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SANTA MONICA : Residential-Street Traffic Barriers Cause Drivers' Tempers to Overheat

October 02, 1994|JOHN BUZBEE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Traffic congestion--never far from the thoughts of white-knuckled Westside drivers and residents irritated by noise and fumes--are commanding more than the usual amount of attention in Santa Monica these days.

Last week, Sunset Park residents debated the best way to keep shortcut-seeking drivers off residential streets, while drivers entering Santa Monica's Mid-City area scrambled to find their way around new traffic barriers on the city's eastern border.

Hundreds of people, mainly angry and confused drivers, have called Santa Monica's traffic hot line, (310) 458-8296, since the barriers went up two weeks ago, diverting Mid-City traffic from residential streets to thoroughfares such as Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards.

"I took it as a personal affront," said Marilyn Noyes, a West Los Angeles resident who has been driving down Arizona Avenue to shop in Santa Monica for 21 years. "I thought they were trying to shut me out."

The Mid-City plan marks the first time Santa Monica has undertaken a neighborhood-wide effort to ease traffic congestion, officials say. Barriers now force drivers heading west on Broadway and Arizona to turn at Centinela Avenue instead of going straight through the residential neighborhood. Barriers also prevent left turns from Centinela into the neighborhood.

Diana Doyle, a Santa Monica resident who lives on Centinela, said the barriers have resulted in increased traffic on her street, making it hard to turn left into her driveway. Her husband had to change his route to work on Wilshire, and her son's soccer car pool had to find a new route to get him home, she said.

Doyle also said the new traffic patterns make it harder to shop in Santa Monica.

But others like the traffic-diversion measures. Councilman Paul Rosenstein, who abstained from voting on the plan because he lives in the neighborhood, said drivers will adjust to the traffic patterns.

"It's peace and quiet for the first time in many years" in front of his home on Yale Street, he said. "Many people really appreciate it."

The city will continue to tinker with the plan to resolve problems and evaluate it at the end of a six-month trial, he said.

Developers of office buildings at 26th Street and Cloverfield Boulevard funded the project to ease the traffic burden caused by the development.

The city's next neighborhood-wide traffic plan will focus on Sunset Park, said Ron Fuchiwaki, the city's traffic engineer. In eight hours of public hearings Tuesday and Wednesday nights, 158 people signed up to speak on proposals to reduce traffic around Santa Monica College and from Venice to the Santa Monica Freeway.

Complicating the issue are separate traffic plans by two dueling neighborhood groups, Sunset Park Associated Neighbors and Friends of Sunset Park, and a third plan by city staff that attempts to reconcile the two.

Richard Bloom, president of Friends of Sunset Park, said the staff proposal doesn't impose tough enough measures to control traffic and that the plan by Sunset Park Associated Neighbors benefits part of the neighborhood at the expense of others.

Bloom said his group's plan "is comprehensive, and it's supported by a coalition of neighbors."

But that plan would use permanent barriers to restrict traffic when it's not necessary, said Eileen Hecht, a member of the executive board of Sunset Park Associated Neighbors.

Council members plan to vote on the issue Wednesday.

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