Cars were bumper to bumper, motorists wantonly disobeyed rules of the road and some exchanged angry glares and obscenities--a traffic nightmare befitting the Ventura Freeway at rush hour.
But instead, the scene took place while textbook-toting children tried to cross the street to enter Kittridge Street Elementary School in Van Nuys.
"It's ridiculous," said parent Carol Spicer, as she stood outside the school Friday morning. "There's no stop sign, no speed-limit signs, nothing. . . . They expect these children to just run across."
Since school started three weeks ago, Spicer and other parents, angry that there are no traffic controls at a busy intersection, have taken it upon themselves to act as crossing guards, albeit with a somewhat militant flair.
Each morning and afternoon parents gather along Buffalo Avenue and Kittridge Street bearing homemade signs in English and Spanish reading "Save Our Kids" and "Don't Block Crosswalk."
Harried motorists double-park, park in red zones and stop to let their children off in the middle of the street. Children dart across the street. School buses become trapped in the moving maze.
Last year, a teacher was hit while crossing the street, and already this year there have been several near-misses, Spicer said. The incidents prompted Spicer and others to demand that a crossing guard and other traffic controls, such as stop signs or a signal, be posted at the intersection.
School crossing guards, street signs and signals come under the purview of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which conducts detailed traffic analysis before taking action.
Parents have gathered a 350-signature petition to present to Mayor Tom Bradley. Thus far, however, the parents have been dissatisfied with the lackluster response they said they received from city and school officials.
"Everybody we talked to asked, 'how many fatalities have there been?,' " said Mary Bohn, whose son, Joshua, attends the school. "That's what we're trying to prevent."
Arline DeSanctis, aide to Councilman Joel Wachs, said the transportation department last year determined that controls at the intersection were adequate and a stop sign was not necessary.
The new requests will be examined, said Tom Jones, senior transportation engineer.
A meeting between city and school officials has been scheduled on Sept. 11 to discuss the problems, said Principal Donald Watson. In the meantime, about 10 parents have vowed to continue their do-it-yourself approach to safety.
Some parents, such as Robert Evans, appreciate the volunteer effort. "If it wasn't for these people there would have been a fatality or a serious injury here," he said.
But after three weeks, the volunteers know firsthand that it can get nasty in the crosswalk zone. Some parents resent being ordered not to stop in the red zone or drive cautiously. "We have people curse us out and call us names," Bohn said.
As the parents stood on the street Friday moring, an apparently distracted motorist drove through the intersection, nearly hitting a mother and child. Almost in unison, Owens and the other parents yelled, "Stop!"
"What the hell's the matter with you," Spicer's 74-year-old mother-in-law, Bea Spicer, yelled at the motorist. The elder Spicer, whose grandchildren and great-grandchildren attend the school, monitored the intersection while seated in a lounge chair.
Friday morning, kindergarten teacher Suzanne Rich, who was struck by a car and missed a month of work because of her injuries, also crossed the street with the aid of a parent.
For Carol Spicer, whose daughter, Michelle, attends the school, the campaign brings back bitter memories. Three years ago, her 14-year-old niece was killed by a speeding driver as she walked home from a school in Santa Clarita. Like the intersection near Kittridge school, the intersection had no stop sign or traffic light.
"There should have been a light there," Spicer said, her eyes welling with tears as she recalled the incident.