Gate Swinging Shut on Ballona Creek Entrance

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The LAPD Testifies on the Gate Closure

Yesterday, the City Council Transportation Committee followed the advice of the LAPD and voted to approve a trial closure of one of the entrances to the Ballona Creek trail along Culver Drive between Purdue Avenue and Sawtelle Boulevard.  An amendment by Committee Chair Wendy Greuel requires that a detailed series of goal posts be put in place to measure the closure’s success before the resolution comes before the full Council.

After months of debate since this issue first appeared on the Transportation Committee Agenda in March, the local LAPD commander wrote a letter to the City Council urging them to “temporarily” close the gate for 90 days so that they could assess it’s impact on the community. 

But not providing any other alternatives other than a closure, the LAPD did the Council and local Councilman Bill Rosendahl a disservice; forcing a clash between trail users who view the gate as a safe entrance and exit from the trail and those living adjacent to the gate who view it as a hotbed of gang activity because it provides an extra escape route.

Much of the testimony from the bike community was similar to what’s been said before.  Concerns were raised about the safety of people on the trail, the potential crashes that would occur by forcing all those wishing to enter or exit the crash to do so off more heavily traveled roadways and even if the safety measure was needed at all.  Local bike advocate Howard Hackett pointed out that it had been more than 100 days since the Transportation Committee first addressed the potential closure and there had been no crime reported in the area.  How could a closed gate over a 90-day period improve on that record?

In response, the LAPD’s representatives admitted that crime in the area has gone down 46% in the first two months of 2008 compared to the same time period in 2007.  Statistics for crime for the bike trail weren’t available because the LAPD Crime Maps system has trouble keeping records for crimes without a street address.  Three years ago LAPD tried to get a list of crimes on the bike path, but LADOT could only provide statistics "for the area."

Oddly, in response to questions about why the gate closure would be a full-time closure and not just at night, the LAPD responded that crime in the area is a 24-hour problem and not just isolated to evening hours.  This is a direct contradiction to comments made by Lou Corbin, whose house is directly across the street and is a leading proponent of gate closure, at previous meetings where he stated that the problem is during the day when people aren’t home and their houses get vandalized and burglarized.  There was no effort to contradict Corbin at previous meetings when the debate was about whether or not increased lighting could improve the crime situation in the area.

The meeting also featured a sharp exchange between Councilman Richard Alarcon and Rosendahl over whether the community had done enough to warrant the city stepping in.  Alarcon fixated on the lack of a community watch program and forcefully argued that closing access to a public amenity before the community had tried policing itself was the wrong way to go about things.  Rosendahl noted that the police in his district get no funds from the city’s gang prevention program and we should support their request for a closure.

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Beliot Ave. Gate, Now Also Closed Because of Neighbors Concerns About Crime

Alarcon also asked the million-dollar question for which there is no reply, “If they don’t have trouble breaking into a house, how are they going to be stopped by a fence?”  Earlier, Alex Thompson testified to the ease of using bolt cutters to quickly making a hole in a chain link fence.  Other bike advocates wondered how difficult it would be to just jump or climb the four-foot obstacle to get to the trail.

Before ultimately voting to move the motion forward, Wendy Greuel commented on the incomplete nature of the LAPD’s proposal.  Greuel was concerned that if the evaluation was limited to asking the community if it “felt more safe” that the gate would remain closed forever regardless of its impact on safety.  Before a final vote the committee agreed that a detailed evaluation criteria would need to be in place before the council could give final approval.

One issue that remained unresolved was whether the closure could impact future funding of trail projects in the city.  This point was brought up multiple times during testimony; but when a Metro lobbyist was asked point blank if this were the case, he replied that he would have to look it up.

In the end, the Committee moved the proposal by a 4-1 vote, with Alarcon voting against.  Actually, I’m just assuming the vote was 4-1 and not 3-1-1 or 3-2.  Councilman Parks didn’t move for most of the debate and never spoke.  Some of those in the audience wondered whether or not the Councilman had fallen asleep.  Regardless, the full council will take up the issue later this summer.

First photo by Alex Thompson.

Second photo by Will Campbell.

  • Joe Linton

    “Alex Thompson testified to the ease of using bolt cutters to quickly making a whole in a chain link” – shoudl be making a HOLE – not whole – no?

  • Uh, did anyone else hear the City Attorney say something like, “You cannot close access to a right of way without making certain findings, as mandated by state law.”

    And then the committee went ahead and voted to close access to the right of way (“for 90 days”).

    After that happened, I started hearing this strange buzzing in my ear demanding I call a bicycle injury attorney down on his luck, and with some free time, to file a lawsuit against the city for violating state law.

    Alarcon brought up a great response to the local citizen’s complaints about the bike path. He said something like, “You want to close off a resource to the community, when you haven’t even gotten together with your neighbors and formed a neighborhood watch?”

  • Bobbi Gold

    The photo shows the wrong gate. It shows the gate at Beloit Ave, a few blocks east of Sawtelle. The Beloit gate was closed years ago, also at the request of neighbors complaining about crime.

  • Thanks Bobbi. I’ve corrected it.

  • Richard

    I live a few blocks from the path’s entrance and use it twice daily to commute to and from work. I have used that path on and off for seven years and have never seen any hint of crime at the gate’s entrance, although I admit I do not live on that block.

    About a year ago, on one occasion the gate was locked and I did ask a local resident who was out on the street if he knew why. What I got was an angry reply and rant from the guy about young punks and criminals, and the guy was basically yelling at me. I suspect that guy was Lou Corbin, and he is totally out of control and scarier than anything I have witnessed on the bike path.

    Last week at the entrance, I see the same guy with a council member or aide ranting again about the path and how he’s going to attack people with a baseball bat if they come thru the gate causing crime.

    That day I come home from work and the gate is locked and I am stuck on the path and cannot get off at my local exit. After throwing my bike over and climbing the gate, I research and find out what has been going on with the proposed gate closure.

    A notice or sign explaining the situation would have been helpful prior to the gate closure/locking and after. How is the average public user of that gate supposed to know that hearings are going on? How can we voice an opinion when one day you show up and the gate is locked? If the gate is to be locked post a sign warning of the closure so at least path users can navigate appropriately and voice their opinions.

    This week the gate is open again, so is the entrance staying open or not? Please keep it open!!!

  • marty felgen

    The gate closer was a sudden, disruptive surprise to me on my customary commute. It was such a surprise, that all I could think to do was to lean my bike against the adjacent fence, climb over to the bike path, reach way over and pull my bike – with no small effort – up and over to the bike path.

    Climbing a chain link fence with smooth soled cycling shoes is no easy feat – especially for those of us approaching 50 on the bioclometer. But answer this: if a 49 year old guy wearing cycling shoes can climb that fence with his bicycle in tow, why does anyone expect that teenage thugs will be deterred by locking that gate?

    Here’s a safety issue for you, misters Commander and Councilman: when you prevent access to the bike path, you force cyclists to use substituted routes shared with automobiles – routes that have not been developed for this purpose precisely because the path has been accessible. Do you wish to be responsible for the injury and death of cyclists – people who are among the few in our community who, through their cycling, mitigate most of our most dyer problems (e.g. air and water pollution, traffic congestion, inadequate health care system due to rampant obesity, diabetes, etc., unavailable or expensive parking, space unavailability due to it’s expropriation for roads and parking lots, huge cost to maintain transportation infrastructure, green house effect….).

    As for local homeowners, well, I feel for you. I wouldn’t want my house vandalized or burgled, and I know what it’s like to share my street with a bunch of boisterous teenagers. And if locking the gate were a solution to these problems, it might be fair to consider it. Nevertheless, you knew you were buying a house a stone’s throw from Ballona Creek and were – I should hope – aware of the possible advantages and disadvantages of your proximity to the Creek. And, the cost of your property accorded with this – or should have – when you purchased it. I paid a bit less for my property because of the two easements in my backyard, so I don’t have fit every time DWP needs access.

    Let’s work to find real solutions to the problems associated with the bike path so that homeowners can enjoy the safety and peace every resident deserves. Are better lighting and a neighborhood watch program the solutions? I don’t know, but I’m sure that back peddling on our path to an ecologically sustainable community isn’t the answer.

  • Not the original A.T.

    Ubrayj said “Uh, did anyone else hear the City Attorney say something like, “You cannot close access to a right of way without making certain findings, as mandated by state law.””

    That is true for a street, but I believe the Ballona Creek bike path is considered a trail, meaning a different legal distinction.

    IANAL, nor do I play one on tv.

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