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Residents Split on 101 Expansion

Transit: Some support plans to ease traffic, but others worry about losing homes.


No matter what transportation officials decide to do about the traffic congestion on the 101 Freeway, it's clear that not everyone will be happy.

Los Angeles area residents who attended a community open house in Encino on Thursday night passionately told state and local officials about worries, including the potential loss of homes, if the freeway is expanded, even as others insisted that something had to be done about the traffic mess.

As residents clustered around the numerous California Department of Transportation maps and drawings displayed in the auditorium at the Encino Community Center, they were deeply divided about what to do about the 101 corridor, the subject of an ongoing $4.5-million study.

Officials are considering proposals that involve adding freeway lanes, building an elevated expressway and constructing a light-rail line.

About 200 people attended the open house.

Outside, a dozen people were carrying signs with slogans such as "Caltrans: Hands Off Ventura Fwy." and "No Double Decking."

Neighbors and strangers engaged in impromptu debates, which at times erupted into shouting matches. "This state has to think of the transportation needs of future generations!" said Zan Green, a retired real estate appraiser from Tarzana.

As Green argued for expanding the freeway, Christopher Sabatino, a Studio City chiropractor who lives one house away from the freeway, said: "You can't take people's homes and livelihood.... Most of us have worked so hard to build our homes." Green shot back: "Some people have to sacrifice for the good of the greater. You may have to be sacrificed for the greater good!"

A committee that includes representatives from Caltrans, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the city of Los Angeles and the Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Governments will be grappling with such issues in the next few months.

To present options and solicit feedback, the officials have been holding community meetings and open houses along the 40-mile section of the freeway being studied, from downtown Los Angeles to Thousand Oaks.

The officials are expected to announce their preferred strategy in December, and then will try to obtain funding.

On Thursday, officials said that if nothing is done, traffic will only worsen as population along the corridor is projected to grow by 25% by 2025.

"[Doing nothing] is dumb," said Hank Yuloff, a former president of the Encino Chamber of Commerce. "If you sit on the freeway going nowhere, something's got to be done."

But several residents remained unsatisfied with what they heard.

"The one question I had to ask, 'Are you going to flatten my home?' nobody will answer. They tell me it's a study, [that such a possibility] is 20 years away," said Connie Hearn, a post-production supervisor for film advertising, who lives in Sherman Oaks.

Jim Anderson, a Sherman Oaks engineer, summed up the officials' policy dilemma: "The problem is, no matter what they do, it's going to upset a lot of people."

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