The Morgan Hill City Council might be asking the city’s voters this November if any future lane reduction on Monterey Road through the downtown should be approved by popular electoral vote.
The council is scheduled to consider placing the Monterey Road measure on the Nov. 8 ballot at the April 6 meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 7pm. Those who want to participate in the meeting remotely may do so by visiting https://bit.ly/MHCityCouncilMeeting or calling 669.900.9128. Public comments can be spoken during the meeting or by emailing [email protected]
The city’s cost to place a local measure on that ballot is about $61,502, according to a city staff report.
The citizens’ measure is titled, “The Citizens’ Initiative Amending The General Plan To Require Voter Approval of Any Future Monterey Road Lane Reduction.” If the council approves the Nov. 8 ballot measure and it passes by a majority vote, another ballot measure would be required in the future if the city wants to implement a Monterey Road lane reduction.
City staff are recommending that the council vote to place the measure on the ballot. Alternatively, the council could adopt the ordinance as it is written, without requiring a popular vote.
City staff at the April 6 meeting will also present an initiative impact report that has been compiled over the past month—after the council voted to accept the certified initiative petition that obtained more than 2,800 signatures. The initiative was led by Morgan Hill residents Sally Casas and Armando Benavides, and under state election law required signatures from at least 10% of the city’s registered voters (2,796 signatures out of 27,956 registered voters).
Many city officials and downtown business owners over the years have strived to reduce Monterey Road to one lane in each direction from Dunne to Main avenues. The effort is part of the city’s “Complete Streets/Lane Reduction Program” vision, which seeks to improve safety and make the neighborhood more attractive to visitors by slowing down vehicle traffic and encouraging more walking and cycling.
The current council has been more divided on the potential narrowing of Monterey Road through downtown. In May 2021, the council voted 3-2 to proceed with the design of the Lane Reduction and Complete Streets efforts. Council members Rene Spring and Yvonne Martinez Beltran voted against the program.
“The intent of the Monterey Road Lane Reduction program and associated place branding beautification program has been to support the downtown as a growing, vibrant, pedestrian friendly business district,” says a portion of the initiative impact report completed by city staff.
In 2015, the city conducted an experimental “road diet” that closed one lane of Monterey Road in each direction from Dunne to Main avenues. During that pilot program, vehicle traffic counts decreased on Monterey Road, and increased on other roads bypassing downtown—especially Butterfield Boulevard and Wright Avenue, according to the impact report.
“According to traffic studies, the construction of Hale Avenue will significantly reduce the number of vehicles using Monterey Road through the downtown,” says the impact report. “The Hale Avenue Extension is currently under construction, but it is not estimated to be completed until late 2023.”
The initiative impact report does not identify any significant quantifiable impacts to the lane reduction initiative. If the lane reduction program is not implemented, the city would save the estimated $95,000 it would cost to do so.
Two properties on Monterey Road currently under development—the Granada Hotel and the future site of the Edes Art Gallery at the intersection of West Second Street—would likely benefit from a lane reduction and slower traffic speeds, says the impact report.
The Monterey Road Lane Reduction Program is “supported by numerous General Plan policies and goals,” including the Downtown Specific Plan, Economic Blueprint and Vision Zero traffic safety program, the impact report adds.
The initiative proponents began collecting signatures in June 2021, and submitted the petition to city staff and election officials in December. The council voted March 2 to accept the certified petition and to conduct the initiative impact report.
In January, the council directed staff to implement a Traffic Mitigation plan, which includes re-synchronizing traffic signals along Butterfield Boulevard during rush hour; redesign of downtown traffic lanes; installation of pedestrian safety bollards; a contract for a new Property Based Improvement District for the downtown; and more details forthcoming on a possible downtown parklet program.
That was also a 3-2 council vote, with Spring and Martinez Beltran in dissent.
Opponents of the lane reduction effort have argued that it would lead to further congestion of commuter traffic through Morgan Hill, where Monterey Road has long served as a direct route for travelers from the north and south.