After a mother was killed and her daughter severely injured by a wayward truck while walking to Hancock Park Elementary School back in April, area residents, managers of the nearby Park La Brea community, representatives from the Department of Transportation, and City Councilmember Katy Yaroslavsky all pledged to do whatever they could to make the streets near the school safer, and to ensure that such a tragedy will never happen again.
Yesterday, less than two months after the incident, Yaroslavsky, several other Council District 5 staff members, DOT engineer Tim Fremeaux, Los Angeles Deputy Mayor of Infrastructure Randall Winston, and Danielle Tenner, representing LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin, held a community meeting to provide updates on traffic safety improvements that have already been installed near the intersection of Colgate and Ogden, where the fatal accident occurred, and to discuss further improvements that might be possible in both the near and more distant future.
At the beginning of the Zoom-based session, Yaroslavsky introduced the various participants and pledged that she is fully committed to traffic safety, especially near local schools. “For me, this is personal,” she said. Yaroslavsky has three young children own, and she said that at the exact moment 33-year-old Ghadah Abduljabbar was killed walking her daughter to Hancock Park School in April, Yaroslavsky was walking her own daughter to another school not far away.
Yaroslavsky said an initial meeting on traffic safety near Hancock Park Elementary, held a month ago, produced lots of good ideas for safety improvements, as well as a great new partnerships with Park La Brea leadership, the Mayor’s office, the Department of Transportation, and LAUSD. And the groups have been working together on the issue ever since.
After Yaroslavsky’s introduction, Fremeaux gave a quick presentation introducing the improvements implemented so far near the intersection of Colgate Ave. and Ogden Drive, at the SE corner of the Hancock Park School campus, where the fatal accident occurred. So far, Fremeaux said, the city has extended and freshly painted the red curb on the west side of Ogden Drive, refreshed the paint on the Ogden crosswalks, and added new “STOP” markings on Ogden, and “STOP AHEAD” markings on Colgate approaching Ogden. Flexible white plastic bollards have also been placed at strategic locations, he said, along with a set of yellow chevrons and posts to help control traffic flow.
But that’s just the beginning, Fremeaux said. Next, in a “Quick Build 2.0” phase at the intersection, the city plans to install a center separator in the middle of the street, following the curve from Colgate to Ogden, which will improve driver awareness of the need to slow down, as well as a provide a “refuge” space, between two lines of bollards, where pedestrians can stop when crossing the street, to make sure it’s safe before continuing. The separator will also shrink the street to a more “human scale,” Fremeaux said, and provide one form of traffic calming.
Fremeaux said, too, that the city is willing to do even more at the location in further stages. For example, he said, one thing that could be done to help prevent people from using Colgate and Ogden as a cut-through path to avoid the crowded 3rd and Fairfax intersection is to prohibit right turns from Fairfax Ave. onto Colgate, and to allow only right turns from Colgate onto Fairfax. (This more intensive change would be subject to “community consensus,” though, said Fremeaux.)
Fremeaux said a similar solution has been implemented at 4th Street and La Cienega, which needed similar traffic calming measures.
In discussion following Fremeaux’s presentation, several additional strategies were suggested by attendees to increase safety at the intersection.
Local resident Joesph Pierry said crossing guards would be a big help, but he’s heard that although the city has funded 500 crossing guard positions throughout the city, only 300 have been filled. Yaroslavsky said that these are among many positions the city has had trouble filling since the end of the pandemic-era hiring freeze, but one thing that makes it particularly hard to hire school crossing guards is the schedule for the job – it’s only a part-time position, and people have to be on duty both before school and after school, but not during the school hours in between.
Park La Brea Residents’ Association president Robert Shore noted that the driver who killed Abduljabbar in April suffered a “medical incident” and was not driving recklessly for other reasons. He asked if there are any kinds of street improvements that could have prevented this kind of tragedy, and Fremeaux said it’s hard to know whether or not this particular incident could have been prevented, but it’s always good to focus on prevention and the ways in which drivers can be influenced by their environment to be more careful and reduce their speeds.
Park La Brea resident Miriam Pinski recalled hearing about a program that closed streets near schools during school hours, and suggested that might be a good way to further increase pedestrian safety. Fremeaux noted that the elements installed by DoT so far, and the additional measures being discussed above, are all under DoT’s purview, so they can be implemented easily and quickly. But he said actually closing streets would require review, input, and permission from a number of additional city departments, including the Fire Department and Sanitation, so it would be much more complicated and take a lot longer. That said, however, Fremeaux noted that the city of Paris does close hundreds of streets near its schools, so it’s definitely something that could be explored.
Krista Amigone, a Park La Brea resident and Hancock Park school parent, said that much of the cut-through traffic in the area likely comes from phone apps like Wayze and Google Maps, so perhaps there could be some sort of campaign to get those companies to remove the streets from their recommended shortcuts. Fremeaux reported, however, that there have been similar issues with mapping apps and traffic in the Hollywood Hills, and all attempts by the city to engage with the map providers have failed, with Wayze taking the position that public streets are public, unless specifically posted otherwise.
Park La Brea resident Carter Cassidy suggested adding speed humps in the area, along with the other solutions already being implemented. Fremeaux said the city has had little or no funding for speed humps in recent years, but he also reported that Yaroslavsky has recently set aside some new money for speed humps in CD5, so they could definitely be considered in this area.
Park La Brea resident (and former Hancock Park Elementary parent) Barbara Gallen said she appreciates the recent improvements in the area, but noted that there are many other dangerous intersections near the school that need attention, and that some of the Colgate/Ogden improvements may have actually resulted in more people running the stop sign there now, because traffic is pushed closer to the middle of the street than it used to be, so drivers may not be able to see the stop sign as before, since it’s now further away from them..
Finally, Hancock Park Principal Robin Wynne Davis said she would like to see a combination of crossing guards and LAPD traffic officers stationed at the intersection. She said the Park La Brea guards who have been positioned there since Abduljabbar was killed do help some, but they’re not allowed to write tickets, and drivers would be much more responsive if police officers who could write “very expensive tickets” were on site instead.
But even though Aryn Thomez, Vice President of Property Management at Park La Brea, said the company is committed to supporting the city and the school in whatever way they can, with whatever resources necessary, both Yaroslavsky and Fremeaux said it’s a much better and more sustainable strategy, long-term, to create infrastructure changes that force drivers to change their behavior.
Yaroslavsky said that before moving ahead with further improvements, she and the other city representatives will return to the community with new concepts to review. And in the meantime, she invited those with questions, comments, or further suggestions to contact any of the following members of her team:
Field Deputy, Michelle Flores – [email protected]
Transportation Deputy Jarrett Thompson – [email protected]
Field Deputy Thao Tran – [email protected]
Public Safety Deputy George Hakopiants – [email protected].