Council: 400 sign petition asking city to improve school crossings

November 13, 2013
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly 

Santa Paula Times 

A group of parents including the father of a young boy recently hit by a vehicle told the City Council they have grave concerns about traffic safety around area schools.

Speakers at the November 4 meeting included Amy Aguilar of the advocacy group CAUSE who told the council that although better crosswalks have been a focus of recent council discussion a petition signed by 400 residents want more.

Of   high concern is the crosswalk across 10th Street/Highway 150 at Ventura Street where Aguilar said it needs to be repaired and repainted, but she noted stop signs should be installed to ensure the safety of children walking to Grace Thille Elementary School.

Such improvements should be undertaken, “for the safety of our community,” and she noted a “major accident” that left a student with a fractured skull who was struck by a vehicle while walking to Glen City School.

Mayor Ralph Fernandez noted for the record that the city does not have jurisdiction over 10th Street because of its status as a state highway controlled by Caltrans.

Several speakers noted the high speed of drivers during school commute hours as well as other lighted crosswalks that are not working and several suggested improvements.

Maria Fogata told the council that crossing streets are “very difficult” as some drivers do not even stop for pedestrians or signs.

Daniel Rodriguez said his 10-year-old son was struck at Steckel Drive and Harvard Boulevard on October 18 suffering a severe head injury.

Rodriguez said he has observed many near misses and accidents in the area and urged the council to have a camera placed at the intersection.

“People think they’re on the freeway, they have to respect,” the laws especially those governing speed as Rodriguez said some drivers “think they’re on the freeway.... “

He also noted that that crime has risen greatly at Teague Park.

Rodriguez said he was having trouble receiving the report on the accident that left his son injured and questioned why it was taking so long as his insurer needed the paperwork to start the claim process.

“We have all these bills coming in,” including from Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara where the boy was transferred.

Vice Mayor Rick Cook said he had already addressed the delayed accident report and told Rodriguez, “You’ll get a response very quickly.... “

Councilman Bob Gonzales, like Cook retired from the Santa Paula Police Department noted Rodriguez should have received at least the front sheet with the basic accident information.

Other speakers addressed traffic concerns and offered suggestions including left turn pockets and traffic lights and more police presence during school commuter hours.

Fernandez thanked the speakers noting, “It’s important that you come forward so we know what is going on,” while Councilman Jim Tovias noted the lack of crossing guards.

“Lights are important, but from a real safety standpoint,” a crossing guard should be present.

“I think we should talk to the school board and see where that program is,” said Tovias.

Gonzales said in years past the city had been responsible for crossing guards before the program was turned over to the schools, “But I would like to see joint responsibility,” as well as a heightened police presence at schools.

Kids also dart out in front of cars noted Cook who suggested the item be brought back to the council.

City Manager Jaime Fontes said traffic safety and street issues have been a priority and Police Chief Steve McLean has been meeting with schools.

When the city’s Redevelopment Agency was dissolved Fontes said the school district received about $1.3 million funds in that could provide crossing guards. The city also has purchased extra surveillance cameras and several could be placed at the school traffic hot spots.

Interim Public Works Director Brian Yanez said new crosswalk technology has already been discussed at council meetings and costs will soon be addressed; city crews recently re-striped yellow school crosswalks and white crossings in the downtown. 

“We have three street employees out in the field,” and Yanez encouraged the public to contact the city if they spot a crossing that needs touchup paint.

At the end of the meeting several councilmen asked that the issue be brought back on a future agenda and Fontes reported that Rodriguez had just been provided with SPPD paperwork related to his son’s accident.

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