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Residents Argue Proposal to Cut Off Shortcut for Solo Commuters : Traffic: Plan would affect Westside-bound drivers. Hisses, jeers and applause punctuated the discussion.


ENCINO — Spirited debate Tuesday night greeted an Encino group's proposal to restrict turns through their hillside neighborhood to thwart commuters using a shortcut.

A meeting at Lanai Road Elementary School drew more than 120 homeowners and commuters to discuss the proposal by the Encino Hillside Traffic Safety Organization. The group hopes to persuade the City Council to try to route Westside-bound solo drivers out of their neighborhood.

Representatives from Councilman Marvin Braude, Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Los Angeles), the city Department of Transportation and the Los Angeles Police Department also attended the meeting, which was punctuated by hisses, jeers and clapping.

The proposal would impose 13 turn restrictions Mondays through Fridays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Cars carrying two or more people would be exempt.

Members of the organization said such prohibitions are necessary to ease traffic that jams neighborhoods between Ventura Boulevard and Mulholland Drive. Commuters use the narrow, winding streets as shortcuts to reach the Westside while avoiding the Ventura and San Diego freeways and Ventura Boulevard.

"What has happened to Encino is that it's become ravaged," Madeline DeAntonia, president of the traffic organization, told the audience. "It's become the traffic cesspool of the (San Fernando) Valley."

The traffic organization also proposes reversing a westbound lane on Ventura Boulevard during morning rush hour so its traffic would flow east.

The 13 turn restrictions would shunt traffic back toward Ventura Boulevard. There would be no restrictions on travel from the Westside to the valley, and anyone driving to Lanai Road Elementary School would be exempt from the rules.

The group recommends enacting the restrictions on a three- to four-month trial basis.

"We have tried to bend over backwards to find a way that would benefit a lot of people," said Laurie Kelson, vice president of the group.

The purpose of Tuesday night's meeting was to explain the proposal to the community. Ultimately, it would have to be reviewed by the Department of Transportation or the Los Angeles City Council.

Representatives from Friedman and Braude urged the organization to contact other groups in the community and address their concerns as well.

Police Officer Tim Wells was less encouraging, saying it would be difficult to heavily enforce the proposed restrictions on a consistent basis. "I'm in favor of limiting traffic in Encino hillsides, but the proposals laid out here are an enforcement nightmare."

A number of people lashed out at the proposal, saying it was unfair to shut down a major commuting route and charging that the restrictions could redirect traffic through other neighborhoods.

Sue Vorgan, who lives on Valley Vista near Woodley, said the commuters would exacerbate traffic problems in her neighborhood. "My street has no sidewalk. It's a narrow street. If Louise and Hayvenhurst are closed, this street will be affected," she said.

Several people said it is impractical to cut off a major commuting route. Others said it would probably back up traffic along Ventura Boulevard and perhaps force traffic into other neighborhoods.

Regi Block, an Encino resident who commutes to her job as a Century City lawyer, said she fears that the restrictions would throw off her schedule, making it difficult for her children to get to school, and for her to get to work, on time.

"I don't want to be shut out of getting to my place of employment," she said.

Susie Nusbaum had similar concerns, saying the restrictions would prevent her from easily getting back to her house after dropping her children off at a bus stop five blocks away from her home.

"You've actually penalized Encino residents who want to travel here," she said. "I'm not willing not to be able to get to my own house."

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