Long Time City Council Staffer Strikes and Kills Pedestrian in the Valley

A five lane road and no traffic lights in site. Image via ##https://maps.google.com/?ll=34.182831,-118.370119&spn=0.000524,0.002414&t=m&z=19&layer=c&cbll=34.182808,-118.370336&panoid=VZeT5I84ec9VnjAqDaLBxA&cbp=11,12.31,,0,0##Google Maps##

Back in March, Manuel “Manny” Figueras, struck and killed Gary Woodford, 55, at the intersection of Vineland Avenue and Erwin Street at 7:30p.m.  Figueras is a long-time staffer to City Councilman Richard Alarcon.  The Daily News reports:


Woodford was walking east on Erwin Street crossing Vineland Avenue when Figueras hit him, Bustos said.

There is no marked crosswalk at the corner. However, a corner or intersection is considered an unmarked crosswalk and it is usually the driver’s responsibility to yield to a pedestrian, Bustos said.

The incident was the ninth pedestrian fatality in the San Fernando Valley this year, Bustos said. At this time last year, there were 8 pedestrian deaths in the region, he said.

There’s a lot of blame to go around in most crashes, but doubly so when a fatality is involved.  Whether he is charged or not, Figueras himself deserves blame for the crash as it is always a driver’s responsibility to yield to pedestrians.  The road design that favors moving traffic to all other modes is also at fault.  Vineland Avenue is a five lane road that can be treacherous to cross, especially at night.  There are no traffic signals close at hand in either direction.

Complicating matters, Figueras was driving a city-owned 2002 Prius at the time of the crash.  The district staffer is one of one hundred City Council Members and their staff allowed to use one of the city’s “take home” vehicles.  Previous court rulings shield the city from liability when their cars are used in these crashes.

At publication time, no charges have been filed against Figueras while the LAPD continues its investigation.  The case will be handed off to the County District Attorney in “about a month” who will decide whether or not to file criminal charges.  If the D.A. passes, the City Attorney will then decide whether or not to file lesser misdemeanor charges.

The city’s take-home car program has come under fire in recent years.  In 2009, then Comptroller Laura Chick slammed the program as wasteful and unnecessary.  While the state has trimmed its vehicle fleet in recent years, Los Angeles has not been as aggressive, in large part because of an aggressive response by the City Council when Mayor Villaraigosa proposes cutting the fleet.

  • Anonymous

    “However, a corner or intersection is considered an unmarked crosswalk
    and it is usually the driver’s responsibility to yield to a pedestrian,
    Bustos said.”

    Um, no, Mr. Bustos, CVC 21950 is very clear that “The
    driver of a vehicle *shall* yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian
    crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked
    crosswalk at an intersection”

    But why should I be surprised that Law Enforcement sees 200-pound humans as equal to 2-ton machines in such an encounter?

  • Anonymous

    The sentence from the Vehicle Code quoted by TAPman only in part continues, “except as otherwise provided in this chapter,” making it correct for Detective Bustos to have qualified his explanation with the word “usually.”

    The exceptions include those codified in subsection (b) of section 21950, relating to pedestrians who “suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard,” and in section 21953, relating to places where pedestrian tunnels or overhead crossings are provided.

    These and other exceptions also make Damien’s statement that “it is always a driver’s responsibility to yield to pedestrians” incorrect.  It is true, however, that drivers must exercise due care, and as stated in the California Civil Jury Instructions, “The duty to use reasonable care does not require the same amount of caution from drivers and pedestrians. While both drivers and pedestrians must be aware that motor vehicles can cause serious injuries, drivers must use more care than pedestrians” (CACI No. 710).

  • Anonymous

    I highly doubt there will be criminal charges. He stayed at the scene and was not drinking. Unless they can prove he was doing something reckless, he’s not going to jail or anything like that.

  • El Barto

    he WAS doing something wreckless. He hit a pedestrian. If you can’t see what’s in the road ahead of you then you need to SLOW THE F@CK down. If the DA would actually bring charges to these idiots there would be a lot less SPEEDING.

  • Jim61773

     The section Anonymous mentions probably was added in case of vehicular suicide (similar to a person jumping out in front of a bus or a train, but with a car).

    While that may not have been the case here, it would explain why Bustos would be hesitant to assign blame in a case that was still under investigation.


Eyes on the Street: New Green Bike Lane Merge Zones on Vineland Avenue

The Vineland Avenue bike lanes got a little greener this week. The L.A. Department of Transportation (LADOT) gave several merge zones a coat of “fresh Kermit.” The Vineland Avenue bike lanes run from Ventura Boulevard to Burbank Boulevard in the southeast San Fernando Valley neighborhoods of Studio City, North Hollywood, and Toluca Lake – just east […]

Scramble Crosswalks Ready for Their Star Turn in Hollywood

Responding to community concerns that the high volume of pedestrian traffic at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue was creating an unsafe crossing, City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and the Department of Transportation recently announced that a “pedestrian scramble” will be installed by the end of the year. The pedestrian scramble, aka The Barnes Dance, […]

City Officially Unveils “Continental Crosswalk,” Promises 50 More in Next Three Months

No pedestrian left behind? At a just concluded press conference at the newly installed continental crosswalk, commonly known as a zebra crosswalk, at 5th and Spring in Downtown Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a new program to replace traditional pedestrian crossings with the more visible crosswalk pictured above. Continental crosswalks feature two-foot wide yellow […]