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Charming Street Leads to a Gritty Fight : Arbolada Road Is Challenge for Drivers

July 20, 1989|DOUG SMITH | Times Staff Writer

Tiny Arbolada Road slips off Los Feliz Boulevard so inconspicuously that few stray cars venture onto the one-block lane of pleasant hillside homes. It curves charmingly toward a dirt dead end.

That's fortunate because, once lured onto Arbolada, most drivers find it a challenge to get away. The street is so narrow that, even with parking restricted to one side, there is barely room for a medium-sized car to pass its curves, let alone swing a three-point turn.

For years, residents turned in a cul-de-sac that they fashioned for themselves in the empty lot at the end of the road.

That their turnaround was on private property caught no one's attention until the owner of the land fenced it off about two years ago to begin construction of a house.

Since then, once-serene Arbolada has become one of those gritty little urban problems that grate on the nerves and generate lots of bureaucratic paper work and won't go away.

'Really Dispirited'

"Everybody is just really dispirited," said Priscilla Sanders, a 40-year resident of the street.

Large gashes in the corners of the street's garages, which stand directly behind the sidewalk, testify to the miscalculations of drivers edging back and forth to turn on the 21-foot-wide roadway.

With practice and patience, it can be done. The residents' main concern is access to public services. City trash trucks can't turn on the street, so they have to back up.

Resident Knute Martin said his fire insurance was canceled by one company for lack of access.

Residents worry that the constricted street could delay fire trucks or an ambulance in an emergency.

Their complaints to Los Angeles City Councilman John Ferraro have generated a thick file of correspondence but no solution.

"When I first saw the problem, I thought no big deal, we'll catch it," said Ferraro deputy Tom LaBonge. "But it became deeper and deeper."

Investigation Asked

In November, Ferraro asked the city's superintendent of building to investigate.

A senior inspector for the Bureau of Community Safety wrote back with bad news. He said that the Street Widening and Improvement Bureau showed no continuation of the road and that the owner of the end lot was not required by law to make any improvement for public use.

In January, Ferraro wrote a stiff query to City Engineer Robert S. Horii.

"Why did the city fail to get any dedication for a future street at this location?" he asked. "What can be done to remedy this situation?"

Responding in February, Horii threw up his hands. He traced the error to 1927, when the tract was recorded. He said the present owner, Paul Krpiean, could not be required to dedicate land or make a cul-de-sac.

Owner Not Obligated

"The fact that the residents in the area were previously using private property, not their own, to turn around does not obligate that property owner to construct a cul-de-sac for them," Horii said.

LaBonge said he spoke to Krpiean, who seemed willing to help solve the problem. Sanders, however, said she approached Krpiean on the street and found him uncooperative. Krpiean would not comment to The Times.

With or without the landowner's cooperation, a solution would still require money to acquire land and pave a turnaround. Horii said the city had no money for such a project.

As a temporary measure, Horii suggested prohibiting parking on both sides of the street. The suggestion wasn't followed.

Plan Prepared

In June, Ferraro asked Horii to prepare a plan for building a turnaround in the hope that the project could be put in the city's capital improvement program.

That report is due soon. The money, even if approved by the City Council, would be years away.

In the meantime, life on Arbolada goes its dispirited way.

Sanders said she has been forced to discontinue meetings of her church circle.

"Some of the ladies just can't make it," she said. "They just can't negotiate this street."

"As a matter of fact," she added, "I can't have my daughter's wedding here."

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