Dozens of interested and frustrated residents on Highland Avenue turned out Wednesday evening to a Town Hall organized by the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Transportation Committee pressing City officials for solutions to calming the traffic on Highland Avenue. The street, actually an extension of state road 170, is a major north-south street that runs through the center of residential neighborhoods in the the Mid-Wilshire area south of Melrose Avenue.
The GWNC Transportation Committee lead by chair Julie Stromberg organized the Town Hall in response to complaints from residents along Highland Avenue north and south of Wilshire Blvd.
“We have invited all the people from the city who deal with this issue, including representatives from the two city council districts that represent the area, CD4 and CD5 to participate in this panel and listen to the community with the hope that we can begin the process to develop solutions,” said Stromberg. She invited everyone to write down their questions so she would have a record of the concerns then she walked around the room sharing the microphone with the audience so they could address the panel.
Town Hall panelists included: John Darnell, District Director, Office of Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz (Council District 5); Nikki Ezhari, Senior Field Deputy, Office of Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu (Council District 4); Jeannie Shen, Transportation Engineer Hollywood-Wilshire District, Los Angeles Department of Transportation; and Officer P. Cordero, Los Angeles Police Department West Traffic Division.
Many in the audience, who have lived on Highland Avenue for years and years, expressed their frustration at the lack of enforcement of the speed limit and the worsening traffic congestions over the years. They complained about their inability to get out of their driveways because of speeding traffic and gridlock during peak traffic hours, especially those who live between Melrose Avenue and Wilshire Blvd. They asked if the city would install stops and crosswalks for pedestrians or synchronize the traffic lights so traffic would stop more frequently. Everyone asked for more enforcement of the speed limit.
Officer P. Cordero of the LAPD West Traffic Division told residents he had fewer motorcycle cops than ever to enforce speed limits. He said Highland’s speed study had expired and thus was not eligible for installation of a feedback signal sign to show drivers how fast they are driving. Cordero doubts there’s much speeding because of the dense traffic. But he told the Buzz next week he would install a trailer that would survey the speed. He told residents he would spend his entire 10 hour patrol shift on Highland to catch speeders and invited residents of the 500 block to join him.
“I’ll put in the time, and you can join me if you want to put in the time too,” said Cordero.
Highland residents south of Wilshire, complained about the volume of traffic using Edgewood Street to get to La Brea Avenue and the Santa Monica Freeway. Several asked if Edgewood could simply be closed off citing the frequency car accidents that end up on their front lawns.
CD 4 Councilmember David Ryu, who arrived after the meeting started, attempted to address the frustration, saying he was committed to addressing their concerns. He pointed to his effort to repair the concrete streets in Hancock Park as an example of his ability to get things done that had not been done in years. But, he cautioned, he needed time to get suggestions from the Department of Transportation.
“I don’t want to solve one problem [with a solution] that leads to another problem,” said Ryu. “Yes, something will be done. We will follow up.” Ryu turned to Jeannie Shen, Transportation Engineer Hollywood-Wilshire District, Los Angeles Department of Transportation and asked if she would prepare recommendations for discussion at another town hall meeting in 90 days.
Perhaps the future promise of driverless cars should be considered. A not-so recent post in the New York Times forecasts narrower streets because parking spots might not be necessary, inner-city parking lots that could become parks and yes, less congestion because few cars will be needed. Many cities are rethinking their approach to traffic and road design according to a recent article in Curbed LA. Roads and cars will be smarter and hopefully safer.
In the meantime, residents along Highland won a promise from Councilmember David Ryu to work on ways to calm traffic on Highland and GWNC Transportation Committee Chair Julie Stromberg invited residents to join her committee and get involved to make sure solutions are developed.