The Culver City Council voted 3 to 2 Monday night to dismantle three traffic barricades in the Sunkist Park community, but decided to leave two others standing.
The decision, a compromise between the conclusions of a citizens committee and a minority report, followed a four-hour hearing that drew about 200 residents to Linwood Howe School to debate the barricades. They were erected in late September 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 northwest of Fox Hills Mall.
During the last two months, the barricades have divided the community both physically and emotionally as bitter arguments erupted between residents hurt by the rerouted traffic and those whose streets became quiet cul-de-sacs.
Heeding Public Opinion
Responding to public pressure, Councilman Paul Netzel introduced a motion that called for the removal of barricades at Port Road and Slauson Avenue, McDonald Street and Emporia Avenue, and on Slauson under the San Diego Freeway.
But it kept in place the barricade at McDonald and Sawtelle and one that blocks Culver Park Drive and Segrell Way from Slauson.
Netzel, Councilman Paul Jacobs and Mayor Richard Brundo voted for the motion. Councilman Richard Alexander, who said he wanted the barricades to stay up until more studies could be done, and Councilwoman Jozelle Smith, who said she opposed all the barricades, voted against it.
Earlier in the evening, Fred White, chairman of the 29-member Sunkist Park Citizens Committee, delivered his report calling for the removal of all barricades and the installation of traffic signals on Sawtelle at McDonald and Hayter Avenue.
'Admit Your Mistake'
"No resolution of this matter can possibly be made that will make everyone happy," he said, chiding the council for causing the controversy with their initial "ill-advised and unpopular vote" in June to put up the barricades.
"Admit your mistake, correct your mistake, and give the overwhelming majority of Sunkist Park the opportunity to forgive you for your mistake," he said.
The staff report, presented by City Engineer Jim Davis, agreed with the findings of the citizens committee, except that it favored restricting left turns into and out of McDonald Street at Sawtelle over the installation of a traffic signal.
Rick Davis, representing the dissenting members of the committee, disagreed. His report recommended that the barricades stay up.
"McDonald Street at Sawtelle Boulevard should be permanently closed because there can be no compromise with such a serious safety issue," he said.
Drivers, Residents Imperiled
Davis, who lives on the southwest corner of McDonald and Sawtelle, said the City of Los Angeles is presently raising the nearby Sawtelle Boulevard bridge over Ballona Creek, reducing the line of sight for drivers and increasing the danger to residents backing their cars out of their driveways on McDonald.
Diana Moncur, who lives across McDonald from Davis, said cars used to "tear around the corner so fast they'd be on the other side of the street."
She said she is upset with those who want the barricade removed.
"I feel like our voice is being taken away by people who are now being inconvenienced (by the barricades)," she said.
Netzel's motion directed staffers to study the McDonald-Sawtelle intersection and make a recommendation after the bridge is completed.
More Stop Signs
It also called for the placement of additional stop signs to discourage through traffic and proposed restricting left turns off Woolford and Orville streets onto Sawtelle during peak hours.
Beverly Szabo, a resident of Emporia Street and a member of the citizens committee, said she is pleased with the decision to remove the three barricades.
"We've got half (of the barricades) down and we're going after the other half," she said.
Netzel agreed that the issue is not settled yet.
"In my opinion I don't think we've found the best answer. I doubt that we ever will find the best answer," he said.
Jim Davis said city crews will probably start removing the barricades on Monday.