About 120 angry residents descended on City Council chambers this week to complain that increased traffic on Harbor Boulevard has turned their quiet neighborhood into an unbearably noisy, dangerous place.
"This is a residential neighborhood, and you're turning it into a freeway," said Philip Young at Tuesday's council meeting. "You're turning it into another Los Angeles."
The additional traffic results from a road-widening project in Los Angeles County, not La Habra, but many residents said they feel the city should have foreseen the problem.
"Since La Habra city (officials) knew about all this construction, they should have done an environmental impact statement, or at least let us know about what was going on," said Becky Maffucci, whose back yard is bordered by Harbor Boulevard. "They let us down."
Just north of the Los Angeles County line, Harbor Boulevard becomes Fullerton Road, which winds quietly and slowly through the hills of La Habra Heights.
But over the last two years, Los Angeles County has been building a straight four-lane extension of Harbor Boulevard that bypasses the winding Fullerton Road.
When the straight section was opened early this year, La Habra residents say, it brought cars pouring through that northern entrance into to their city.
"We had no idea they were going to be putting the road in," said Steve Engel, who lives on Alto Lane, near Harbor Boulevard.
His neighbor, Allan Perkins, said the increased traffic has made the road more dangerous for pedestrians. "I don't like crossing the road myself, much less sending the children," he said.
Maffucci said that the noise at her Rocking Horse Lane home has become "horrendous" and that she has just installed double-paned windows in an effort to make it quieter.
Lee Risner, La Habra's city manager, responded that the city had done nothing wrong.
"The street was widened north of our city. I do not think we were negligent at the time," Risner told the scores of angry residents. "But that's neither here nor there now."
"Yes it is," muttered a few people in the audience.
"The job of the council is to meet the fair and reasonable requests of its citizens," Gary Miller, who lives on Rocking Horse Lane, told the council.
"There are a lot of voters here," he said, adding that he did not mean that as a threat.
The City Council directed Risner to meet with Judy Larsen, president of the North Hills Homeowners Assn., to discuss possible solutions to the problem.
Many residents suggested the construction of a sound wall and planting of trees to break the traffic noise.
Risner suggested hiring an expert to counsel the city. "I don't think we have anyone on staff who knows how to mitigate (the noise)," he said.
In some cities that have constructed sound walls, citizens have become more unhappy with the large wall than they were with the original noise, the city manager said.
There is also the question of the cost of decreasing the noise. "How do you determine who's going to pay?" asked City Atty. Richard D. Jones.