|The Mayall 45mph rated merge|
A parent speaks out against the Mayall 45 mph rated merge:
How did this happen?
|The 1998 Northridge Community Plan with specific reference to Wilbur|
Despite the calls in the LA City General plan for a safer more residential Wilbur, in 2009, the LADOT attempted to remove the crosswalks at Prairie and Superior posting small signs at the crosswalks to alert the community of their impending removal. The people in the community reacted fiercely, signing 600 petition signatures in favor of keeping the crosswalks and showing up to Northridge West and Northridge East Neighborhood Council meetings. People voiced demands that the crosswalks stay and that peak hour lanes not be installed on Reseda Blvd. in the residential area north of Devonshire. Both meetings featured heated and passionate public comment directed at the LADOT representatives from the local residents.
|CHP/LAPD statistics re the 2 mile stretch of Wilbur now cured by the road diet.|
Fast forward to 2010 when Wilbur was scheduled for a re-pavement. The LADOT, perhaps responding directly to the lashing from the year before, installed what is called a road diet on Wilbur Ave. A road diet takes a 4 lane street and converts it to a 3 lane street with bike lanes and added parking. This configuration gave drivers an option to use the center turn lane to slow and turn from rather than stopping in the path of (often) speeding traffic. With a contiguous center turn lane, left turns into driveways and street-locked communities became much safer. The statistics showed left turn collisions were the majority of crashes that were occurring under the 4 lane configuration. Drivers were vulnerable to speeders zooming up from behind who then either had to slow down or move to the right to pass - a dangerous situation especially in a residential area. With the road diet in place, drivers could now avoid stopping in the "fast lane" in order to make a left.
The road diet ultimately engineered slower more reasonable speeds of 35-40 mph which of course was not received well by those who were used to speeding on Wilbur. One LA Times reporter and Porter Ranch resident lamented the loss of her "speedway." Parents dropping their kids off at the area schools became infuriated at the initial backup caused by the road diet. An angry mob hurled insults at Rita Robinson, the LADOT General Manager at the time who happened to have a speaking engagement scheduled at the Porter Ranch neighborhood council shortly after the road diet was striped. One NC member famously called her an "idiot" in a fit of anger. The situation was only made more hostile by the fact that Councilman Smith, whose office is located on the south end of Wilbur was vehemently opposed to the road diet.
The Wilbur Working Group Ad-Hoc Committee is formed
To address the anti-road diet crowd, Councilman Greig Smith formed an ad hoc committee headed up by Chief of Staff Mitch Englander. Smith put Porter Ranch NC and Northridge West NC in charge of assigning members to the committee. After the committee came to a decision Smith proclaimed, there would be a joint NC vote on the matter. Immediately, the committee was stacked with anti-road diet people. 3 from Porter Ranch, 2 from the Ridgegate and Belcourt gated communities and 3 from Northridge West. The only pro-road diet voice initially was Paul Kirk a resident of a street-locked community south of Plummer. Two other representatives chosen by Northridge West lived North of Devonshire and were vehemently anti-road diet.
Wilbur Residents express support for the road diet:
Representation by people living on Wilbur aggressively quieted
|Alternative plan rejected by LADOT and CD12|
The Town Hall Meeting
The conclusion of the matter was a March 15th townhall meeting where the joint Porter Ranch and Northridge west NC panel would decide the fate of Wilbur. Even the location of the meeting became an issue as the anti-road diet voices pushed to have the meeting at the regularly scheduled Porter Ranch NC meeting place. This did not seem fair after all, the entirety of the road diet existed within the boundaries of Northridge West. The meeting was moved to Nobel Middle School auditorium where an estimated crowd of 500 people showed up. About 2/3 of the people were clearly anti-road diet, most of which were from Porter Ranch. The other 1/3 were pro-road diet and pro-residential Wilbur.
Presentation against the Mayall merge:
The LADOT presented their design to the crowd, along with cases presented both for and against the LADOT proposed re-design. The joint panel ultimately voted against the LADOT proposed plan Members of the joint panel, disgusted with the compromise plan and the process itself, abstained in protest that they were only given one option. This apparently was not understood by Councilman Smith who was not present at the meeting but moved ahead with the rejected LADOT plan choosing to override the entire process that many people spent hours of volunteer time attempting to reach a compromise on.
|Mitch Englander addresses a packed town hall meeting|
The final cost...
Only 10 months after the initial re-pavement of Wilbur, the Bureau of Street Services and the LADOT are back to re-pave and re-stripe Wilbur. Instead of a crosswalk, the community gets a $45,000 "finish line" at Mayall, in a residential area of Wilbur, a block west of Nobel Middle School and adjacent to a streetlocked community to the east. Meanwhile not 2 miles away, a worn out crosswalk on Zelzah, recently the site of a collision that sent 3 pedestrians to the hospital, deteriorates... in need of a new paint job.