Neighbors of Dodger Stadium met last week with officials from the baseball organization to suggest a few ways to relieve the traffic congestion they face every time the Dodgers play at home.
Although they didn't exactly score a victory, representatives of neighborhood groups from Echo Park, Silver Lake and Angelino Heights said they had taken a first step toward solving some problems generated by Dodger fans.
"We're hopeful we're going to be able to reach agreement on some of these issues, but it's going to take time," said Barbara Vineyard, an Echo Park resident. Vineyard wrote a letter in April on behalf of four neighborhood organizations seeking a meeting with Dodgers' owner Peter O'Malley.
At the meeting, residents suggested several initial steps to ease traffic. They are:
Hiring a private consultant to conduct a traffic study.
Mailing copies of the season schedule, along with an accompanying cover letter, to homes in nearby neighborhoods so residents can schedule travel accordingly. This would include schedules in Chinese for the large Chinese population near the stadium. Schedules are printed in English and Spanish but are not mailed to neighboring residents.
Encouraging fans to park in outlying areas, such as empty lots in downtown Los Angeles, and ride buses or vans to the stadium.
Including the price of parking in the cost of a game ticket to speed the flow of cars into stadium parking lots. The homeowners did not address the issue of what to do for ticket purchasers who share rides or take the bus.
Ending the practice of starting some night games two hours early to accommodate East Coast television viewers. That would have all night games begin at 7:35 p.m., after the evening rush hour.
Having the ballpark's big video screen flash messages to fans about which exit routes to the freeways are least congested.
The Dodger organization did not commit itself to any immediate action except to make season schedules available to the neighborhood groups so they can be distributed, said Bill Shumard, director of community services and special events at the stadium. Printing schedules in Chinese, he said, "is probably something we could discuss doing for the 1986 season," he added.
Shumard described the meeting as preliminary and said the recommendations would be scrutinized by others in the Dodger organization before the next meeting with the residents, scheduled in mid-July. Shumard and Sam Fernandez, general counsel, represented the Dodgers at the meeting.
Traffic studies have been made by the Dodger organization and by the City of Los Angeles, said Bob Smith, director of operations for Dodger Stadium. The city's Transportation Department compiled a mass of data on traffic patterns for the summer Olympic Games last year and there is no need to hire a private consultant to make another study, said Smith, who did not attend the meeting.
Besides, Smith added, given the way the freeways feed into the stadium, "There is not much you can do about the way people come to the ballpark." The Dodger organization has tried to encourage fans to ride buses but mass transit to the stadium is not as good as it could be, Smith said. Most fans arrive by auto.
The Dodgers say they have no control over games that are scheduled early for East Coast television broadcast. "We're at the mercy of network TV," Shumard said.
Shumard added, however, that the Dodgers would prefer that all games on week nights begin at 7:35 p.m. because attendance drops when games are scheduled earlier.
It was not the first time complaining residents had met with Dodger officials. Dodger representatives held meetings a few years ago with residents to discuss such problems as littering and parking in surrounding neighborhoods, Smith said. In response to those complaints, the ballpark has used the message board to direct people to use the freeways, provided traffic directors to try to move people out of the area quickly and put up signs in the neighborhoods asking visitors not to litter, he added..
But apparently those measures haven't satisfied the group that met with Shumard and Fernandez. They complain that when the "Big Blue Wrecking Crew" is in town during the six months of the baseball season, their neighborhoods, if not the other team, always take a beating.
Streets Jammed With Cars
The streets that lead to their homes are jammed with cars heading to the stadium, residents say, making it impossible to get in or out. And, they say, the normally frustrating freeway commute during the weekday rush hour is made even more unbearable, particularly when the Dodgers are playing an early night game.
Some of the residents who attended the meeting at Dodger Stadium said they were given the impression that Fernandez and Shumard had no idea of the extent of the traffic congestion.
"They were aware that we have traffic but they didn't know its significance for the neighborhood," said Jim Bonar, secretary of the Silver Lake Residents Assn.
"They are not in the business of worrying about our neighborhood. They're primarily occupied with their own thing," said Jeb Brighouse, a member of the Echo Park Renters and Homeowners Assn.
But Fernandez, who residents said did most of the talking on behalf of the Dodgers, said this week in an interview: "If they're saying we need to look into it some more, then maybe we need to look into it some more."
Representatives from Solano Valley and Elysian Valley were unable to attend the meeting but have endorsed the ideas.