Briefing Room: left turn onto Seal Beach Boulevard


By SBPD Sgt. Nick Nicholas

Please explain making a left turn on Westminster Avenue

Could someone explain the proper approach to making a left turn from eastbound Westminster onto northbound Seal Beach Boulevard?

There are two left turn lanes from Westminster onto SB Blvd; however, immediately prior to those lanes is a left turn lane from Westminster into the shopping mall by the post office. That is a popular turn and often there are one or several cars stopped waiting for oncoming traffic to clear before making the turn. If one wants to make a left at SB Blvd., and passes by the first left turn there is little space to maneuver into the inside left turn lane, but it can be done. What sometimes happens, though, is a car in the first left turn lane does not turn there and continues forward into the inside SB turn lane. This creates havoc for the driver of the first car who is moving into the inside left turn lane at the same time. My husband and sons, all responsible and alert drivers, have all been nearly wiped out at that point.

Is the first left turn lane supposed to be left turn only? There is no sign stating that, but the arrow painted on the pavement shows left turn only, and not the combination left and straight ahead arrow. When Westminster was repaved a year or so ago we had hoped that danger spot would be corrected, but it was not. It seems it would be much safer to have the first turn designated left or U turn only, with curbing to prevent cars making that a through lane.

I would appreciate your input on this. Thank you.


Hi Janet,

Thanks for the really good question.  Admittedly, I’m not an expert on traffic laws so I asked Officer Ed Pastor about this.  Officer Pastor recently started with the SBPD but lateraled to us from another local agency where he spent many years as a motor officer and traffic investigator.  We went out to look at the intersection described and he helped clarify the rules of the road for me.

If a car is driving eastbound on Westminster Avenue toward Seal Beach Boulevard, and the driver wants to turn left into the driveway near the Post Office, once they enter the first left turn pocket, they must turn left.  Once they are in that pocket, they cannot proceed straight and then make the left turn on Seal Beach Boulevard.  Failing to turn left from the first left turn pocket is a violation of §22101(d) or §21461(a) of the California Vehicle Code.

Similarly, if the car is proceeding eastbound on Westminster Avenue and wants to turn left on Seal Beach Boulevard, they must drive past the first left turn pocket and only enter the left turn lanes for northbound Seal Beach Boulevard once they pass the driveway to the Post Office.

I passed your concerns on to our City Traffic Engineer.

On a separate note, while looking at that intersection on Google Earth, I saw that Google labeled the street as Westminster Boulevard.  I’ve always been told that in Seal Beach, Westminster is actually an Avenue.  I called our Public Works Department and asked to check the geographic information system (GIS) map to confirm.  In Seal Beach between Island Village Drive and Bolsa Chica Road, Westminster is, in fact, Avenue.  Once you go east of Bolsa Chica Road (into the City of Westminster), the road becomes a Boulevard.  I was told that it is an avenue in Seal Beach because you can’t have a boulevard that intersects with another boulevard.  Does anyone know if this is true?  Please write us and let us know if you have any more info on this.  I’d really appreciate it (plus I have a little gentlemen’s bet going with Corporal Garcia!).

Thanks again for your question Janet.  Keep them coming Seal Beach!

Email your questions to today and see if your question gets answered in our regular Q&A.