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In Palos Verdes Estates, Aesthetics Plays a Role in Easing Traffic Woes

August 06, 1987|GERALD FARIS | Times Staff Writer

In Palos Verdes Estates, with its lush greenery and ocean-view homes, improving roads involves more than making them safer. What they look like is important, too.

Take the troublesome triangle near Malaga Cove, where Palos Verdes Drives West and North join.

Officials say that 32,000 cars a day pass through the triangle, whose three separate intersections are controled only by stop signs. Two people were killed there in accidents between 1981 and 1983. During that period, there were 71 other accidents, including one that left a 29-year-old man brain damaged and resulted in a $1.4-million settlement paid by the city's insurers.

Decide on Solution

After more than 1 1/2 years of hearings, deliberations, engineering and searching for funds, the City Council has decided what to do about the intersection's biggest problem: the curve sloping southward from Torrance, where the fatalities and the most serious accidents have occurred.

The curve will be straightened by widening the road and shifting portions of it to one side. A retaining wall and median will prevent cars from crossing into opposing lanes.

But it also is going to be pretty. No bare concrete barriers here. The median and the wall will be landscaped, and the road-shifting has been planned so that as few trees as possible will have to be removed.

"We have gone through the pains of making sure the design fits the community," Mayor Edward Ritscher said. "There is an ambiance that we have as we come into our city, a feeling everybody has that they are entering a different part of the world that we like."

Niceties Take Time

Officials concede that these aesthetic niceties added to the time taken to reach a decision. But they say the effort--including hearings during several phases of the design process--was worth it.

Said Councilman James Kinney: "This is very important. The design of this should take into consideration aesthetics. It seems to be what the people want, and it is not incompatible with good traffic design."

The work is scheduled to start in April and is estimated to cost $900,000. Half will be paid by the city and half with federal highway funds.

The next two phases on the intersection project, which will include the triangle itself and the stretch of Palos Verdes Drive West past Malaga Cove Plaza, could raise some dust.

Signals Not Welcome

It is likely that traffic signals will be considered to help the movement of cars.

To many residents of Palos Verdes Estates, signals are as welcome as graffiti. The city has had neither in its 60-year history.

Ritscher said that only "some dramatic snarling" of traffic could persuade him to go for traffic signals. He said he prefers the present practice of using a police officer to regulate traffic during busy morning hours.

"It has the function of getting children across the street and getting traffic through, and it has the human element to it," he said.

Kinney said he would consider a signal if there is enough evidence that it could solve the problem, but that traffic lights "do not go along with the rural atmosphere of the community, which a lot of people want to preserve for as long as possible."

Officials do not believe that the protracted planning time has compromised safety, pointing out that accidents in the triangle declined between 1984 and 1986, when there were 24.

This is attributed to installation of warning signs and use of police patrols.

"We are moving on this," Ritscher said.

But longtime city resident Judy Shields, mother of the accident victim, who settled with the city last year, thinks otherwise.

"The city has taken too long," she said. "Nothing has changed. I see people going 70 miles per hour."

Shields said that as much as she loves the atmosphere of the city, it is not a small town anymore. "It's gotten big," she said. "We can't keep signals out any more. I wish we could."

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