Concerns about safety on Fremont and Meridian avenues drew a multitude of public comments at the City Council meeting on Jan. 14.
Numerous residents cited the Jan. 8 death on Fremont of motorcyclist Brandon Jay Valdies, a 39-year-old resident of Los Angeles, leading the council to make two motions for additional safety measures on the streets.
In all, eight residents shared concerns that traffic along both streets has grown increasingly dangerous and that the city has not taken steps to remedy the situation.
Brian Bright held up the faceplate of Valdies’ helmet, which ended up in his yard on Fremont after the fatal accident.
“It flew about 95 feet from the accident to my yard, which I did a little bit of physics and he was probably going between 50 and 60 mph for it to fly that far,” said Bright.
As police reported, Valdies was attempting to pass a box truck on the right in a parking lane before he hit a curb and struck the truck. Bright recommended adding striping to the parking lanes, digital speed signs, a small median and other traffic-calming measures. He noted that Fremont does not permit trucks, and that more deterrents need to be added to discourage them.
“We can try to tackle the trucks that are driving through our green city,” said Bright. “Let’s do it. Let’s do it now. Let’s use this as the impetus to get us off of sitting on our hands and make it happen.”
Mary Ferrero, a resident of the city for two decades, said that Fremont traffic is “quite terrible” and that the street experiences numerous accidents, with Jan. 8 being only the first fatal one.
She asked the for council’s help, noting that it would benefit “all of South Pasadena if Fremont would work.” She also noted the prolific amount of unpermitted large trucks on Fremont Avenue.
“The 18-wheelers are getting bigger,” said Ferrero. “I don’t count the wheels but I just know they’re getting bigger and we’ve got more of them. They’ve had so many suggestions for Fremont and nothing ever happens.”
Fremont Avenue resident Raphael Lopez said that his street resembles an alley at night, leading drivers to take more risks. He recommended the city look into adding streetlights and digital speed-limit signs.
“It’s not only dark, but it’s very dangerous, because since there’s not a lot of traffic, people tend to use it as a freeway,” said Lopez.
“They drive down really fast. Any time I come out at night, that’s the most dangerous time of the day. … We knew it was only a matter of time before anything like the death of the gentlemen happened was going to happen.”
Delaine Shane, of Meridian Avenue, added that, “Fremont’s woes are also spreading to other collector streets,” such as her own.
She nodded to a short-term plan in the still-pending update of the General Plan that aims at improving traffic safety, but encouraged the council to name it “an immediate action item to carry out the neighborhood traffic-management program and to implement some short-term fixes now.’’
“We the residents and taxpayers of South Pasadena deserve no less in having safe streets for our children, our seniors and everyone else,” she said.
Fellow Meridian resident Denise Philley recommended the city put in stop signs along the street, at Meridian and Oak Street as well as at Meridian at Maple Street.
“I think it would slow the traffic down,” said Philley.
In response, City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe said the city was currently studying a stop sign at Meridian and Oak and would add the other to a future analysis. Mayor Bob Joe motioned that staff provide a report on the two areas and detail the city’s current efforts on them. Council Member Michael Cacciotti seconded it.
Council Member Richard Schneider also made a motion, which Cacciotti seconded, for a future agenda item to be added for the council to further discuss traffic safety on Meridian and Fremont.
“It’s a big issue and we’ve had this fatality, so I think it’s about time we did something about it,” said Schneider.
In addition, Mayor Pro Tem Diana Mahmud requested that the city immediately add portable speed-indication signs along Fremont and Meridian.
“I’m very sensitive to the people on Fremont and Meridian,’’ she said. “It’s the least we can do.”