There were threats of physical violence. There were warnings of financial loss. Dead pets were mentioned several times. One woman brought up the Berlin Wall.
In short, the problem of traffic in north Redondo Beach elicited its usual measure of controversy Tuesday night, as a six-hour spate of impassioned testimony prompted the City Council to scrap two proposals for easing congestion there.
At issue were plans to make a number of north Redondo neighborhood streets one-way to discourage commuters from using them as shortcuts to Space Park and other nearby office complexes. Residents there have complained for decades that with each passing year, more traffic spills from jammed arterials such as Aviation Boulevard onto their narrow, 40-year-old streets.
Little lanes that were originally built to handle perhaps 2,000 cars a day are now carrying as many as 15,000 a day, said Ken Montgomery, the city engineer and director of public works. Residents say they can't get out of their driveways during rush hours and fear for the lives of their children and pets.
But short of ripping up the asphalt and starting over, officials say, little can be done to make the existing grid--built just after World War II--accommodate 1990 traffic.
One proposal unveiled Tuesday would have converted almost all north-south residential streets in north Redondo to one-way streets that would switch directions at major intersections. Thus, a driver trying to use the popular Rindge Lane shortcut to Space Park would be cut off by a "One Way--Do Not Enter" sign at the intersection with Robinson Street, eight blocks short of his destination.
A second plan would have created fewer one-way streets but would have arranged them so that Space Park traffic would be spread among all the north-south residential streets, instead of being concentrated on a few.
But residents complained that the first plan created dangerous intersections where traffic from facing one-way streets could collide head-on. And the second plan, they said, would make thoroughfares out of streets that are now quiet, devaluing property throughout north Redondo.
Barbara Hoffman, a real estate agent, warned the council that property values on some streets "could decline by tens of thousands of dollars" under the one-way plans. Another resident, Stephanie Sundiul, suggested that north Redondo be made a gated community so that access could be restricted to locals during rush hour.
But a third homeowner, German-born Doris Schwerdtfeger, argued for unlimited access to local streets, charging that "what you're trying to do in north Redondo reminds me of the Berlin Wall."
"Redondo Beach is a public city with public streets," Schwerdtfeger said. "Sure, this will keep people out (of residential neighborhoods), but it will also keep me out."
The furor effectively killed two traffic plans that had been 15 months and three public hearings in the making. Nonetheless, the chairman of the North Redondo Beach Traffic Committee, bus driver Larry Cote, said he wasn't disappointed.
"In some cases, the solution can be worse than the problem," Cote admitted.
In the end, the council instructed Cote's committee to forget the one-way alternatives and come back with a plan to prohibit turns onto residential streets from the major arterials during rush hours.
"I'm not looking for some major scheme that will keep all commuter traffic off all our streets," Mayor Brad Parton said. "We just want to encourage people to stay on the major streets."
As part of that effort, the council voted to make major, long-term improvements to ease traffic along such thoroughfares as Aviation Boulevard, Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Inglewood Avenue. Those improvements, tentatively approved last week, include street-widening projects, left-turn signals and additional turning lanes.
In a related matter, the council stood firm in its February decision to make the 1900 block of Robinson Street one-way westbound--a decision so controversial that one of its proponents reported receiving threatening letters from those who disliked the idea.
The February vote was aimed at correcting a hazard to commuters who were turning left from southbound Aviation onto Robinson, using it as an entryway to north Redondo neighborhoods and a route to shortcuts there.
The intersection, officials said, is one of the few on Aviation with a traffic signal. But Robinson was leading eastbound drivers to the sharp crest of a very steep hill. Although there was a stop sign at the crest, some drivers were sailing over the top and careening down the hill, occasionally into people's homes and parked cars.