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Around the Foothills

Some of their ideas actually made it into the finished report.

February 02, 1989|DOUG SMITH

The Neighbors of Dodger Stadium threw a party Sunday afternoon to celebrate the completion of a plan.

The publication of "The Dodger Stadium Area Circulation Study" might seem an anemic excuse for a party, especially since the plan had not turned out exactly as the neighborhood organization had hoped.

But NODS, a small group of residents from Elysian Park, Echo Park and Silver Lake, had invested about five years in the exercise and so welcomed as an important event the final submission of a half-inch-thick report full of traffic counts, cost estimates and engineering jargon.

The $50,000 report recommends several strategies for improving traffic conditions in the communities around Dodger Stadium, before and after games and during rush hour.

Some of the simpler ideas, such as re-striping freeway off-ramps and putting up "No Turn" signs at key intersections, have already been done. NODS leaders, however, aren't terribly excited about many of those improvements and others identified in the report as "short-term." In fact, they regard some as dangerous because they would tend to move cars more swiftly through their neighborhoods.

In asking for the report in 1984, NODS had hoped it could persuade traffic engineers to render popular streets such as Glendale Boulevard and Stadium Way less attractive to commuters who would then search for some other way to work.

Some of their ideas actually made it into the finished report, filed by traffic consultant DKS Associates with the city's Department of Transportation late last year. The problem was that their favorite ideas were far back on the timetable and high up on the price list. Common sense told NODS that its dreams were not to be realized right away.

"It wasn't a victory party," conceded host Barbara Saxon, a UCLA graduate counselor in urban planning and prime mover of NODS. She said it was more a case of social release for people whose only contact for years had been in formal meetings.

"My point was, we've all been working so hard, let's get together and enjoy each other's company for a change instead of sitting up late, wishing we were home, reading reports."

The party turned out to be a subdued affair, in tune with NODS' reaction to the plan itself.

About 20 people scaled the narrow stairway leading to Saxon's home, which stands almost at the crest of a steep hill in Echo Park. Saxon had laid out cheese and pate on a table in front of a picture window commanding a vista of the Los Angeles River, the railroad tracks, Forest Lawn, and the Verdugo and San Gabriel mountains.

Councilman Mike Woo was first at the door and excused himself before most of the other guests arrived. Among them were Bennett Kayser, who is opposing Woo in April's council election, and Jeb Brighouse, a Glendale College teacher who also sets the tone of the Echo Park Renters and Homeowners Assn. as a sort of guerrilla homeowner group.

Saxon also invited some UCLA architecture students. One, a young Austrian woman named Silja Tillner, studied the Glendale Boulevard route as a masters project. Her ideas were well received by the Echo Park Renters and Homeowners.

She thought the end of the Glendale Freeway didn't work well. She envisioned shortening the freeway and converting the end into a sort of public parkway. Unfortunately, she said, her designs are now on file at UCLA and will go no further.

The city's traffic consultant, on the other hand, saw the problem differently. DKS at first recommended an elevated extension of the Glendale Freeway another half a mile. NODS regarded that as an attack on the community and said so in a hostile meeting in City Hall last fall.

The elimination of that idea from the final plan was one of the few things people at the NODS party were able to celebrate Sunday.

They were also pleased that some of their favorite ideas got in. First on everyone's list is a proposal made years ago by a city planner to construct a sweeping connector from the Golden State Freeway at Elysian Park into Union Station on the east side of downtown.

The DKS report projects that an evaluation of the idea could be done as early as the late 1990s, giving NODS something concrete to keep its sights on.

As a setting sun cast a red glow in Saxon's living room, half a dozen NODS members shared stories about their most nightmarish traffic jams and pondered the difficulty of the job ahead.

Then a late arrival lit a spark for their cause. Susan Cloke, planning deputy to Councilwoman Gloria Molina, said she hadn't heard about the plan to extend the freeway to Union Station. But she liked the idea.

Cloke told the group that the railroad land east of Chinatown is up for sale. Molina's office is seeking proposals for a development of schools and houses to replace the tracks, she said.

She suggested that NODS look into the project. Of course, she added, it would take years.

No one thought that would upset the timetable.

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