Left Turn from Moraga Way Prohibited

Sophia Bollag

On Jan. 4 of this year, the Orinda City Council unanimously voted in favor of a new provision prohibiting southbound drivers on Moraga Way from turning left onto Southwaite Court and from making U-turns in front of Southwaite Court on school days between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.

This ordinance took effect Jan. 24 and affects Miramonte students who drive on Moraga Way on their way to school.

The Council decided to adopt this provision after hearing complaints from residents of Southwaite Court and after reviewing the results of a traffic study. The study found that an insupportably large number of cars drove on Southwaite in the morning, the vast majority of which proceeded to turn back onto Moraga Way, ostensibly to take a right turn onto Ivy Drive.

Southwaite Court, a small street which runs parallel to Ivy Drive, has recently become overburdened with traffic on weekday mornings as a result of drivers using it to make a U-turn to travel in the opposite direction on Moraga Way and turn right onto Ivy Drive. In this way, drivers evade the ordinance which prohibits left turns onto Ivy Drive on school days between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.

The provision to prohibit left turns onto Southwaite Court was originally proposed in conjunction with another provision to re-allow left turns onto Ivy Drive in the mornings, but this second provision was dropped prior to the City Council meeting.

The City Council originally banned left turns onto Ivy Drive in 2000. At the meeting on Jan. 4, several residents recalled these reasons.

“There was an intolerable burden upon Ivy Drive during certain hours and it was not just something that affected the aesthetics of Ivy Drive,” Orinda Traffic Safety Advisory Committee Chair Steve Schnier said at the meeting. “There was clearly an intolerable danger posed to children, residents, and pedestrians on that particular street.”

Schnier also argued that motorists turning left onto Ivy Drive from Moraga Way are hazardous to oncoming traffic. Other speakers mentioned that, prior to the installation of the sign, speeding was a large problem on Ivy Drive.

Many speakers argued that the prohibition of left turns onto Southwaite Court will only fix the problem temporarily. Many of these speakers were in favor of what they believed would be more permanent solutions, such as forcing Miramonte to change its bell schedule, or creating a second entrance to Miramonte. No representatives of Miamonte were present at this meeting to comment on these suggestions.

Many speakers at the council meeting insisted that traffic is better on Wednesday mornings. Several speakers at the meeting suggested that Miramonte adopt the Wednesday bell schedule for the other days of the week, as well. However, this would entail changing not only the start time, but also the end time, which would have to be changed to 3:35. As nearby Orinda Intermediate School gets out at 3:30, this would create traffic problems after school.

“I have to admit,” said Associate Principal Sharon Bartlett, “I’m not totally clear why they think starting later would help. It seems to me it puts us in even more conflict because OIS starts, I believe, at 8:45. So, it seems to me, starting at 8:05 as opposed to 8:35 is a good thing because it does even out some of that traffic.”

Bartlett said that changing the start time at Miramonte would create a ripple effect that would impact the schedules of Miramonte families. Bartlett also said that adding a second entrance to Miramonte “is not what I would consider a reasonable solution, in terms of time and money and feasibility. In these small communities with charming, small roads we all have [traffic] issues, and sometimes it seems to me, and I’ve lived here for 33 years, that about the only solution to that is the patience on both sides.”