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Portion of Poli Street Near High School to Be Closed

September 01, 1993|PEGGY Y. LEE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

To the dismay of nearby residents, the Ventura City Council has decided to permanently close a section of Poli Street at Ventura High School during school hours as a safety precaution against possible drive-by shootings.

School district officials have asked for the closure to take effect next week, in time for the opening of school on Tuesday. The closure, which is expected to detour traffic onto residential streets, prompted angry complaints from neighbors.

Poli is a major thoroughfare that runs through the heart of the high school campus. School officials asked for the closure to prevent drive-by shootings in the wake of the fatal stabbing of a popular Ventura High School student in February. Although the stabbing occurred several blocks from campus, it raised fears of gang violence at the school.

After hours of emotional testimony from students, parents and residents, the council voted 6 to 1 late Monday to block off Poli between Catalina Street and Hall Canyon Road from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on school days.

In an effort to direct spillover traffic toward Main Street, the council also voted to install gates at Palomar Avenue and Sunset Drive. A traffic signal at Catalina Street and Poli will also be replaced by a four-way stop sign.

Councilman James Monahan dissented, saying he favored closing Poli, but opposed installing barricades on Palomar and Sunset.

Students, teachers and parents who rallied for the closure erupted into applause after the council made its decision. Residents who came to speak against the closure left grumbling.

"I'm disappointed," said June Brackrog, a senior citizen who lives on Hyland Avenue. "You just can't get through with all the traffic." City officials estimate about 70 homes on Palomar, Hyland Avenue and Fairview Drive would be most affected by the closure of Poli Street.

But the decision pleased students and school officials, who have been trying to block off Poli for at least 20 years.

Student Body President Michael Schodorf told the council, "The safety of the students should come above all other matters."

Residents suggested solutions such as brick walls, building an overpass and moving the location of the campus--all of which the council rejected as being too expensive.

According to a city-ordered traffic study, when Poli is closed, traffic is rerouted onto narrow, hillside streets. During a trial closure this spring, city officials estimated that the number of vehicles on Sunset Drive rose by 80%, or 430 vehicles. Traffic on Palomar and Hyland increased 150%, or 800 cars, because of the closure.

By installing barricades at Palomar and Sunset, it would force motorists south to Main Street, said city Traffic Engineer Nazir Lalani.

A majority of the council said they would prefer not to install the Palomar and Sunset barricades. Residents said the barricades would prevent them from getting in and out of their neighborhoods easily.

But state law compels the council to take some action to reduce traffic, said Everett Millais, city community development director. City officials said they are uncertain when the street closures will take effect because they need time to order the barricades.

Despite the concerns raised about the closure of Poli Street, Councilman Gary Tuttle, who has a daughter at Ventura High School, said the city shares in the responsibility of ensuring that the campus is safe.

"We trade the safety of the students for the inconvenience of the hillside residents," he said.

Poli street closure The Ventura City Council has decided to close part of Poli Street. Barricades will be placed on Palmor Avenue and Sunset Drive to redirect traffic. Source: City of Ventura

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