[Santa Barbara County] Santa Maria Plans Four-Way Stop at Accident-Plagued Intersection

Installation on Union Valley Parkway to come 9 months after 83-year-old woman died in crash at southern edge of city

Blog note: this article references a 2013–14 grand jury report.

A southern Santa Maria intersection where safety concerns were raised following a fatal collision earlier this year will become a four-way stop under a plan approved by the City Council Tuesday night.

After a recent review of traffic volume information and collision data, city staff determined the intersection of Union Valley Parkway and California Boulevard qualifies for additional measures.

“All-way (also known as multi-way) stop control can be useful as a safety measure at intersections if certain traffic conditions exist,” City Engineer David Beas said in a staff report. “The primary purpose of an all-way stop is to assign right-of-way.”

Currently, northbound and southbound drivers on California have stop signs. Traffic along Union Valley Parkway does not. 

Complicating the condition is the slight dip in the road west of the intersection.

Installation of the new signs and related safety measures to note the new all-way stop should be installed by the end of January, Public Works Director Kevin McCune said. 

On Tuesday, a woman walking along the path on Union Valley Parkway responded with “good,” upon learning about the plan to make it a four-way stop.

In a letter to the council, Scott Fina said he often jogs in the area, and crosses the intersection several times a week. 

He said some motorists stop for pedestrians while others don’t, creating a hazardous situation. Additionally, some drivers don’t appear to notice pedestrians.

“Both of these occurrences are dangerous for pedestrians and vehicles,” Fina wrote to the council. “Establishing this intersection as an all-way stop will help remediate these dangers. 

“A stop light would be an even more effective and safer solution, but I will be happy to at least have four stop signs,” he added.

Council members authorized the changes at the intersection without comment during Tuesday's meeting.

The recent review occurred following a fatal crash earlier this year.

Shortly after 5 p.m. April 4 , personnel from the Santa Maria Police Department, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and American Medical Response were dispatched to the scene of the incident. 

Judith Ann Zimmer, 83, of Santa Maria was driving a 2000 Acura sedan northbound on California Boulevard. 

Her vehicle collided with an eastbound Apex Auto Glass pickup truck on Union Valley Parkway. 

The woman was pronounced dead at the scene; two men in the work truck were not injured, police said. 

A review of the intersection determined it met one key requirement by having five or more reported crashes in a 12-month period, Beas said.

Between Feb. 4, 2017, and Jan. 18, 2018, the intersection experienced five broadside collisions, which could have been avoided by an all-way stop, according to staff.

Installing the signs and on-street markings will cost the city approximately $3,000.

The all-way stop intersection also may take a toll on landscaping in the area. 

“These signs may require the removal or significant pruning of trees that are planted on Union Valley Parkway,” Beas said. 

This isn’t the first time concerns have been raised about the intersection. 

The 2013-14 grand jury released a report raising concerns about the intersection after investigating a complaint about impaired visibility.

“The original plans for this intersection specified a four-way stop, which was eliminated during the subsequent planning process,” the panel said in its report. “The jury recommends the installation of a four-way stop and intersection warning signs on Union Valley Parkway.”

The panel’s report contended that motorists traveling north on California Boulevard encounter “unsafe conditions” at the intersection.

“Due to the setback of the crosswalk and stop sign, motorists must slowly proceed into the intersection to observe cross traffic,” the report said. 

To the west, or northbound driver’s left, sit an 8-foot sound wall, landscaping and a sidewalk, along with a dip in the road that can help hinder seeing oncoming traffic.

In a response to the grand jury five years ago, the city said it would not install a four-way stop at the intersection, claiming it was “not warranted” after traffic studies were conducted and an analysis of the 12-month accident history.

However, the city response to the grand jury also said staff would continue to monitor the intersection to evaluate whether it needed a four-way stop or traffic signal. 

December 17, 2019

Noozhawk Santa Barbara

By Janene Scully