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"Accidents"

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

7:34 AM PDT on June 1, 2012

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:

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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.

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