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City Buzz: Burbank sidewalk controversy – what’s the solution?

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Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Two students on North Screenland Drive head home from Luther Burbank Middle School Burbank winter 2011

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G — Two students on North Screenland Drive head home from Luther Burbank Middle School Burbank winter 2011

The 1900 block of North Screenland Drive sidewalk controversy has been festering, brewing, and churning for several years. Finding a solution is not going to be easy. Tonight, the Burbank City Council is scheduled to decide whether or not to go forward with the installation of sidewalks on this residential street near Luther Burbank Middle School.

The sidewalk project is funded by a Safe Routes to School Grant program, which according to a memo from Burbank Public Works Director, Bonnie Teaford, dated December 7, 2010 is “… designed to improve and enhance the safety of school children walking or bicycling to and from school.” This is where the problems and distrust began. Teaford admits in this memo that “…because of a staff oversight, residents on the 1900 block were not originally notified.” Residents in the 1800 block of North Screeland Drive were contacted.  Hmm. Not good.

In the same memo Teaford states: “When new sidewalks are proposed for a residential street as part of a grant application, staff polls the neighborhood to see if sidewalk is acceptable to residents prior to applying for the grant.” Staff dropped the ball. The residents in the 1900 block of  North Screenland, the majority of whom oppose sidewalks, did not get a say in the beginning. When the error was realized, the 1900 block of North Screenland should have been removed from this grant process. Perhaps because of this, on December 7, 2010, the majority of the city council voted to drop the sidewalk installation on Screenland Drive from this grant. The majority: Dr. David Gordon, Jess Talamantes, and Gary Bric. Done deal, right? wrong.

For reasons only he can explain, Councilman Gary Bric changed his mind and had the issue brought back to council the next month, setting the stage for the March 8, 2011 council vote reinstating the sidewalk installation on Screenland Drive to the grant project. Dr. Gordon was the only “no” vote. So one can understand why some of the residents in the 1900 block of North Screenland Drive feel like they’ve been jerked around by city officials.

There have been many delays, but as of June 25, 2013 the city has received the necessary bids for the construction under this grant project. Tonight, the public has been invited to the city council meeting to speak out on what to do about the sidewalk installation on Screenland Drive. My solution? No sidewalks for the 1900 block of North Screenland Drive. Instead here is my proposal.

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- A line of vehicles in the 1900 block of North Screenland Drive just before classes start in the morning at Luther Burbank Middle School  Burbank winter 2011

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G — A line of vehicles in the 1900 block of North Screenland Drive just before classes start in the morning at Luther Burbank Middle School Burbank winter 2011

The unsafe situation is caused more by the large number of vehicles in the 1900 block of Screenland Drive, mornings and afternoons, dropping off or picking up students at Luther Burbank. Constructing a sidewalk on this street would not alleviate this problem. First, sawhorses should be put up at both ends of the 1900 block of North Screeland Drive,  just before school opens and just before school lets out. Blocking all vehicle traffic, except for residents who live there. This should only happen a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the afternoon. Not 24-7.

Secondly, signs should be posted directing pedestrians, especially students, to the next street over which is North Pepper Street.

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- 1800 Block of North Pepper Street in Burbank August 26, 2013

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G — 1800 Block of North Pepper Street in Burbank August 26, 2013

Both the 1700 and the 1800 blocks of North Pepper have sidewalks and speed bumps. North Pepper crosses Jeffries, which has sidewalks as well. Luther Burbank is located nearby at 3700 Jeffries Avenue. These are the streets most of the students should be traveling to and from school.

 

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- speed bumps sign in the 1800 block of North Pepper Street Burbank August 26, 2013

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G — speed bumps sign in the 1800 block of North Pepper Street Burbank August 26, 2013

This would solve the traffic congestion problem in the 1900 block of North Screenland Drive and it makes a safer environment for pedestrians who do walk or ride bicycles on this street. A perfect solution? No. There are no perfect solutions to most complex issues, but I think this one works.

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