San Ysidro Roundabout at MBAR

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   January 2, 2020

Next Thursday, January 9, the roundabout slated for the intersection of San Ysidro Road and North Jameson Lane will be in front of the Montecito Board of Architectural Review for conceptual review. This is the first public hearing on the project design at the County level, after Santa Barbara County’s Deputy Director of Transportation Chris Sneddon and consultant Kirsten Ayars presented a broad overview of the project to the Coast Village Association and Montecito Association in October and November, respectively. The Montecito Association’s Land Use Committee will preview the newest renderings and design at 4 pm next Tuesday, January 7. 

The project, which we have reported on for the last several years, is coming to fruition as part of a trio of parallel projects to improve local traffic issues in conjunction with the widening of Highway 101. These parallel projects also include a roundabout at Olive Mill and Coast Village Road, and the replacement of the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge on Cabrillo Blvd, which also features a new roundabout at the intersection of Los Patos Way, Channel Drive, and East Cabrillo Blvd (we’ll have more on that roundabout in a future edition). 

The parallel projects were given the green light by Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) in 2014, and County staff quickly found that the intersection at San Ysidro Road and North Jameson operated at a service level of “F” during the peak rush hours in the morning and afternoon. A 2017 analysis performed by Kittelson & Associates outlined a number of alternatives for both sides of the San Ysidro Road bridge, including roundabouts at both intersections on San Ysidro (one near the Miramar and one at North Jameson), as well as alternatives showing various combinations of all-way stops, traffic lights, and roundabouts. The recommendation was a combination of a roundabout at the north intersection and all-way-stop control at the south intersection, as that combination is the least impactful and most cost effective, according to Sneddon. This configuration will also address potential backups on the freeway off-ramps and improve safety for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, which has increased since the opening of the Rosewood Miramar Resort in 2018. 

The County is seeking public input on the design of the project, which seeks to improve pedestrian safety in part by lowering the speed of traffic through the intersection. Back in October, Sneddon pointed out that the intersection is extremely unsafe for pedestrians, as it clumsily includes traffic from North Jameson, San Ysidro, the northbound entrance and exit of Highway 101. With the expanse of asphalt, drivers and pedestrians are often confused as to whose turn it is to traverse the intersection. 

The new roundabout, which is located in the public right-of-way, ties each flow of traffic into a single-lane roundabout, similar to the roundabout at Cliff Drive and Las Positas, and breaks up the asphalt with discreet decorative elements appropriate for the semi-rural nature of Montecito, according to project reps. The project includes pedestrian access on every leg of the intersection, including crosswalks that connect with paved walkways through the medians or refuge areas, breaking up the expanse of asphalt into smaller sections for pedestrians to safely cross. The shape of the roundabout is oblong, creating a visual cue to slow cars down to 25 MPH from the currently posted speed of 35 MPH. County reps say that the roundabout will decrease fuel emissions and sound affecting the neighboring homes, as cars will not be idling while waiting at the existing stop signs, and then revving when it’s their turn. The roundabout design will also improve storm water runoff, according to Sneddon. 

The project, once approved, is slated to be built concurrently with the widening of Highway 101, which is estimated to begin 2023-2027. Lumping the project into the freeway widening allows for successful funding of the improvements. The funding is secured through the environmental and permitting phases of the project through Senate Bill 1; the County will apply for continued funding in the spring of 2020, hence the MBAR meeting the first full week of the new year. Ongoing maintenance of the roundabout once it’s completed is to-be-determined, as it will be in both the County and Caltrans’ right-of-way. Maintenance of the roundabout has been an issue brought up by nearby residents, as the roundabout on Coast Village Road and Hot Springs has historically had maintenance – or the lack thereof – issues. The preliminary engineering design of the roundabout is complete, with the preliminary landscaping plan currently in the works.

The hope, according to County reps, is that the improved traffic flow on both the freeway and local surface streets will greatly benefit drivers and residents; major traffic back-ups during the holidays throughout Santa Barbara County are fresh on the minds of community members. The County also promises to work with the surrounding neighborhood to mitigate concerns over sound, speed, safety, landscaping, and more. It’s expected some of the neighbor concerns will be addressed at the MA Land Use meeting on Tuesday. 

The MBAR meeting is on Thursday, January 9, 2020, at 1 pm at the Planning Commission Hearing Room, 123 East Anapamu Street. Documentation for the meeting is expected to be posted online later this week at


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