Nearly 100 Sunkist Park residents, angry about barricades that have rerouted traffic from one part of the neighborhood to another, jammed Monday's Culver City Council meeting demanding that the closed streets be opened.
The meeting at Linwood Howe School turned into an unscheduled 2 1/2-hour public hearing as more than 30 speakers decried the recently erected barriers and accused the council of endangering their children and decreasing their property values.
The wooden barricades, erected late last month in four locations, were meant to close a potentially dangerous intersection at McDonald Street and Sawtelle Boulevard and discourage commuters from taking shortcuts through the neighborhood of single-family homes just north of the junction of the San Diego Freeway and the Marina Expressway, according to city engineer Jim Davis.
The barricades close McDonald Street at Sawtelle Boulevard and Emporia Avenue, and Hammack Street at Mesmer Avenue and allow only eastbound traffic on Slauson Avenue between Culver Park Drive and Port Road.
Davis said studies show that the barriers have reduced the amount of non-residential traffic by diverting cars that McDonald Street residents have been complaining about onto neighboring streets.
"It was never our intent to put significant traffic on residential streets like it is now," he said, naming Emporia, Etheldo, Purdue avenues and Hayter Avenue-Port Road as the streets bearing the brunt of the rerouted traffic.
Beverly Szabo, a resident of Emporia Street, said she does not let her children play in the front yard because of the cars that now speed down her street.
"I'm afraid they're going to get hit," she said. "They play soccer and they may chase the ball without second thought."
The testimony Monday night became heated at times, pitting neighbor against neighbor, residents of one street against residents of another.
David Myers, who lives on Hayter Avenue, accused the council of favoring McDonald Street at the expense of others.
"You owe us a safe neighborhood," he told the council, "and we don't have it."
Many in the crowd booed and shouted at the handful of people who spoke in favor of the barricades.
Ed Greenberg, a resident of McDonald Street for 28 years, said the blockade at McDonald Street and Sawtelle Avenue is necessary.
"It's always been dangerous at the corner of Sawtelle and McDonald," he said, adding that the danger increased recently when the City of Los Angeles raised the nearby Sawtelle Avenue bridge over Ballona Creek, reducing visibility for drivers.