Students at St. Anne's Catholic School will no longer have to dodge cars while walking between the school and St. Anne's Catholic Church on Walnut Street if a proposal goes through to permanently cut off traffic between Pleasant Avenue and Church Street.
St. Anne's has asked the city to consider vacating a one-block portion of Walnut Street, so they can replace it with a plaza featuring walking paths and landscaping.
City engineer Charlie Swimley described the situation at that corner as unique in the city because students frequently have cross the street between the church and school during the day.
"(St. Anne's has) provided a pretty well thought-out plan, and when you look at the children crossing Walnut back and forth, it makes sense," Swimley said. "The impacts to the local street network are minimal."
The Planning Commission will decide whether to sign off on the plan at its 7 p.m. meeting Wednesday. The Lodi City Council would make the final decision at a meeting tentatively scheduled for January, Swimley said.
The proposed plaza will have a drop-off area for parents on Pleasant Avenue, and on the Church Street side there will be access to the current parking lot to the east of the church.
In between, St. Anne's plans to replace the street with grass, trees, sitting areas and walking paths connecting the school and church.
"It has an aesthetically pleasing look to it," Swimley said.
To vacate a piece of property, the council has to approve it, and then the city will get the piece of land appraised. St. Anne's will have to pay the city for the land, and the church would be the permanent owners, Swimley said.
Another notable example of the city vacating land, Swimley said, is when Cottage Bakery bought Maxwell Street near Kettleman Lane and Stockton Street.
During the review process, consultants KD Anderson & Associates studied the traffic in the area and found that the side streets can handle the additional cars when drivers can no longer go through that intersection.
As of Monday evening, the city has received two letters in support of the project from local business owners, and none against.
The property owners directly across Church Street from the church voiced their support after speaking with their tenants.
Kristina Fluetsch works with her husband, Michael, at Fluetsch & Fluetsch Attorneys at Law, and they own the building.
"We believe that the creation of a park and plaza at that location will beautify this area of Downtown," she wrote in a letter.
Kristina Fluetsch also noted that they have watched drivers ignore the crosswalks or refuse to stop, even when someone is holding a stop sign.
"It is simply a miracle that no student has been struck by a careless driver coming down Walnut Street," she said.
Dina Marcus, a court reporter who owns Marcus Deposition Reporting in the 200 block of W. Oak Street, said she was also in favor of the closure.
"I believe it would enhance the city of Lodi, and help with the safety of students that attend St. Anne's School and the parishioners of St. Anne's Church, as well as providing a community meeting place for the entire Lodi community to enjoy," Marcus said.