Cars and trucks breaking the speed limit through neighborhoods have long been a concern for Sonoma Valley residents, from Oakmont to the Springs, and action from the county Transportation and Public Works department can take a long time to implement.
For a handful of Valley residents, it was time to take charge.
“I worked for 30 years to get the curb, gutter and sidewalk through the Springs, and it was because of safety,” said Cathy Wade Shepard, a Sonoma Valley resident since 1974.
Safety motivates her even more today, now that the highway has been upgraded to state standards – and traffic can move that much faster.
“It’s wonderful that Boyes (Boulevard) is paved, it’s not wonderful that people think it’s a speedway,” said Wade Shepard.
“Some of the worst offenders are moms picking up kids and kids coming home from the high school.”
In Glen Ellen, neighbors have been concerned about the same thing – and last year they did something about it.
Glen Ellen residents formed a Traffic and Safety Committee – composed of six members of the 15-month-old Glen Ellen Forum community group.
Stacy Vilas said local residents are well aware that traffic through town is going faster than it should, even if not fast enough for a ticket.
A former Madison, Wisconsin, police officer, Vilas moved to Glen Ellen when she retired a couple of years ago to join her partner and longtime Glen Ellen resident Sandy Strassberg. Back in Wisconsin, Vilas had been on a community safety coalition that found signs were an effective way to calm traffic, especially around schools. Perhaps the same idea would work here, she thought.
Working with the other members of the traffic committee, and with the backing of the Glen Ellen Forum, she asked local artist Archie Horton to design the “Love Our Town / Slow Down” sign on a bright yellow background, decorated with geese, moose, school children, even a green alien (an in-joke in Glen Ellen).
Vilas fronted the cash and ordered a number of signs, and began to sell them for $20 a pop (including post) so residents could have something to put on their lawns, or curb-side meridians, to advance the “education” portion of the Three Es of traffic safety – Education, Engineering, and Enforcement.
They started popping up along Arnold Drive and its side streets in late summer, and it didn’t take too long before they had a noticeable effect, say locals. A couple of the signs were posted on Madrone Road, which links Highway 12 with Arnold Drive just south of SDC – one of the worst areas for speeders, said Vilas.
“Cars were going 54 miles an hour in a 25 zone. Not many cars were doing it, but that anybody was doing it was too much,” said Vilas former police officer.
The idea caught on, and at the last Glen Ellen Village Fair on Oct. 8, remembered Vilas, they sold a large number of signs and enthusiasm grew.
“That was the day the fire started, and quite a few of them went up in smoke,” she said. In fact half the members of the village’s Traffic and Safety Committee, three of them, lost their homes in the fires.
But the word was spreading, and though 1st District County Supervisor Susan Gorin’s office was preoccupied with fire recovery, her then-aide and Springs resident Jennifer Gray Thompson became interested in the signs when Ellen Conlan told the Springs Alliance what Glen Ellen was up to.
The Springs ‘Despacio’ signs can be ordered by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glen Ellen’s ‘Love Our Town’ signs can be requested from the website www.glenellenca.org.