city staff any new insights into what safety measures should be taken on North Oak Park Boulevard. To community members, including Kissinger's sister, Terra Kissinger, the solutions are obvious.

In an emailed statement to New Times, Terra said her brother's death could have been avoided.

Terra's brother was hit after sundown, and many residents have long complained that stretches of North Oak Park Boulevard are too dark at night. Terra said street lights need to be installed on the road, along with marked crosswalks. She visits the site of her brother's accident frequently and said she still sees residents illegally crossing the road.

It shouldn't take a tragedy like hers for improvements to be made, she said.

"This has been the hardest thing I have ever had to go through," Terra wrote to New Times. "My brother was 33 years old, and this shouldn't have happened."

But city staff and council members say they want to have all the facts about the incident before making any decisions regarding how to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.

The city has been mulling over possible changes to portions of North Oak Park for some time now, and City Council members were scheduled to discuss several potential safety improvement projects for the road on the evening Kissinger was killed. Decisions regarding those possible changes—including the installation of marked crosswalks, traffic-calming and speed-reduction measures, and better intersection striping—were delayed when word of the fatality spread.

That discussion will be postponed indefinitely, according to Mayor Jeff Lee, until the investigation into the death is completed. Right now, Lee said, there are still many unknowns.

"It's definitely not an easy situation," Lee told New Times, "and when there is a fatality, or in any situation where there's loss of life, it's always heart-wrenching."

Still, he said, North Oak Park Boulevard is a four-lane road leading to the 101 that carries about 15,000 vehicles a day. It's grown from a residential roadway to a regional thoroughfare, and with heavier traffic comes an increase in collisions.

"So there's quite a bit of traffic," Lee said, "and there's an expectation that it's still a much smaller and less active road that [residents] remember from 15 to 20 years ago." Δ

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