The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to widen a narrow stretch of Fairfax Avenue, despite angry objections from residents that the project will attract traffic and destroy the residential character of the neighborhood.
By an 11-to-1 vote, the council approved a plan by Councilman Nate Holden, who represents the area, to widen the stretch between Venice and Pico boulevards by as much as 16 feet. Only Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who represented the west side of Fairfax before council districts were redrawn in 1986, opposed the plan.
"We are not asking for anything that is unreasonable," Holden told the council, as about 20 residents jeered in the background. "We are asking for something that is fair. It is fair because it is safe."
After the vote, residents opposed to the plan said they will attempt to block the project by challenging in court an environmental study prepared for it. The study, approved as part of the council's action, recommends that the project go ahead without a detailed review of its effect on such things as noise and air pollution.
"He may have won this battle, but he hasn't won the war," said James Brooks, president of the Fairfax Homeowners Assn.
City traffic engineers recommended the $1.3-million project because of concerns that the stretch has become a dangerous constriction along the heavily traveled link between the Santa Monica Freeway and commercial areas to the north. The segment ranges in width from 30 to 36 feet, while the rest of Fairfax is at least 50 feet wide, city officials said. With the widening, the stretch would be 46 feet.
Currently, the engineers said, traffic along the three-quarter-mile segment slows to a near-standstill during peak hours because it has no way to get around cars waiting to turn left into driveways and onto side streets. The widening project calls for a continuous left-turn lane down the center of the street.
But residents who live on the street and in surrounding neighborhoods have opposed the project since October, when Holden and officials from various city departments held a public hearing on it. More than 130 of them signed petitions against the widening, which would take between five and eight feet from grassy parkways on each side of the street.
"It will bring increased traffic to the 'Fairfax Speedway,' as it is sure to be called," Stella Stout, who lives in the 1700 block of Fairfax, told the council.
Seymour Robinson, executive director of the Westside Action Council, an umbrella organization of Westside resident groups, urged the council to accept a compromise plan that called for widening only half of the stretch--by 6 feet--and adding several 5-foot-wide bus stops at intersections along the entire segment. In 1973, Robinson and other residents successfully defeated a proposal to widen the road to 66 feet.
But City Engineer Robert Horii said the federal government, which is picking up the tab for the project, would not fund the narrower version. John E. Fisher, a transportation engineer, also said the compromise plan would not solve congestion problems.
Several council members, while voting for the project, told the residents that they understood their concerns about the neighborhood. They said, however, that regional traffic concerns took priority.
"I find myself very much on the horns of a dilemma," said Councilwoman Joy Picus, who sided with the residents during a hearing last month on the widening before the council's Public Works Committee. Picus said the lack of funding for any alternative project left her with no choice but to vote for the widening.
Horii said city crews should begin work on the project in July.