By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The first and only one-way street in Healdsburg has also created one of the most enduring controversies in town.
Continuing complaints about the confusing and “counterintuitive” one-way traffic direction on Foss Creek Circle, next to the post office, prompted the City Council on Monday to reconsider reverting back to a two-way street, or even reversing the one-way direction.
But in the end, the council decided to keep the one-way as it is for now and instead investigate relocating curbside mail drop boxes to smooth traffic flow and look at potentially adding speed bumps to slow vehicles.
“This is a system that could work,” City Councilman Gary Plass said of the one-way flow that has been in place for only about five months. “The biggest obstacle I’ve seen is the post office and the post office boxes.”
Public Works Director Mike Kirn said post office officials on Monday indicated a willingness to move the mail drop-off boxes, if the city pays for it. But he said there could be additional cost of realigning the sidewalk and making it accessible to people with disabilities.
Persistent complaints about wrong-way drivers and other impediments on Foss Creek Circle since it became one-way prompted City Councilman Shaun McCaffery to bring up the issue for discussion.
“People have written more letters to the editor about this than anything else,” Bob Rawlins, a 28-year resident of Healdsburg told the council. “It’s a bad situation. I’m surprised no one’s been hit going in and out of the post office.”
“For a lot of people, it’s a quality of life issue, a convenience issue,” Councilman Jim Wood said.
“I use the post office a lot. I’m there two to three times a week,” Mayor Susan Jones said. “It seems 75 percent of the time I go there, someone goes the wrong way.”
The city converted Foss Creek Circle to one-way last year following the relocation of the post office there.
It was reported to be the first one-way street since Healdsburg was incorporated in 1857.
The intent was to better accommodate the increased traffic generated by the post office’s move to Foss Creek Circle after the main post office building on Center Street burned down in August 2010.
A survey by the city at the time showed 30 percent of businesses and residents on the street favored the one-way scheme, 13 percent were against and 57 percent did not reply.
Postal officials opposed the one-way loop and moving mail drop boxes, saying the city should consider other alternatives such as restricting parking.
Most objections from residents have to do with the “counterintuitive” clockwise circulation pattern.
“The whole rotation does not work, and the simple flow in and out of the post office has been disrupted,” resident Paul Wilcock stated in an email to the public works department.
Others said that the congestion is worse at the entrance to the post office now, and much more dangerous.
According to the police department, there have been two vehicle accidents on Foss Creek Circle since the post office relocated and a third after it was made one-way.
City officials said they went with the clockwise circulation flow because it provided the greatest sight distance for oncoming southbound traffic on Grove Street. More importantly, public works officials said big delivery trucks to Silver Oak Wine Cellars on Foss Creek Circle could only access the loading dock from the south, clockwise direction.
Public Works Director Mike Kirn said he wanted the city to avoid “an inverse condemnation claim” by the winery, if its business was negatively impacted.
Critics weren’t convinced, saying residents were being held hostage to the needs of one business.
Silver Oaks owner Tony LeBlanc said Monday he was “open to anything that’s part of the solution.”
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org