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City Weighs Closure of One Ballona Creek Bike Path Entrance

1:05 PM PDT on March 19, 2008

ballona creek_1.jpg 
Sepulveda Blvd. Over Ballona Creek Bike Trail

Responding to a letter from the LAPD and constituent complaints about crime, Councilman Bill Rosendahl introduced a resolution to the City Council that would close an entrance for the Ballona Creek Bike Path along Culver Drive between Purdue Avenue and Sawtelle Boulevard. The path begins at Syd Kronenthal Park in east Culver City and travels the river about 7 miles before meeting with the Coast Bike Path.

Speaking for the local community, Bob Thayer and Lou Corbin painted a nightmare scenario of the entrance's impact on their streets. Corbin testified that local gang bangers use the entrance as an escape hatch and lookout when committing crimes in the neighborhood. Neighborhood children have been attacked while coming home, houses along streets have been burglarized, and there were even some shootings because the gate is a hangout for drug dealers.

Residents also argued that permanently closing the gate shouldn't affect bicyclists use of the trail because there are other entrances close by, the nearest one being less than a quarter mile away.

Despite this bleak picture, bicycle advocates were sympathetic but unconvinced closing the gate will do anything but make the area even less safe. Cyclists encouraged increasing police patrols, adding cameras and lighting to the gate and other safety measures that would not change access to the Ballona Creek trail.

Enci Boxof Illuminate L.A. testified that, "Removing gates makes the trail and the community less safe. If as a pedestrian I see a gang up ahead, there's less ways to escape. We need to be opening up the river trail and put more eyes on the community."

Kent Strumpellalso argued that closing an entrance to a corridor would never be considered if there were a perceived safety problem because of a road entrance. "This is a transportation corridor, not a recreational corridor . . . moving the entrance to another location is like shuffling traffic around the neighborhood."

The cyclists were not without allies. LADOT Senior Project Coordinator Michelle Mowery testified that moving or closing the gate would have no safety benefits for the community, "We believe the gate will be cut open, and the wrong people will continue to use it." Stephen Box also read letters into the record opposing the trail closure from the Ballona Creek Renaissance and the Center for Land Use Interpretation.

Nevertheless, most of the council people present sympathized more with the community than with the cyclists. Only Councilman Richard Alarcón questioned whether the gate closure would work and what message the closure would send. "I hate to see facilities like this closed to the community because it's like saying to the gangs, 'we lost.'"

Councilman Rosendahl encouraged LADOT to hold a meeting with the community, cyclists, LAPD and the Del Rey Community Council to come up with a safety plan for the gate. Unless a solution is reached that makes the community feel safe within the next 30 days, Rosendahl promised to push ahead with his resolution. Because of the trails use an access to schools in the area, approval from the state might also be required before the gate can be closed.


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