In its June 26 report, the 2022-23 San Benito County Civil Grand Jury shared its findings and recommendations on Hollister’s traffic calming measures. Noting that the city should be “commended for attempting to be proactive in their response” to mitigate concerns over speeding, the grand jury found the Hollister City Council did not have a formal policy or procedure in place when it implemented the measures. Further, it said the City Council also did not comply with the California Fire Code when it did not seek input from the fire chief or a designee prior to the traffic calming measures’ installation. The grand jury also criticized a lack of record keeping by the City Council.
Interviews were conducted with local government officials, emergency responders, representatives of engineering design consultants Kimley-Horn and the city’s engineering staff. Grand jury members attended council meetings, reviewed past meeting agendas, and met with Kimley-Horn representatives who provided and reviewed data. The jury also examined the state’s fire code and the national and state standards regarding streets and traffic safety. Grand jury members drove on Hollister’s impacted roads and investigated the way neighboring communities handled their traffic concerns.
The city obtained grants in 2018 to institute a series of traffic calming measures. A citizen complaint about unsafe road conditions prompted City Council members to request a traffic study.
The study, conducted by Kimley-Horn, had to show at least 85% of the traffic was driving 5 or more miles per hour above the designated speed limit to trigger a recommendation from the firm that some form of traffic calming was needed. Data as to the number of vehicles and their speed traveling on residential streets with 25 mph or 35 mph speed zones was collected and studied.
Traffic calming measures were implemented beginning in 2019. By October 2019, Kimley-Horn shared its concerns with the city council that emergency vehicles’ response times could be negatively affected by the traffic calming measures.
The cost of each speed cushion study was $23,000. The installation of each speed cushion, bump or table location was estimated at $11,000. The cost of traffic calming measures for Ladd Lane and Southside Road was $687,000.
Fire and vehicle codes
The grand jury said it was unclear whether the fire department had been involved in the decision making process, but noted it was “undeniably evident” there was a lack of formal process and recordkeeping in seeking the fire department’s approval.
California Fire Code section 503.4.1 states “Traffic calming devices shall be prohibited unless approved by the fire code official.” Community recommendations were also found to be “limited,” the grand jury wrote.
School personnel, drivers, neighbors and pedestrians have also expressed frustration over the measures taken on the Ladd Lane and Southside Road. The student drop-off and pick-up process is already compromised, in that Southbound Ladd Lane comes to a dead-end and eastbound Southside Road is also dead-end. No other surface streets are accessible to the school for cars to park and on-site school parking is “critically limited,” the report noted.
The traffic calming roundabouts, lane narrowing, visual bulb outs and roadway delineators on both streets have also created a wide space between the drive lane and the sidewalk, prohibiting vehicles from pulling over to the curb, thus prohibiting “drivers from complying with California Vehicle Code section 21806 which states that drivers in California must yield to emergency vehicles when they are using sirens or at least one visible red light,” the report said.
Hollister Mayor Mia Casey told BenitoLink the City Council is now taking steps to pause ongoing traffic calming measures. A council meeting on the issue is set for Aug. 21.
“We do need to work collaboratively with our fire department as needed to develop this and other new policies,” Casey said. “The traffic calming policy is underway and should come back to City Council in the near future.”
The civil grand jury report recommended the City Council and Hollister Fire Department develop policies and procedures for working collaboratively and on future traffic calming measures, and that the City Council develop formal policies and procedures for how they determine future calming measures, including the canvassing of residents about the streets involved.
“The city of Hollister takes great consideration of the civil grand jury report’s findings and recommendations,” Hollister interim City Manager David Mirrione told BenitoLink. “With respect to the grand jury process, staff will present written responses regarding the report’s findings and recommendations within the allotted time frame.”
The council is required to respond to the grand jury’s recommendations within 90 days of the report’s release.
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