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THE SIMPSON LEGACY: LOS ANGELES TIMES SPECIAL REPORT : Twist of Fate / HOW THE CASE CHANGED THE LIVES OF THOSE IT TOUCHED : SAMANTHA GREENBERG : Life in Oasis-Turned-Landmark Is a 'Nightmare'

October 11, 1995|CARLA HALL

The reminder that she lives around the corner from Nicole Brown Simpson's townhouse is on the front lawn of her condo building most mornings: litter.

Beer bottles, trash, empty coffee cups from Starbucks. The debris of the murder-site seekers.

Once, the building on Gorham Avenue where Samantha Greenberg lives with her husband was just a nice oasis with a beautiful atrium. Once, Nicole Simpson's townhouse was just on the side of Bundy Drive that Greenberg avoided as she walked her dog, lest her beloved mutt rumble with Simpson's territorial Akita.

And both locations were completely obscure.

"It used to be people would say to you, 'You live where? Brentwood? Where's that?' " recalled Greenberg, who works with her husband in an advertising business. "Now the first question out of their mouths is, 'Do you live close to where those murders were?' "

She lives so close that people stop her for directions. (Her sister-in-law, who lives closer to O.J. Simpson's Rockingham Avenue estate, always tells inquiring tourists, "Follow that car"--no matter where the car is going.)

"It's been like your worst nightmare," Greenberg said. "We had over 4,000 people over the Memorial Day weekend. We had people on vacations from all over the world. You could hear all the different accents."

Greenberg shares her neighbors' chagrin at discovering that their once-quiet area has been transformed into a kind of perverse Knott's Berry Farm. On weekends, chauffeured limousine tours wind past the Bundy address at the hour of the murders.

"It doesn't make me angry," she said philosophically one Saturday morning over coffee and fat-free cinnamon twists at Arrosto, her favorite neighborhood coffee hangout. "I just don't understand it. There isn't anything to see."

It is the young tourists who appall her: "I've seen everything from tiny babies to young children. I can't imagine what their parents are telling them--'We're going out to a murder scene?' "

She can't stop them from coming and she won't honk or yell at them as she passes by. Instead, Greenberg, a longtime activist on community issues, has seen the situation as an avenue for activism. Mostly, it's about safety.

She circulated a petition calling for more police protection of the area around Bundy and stood outside one hot weekend and videotaped the treacherous mix of sauntering tourists and speeding cars.

"People were crossing in the middle of Bundy so they could get to her place--people would dart out, they wouldn't look, they just wanted to get over to Nicole's. . . . It was dangerous for people visiting. It was dangerous for people wanting to drive there."

And to complicate matters, motorists who wanted to take a good look would simply slow down in the midst of the traffic.

Eventually, the entreaties of Greenberg and other neighbors got police to patrol the area, mostly on weekends when tourism is heaviest. Posted signs warn drivers not to stop; if they do, they are cited within seconds by nearby police.

"We're not just having the police out there because we're a rich community," Greenberg said, defending the neighbors' efforts. "We have a real safety problem."

Daniel Kahn, a deputy in Councilman Marvin Braude's office, says the police presence has not affected Westside police coverage. "Many of the officers over there are on overtime. And it's mostly Saturday and Sundays."

To show their gratitude, Greenberg said, the neighbors will plan a party for the police.

"I think this has pulled people together," she said.

But in a community filled with privacy-seeking residents, that simply means more people know each other's names. And even that is limited.

When Greenberg obliged the newspaper by posing for a photographer near the crime scene, a well-manicured woman in a car drove by and yelled out: "You pigs! Don't you have anything better to do?"

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