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Traffic barriers divide Burbank neighbors

When the city of Burbank installed temporary cul-de-sacs on four streets and an alley in the city’s Media District at the beginning of the year, it erected a barrier to keep drivers on Cordova, Avon, Lima and California streets from cutting through to Alameda Avenue.

It also created a figurative barrier between neighbors — those who like the street closures and say they have restored a measure of peace to the neighborhood and those who oppose them, saying they create a whole new set of frustrating traffic woes.

For now, the barriers are staying up as the city continues to analyze the impact of the closures and their effect on traffic in the area, where a decade-old neighborhood protection plan was only partially implemented and where a massive new residential and retail development threatens further traffic issues.

The City Council on Tuesday approved a six-month work plan for additional analysis and outreach efforts, but not before hearing from 20 residents of the neighborhood, both for and against the closures.

Edna Dilacar, who lives one block east of the closures on Ontario Street, which is a dead end, told council members confused drivers are pulling onto her street, unaware that it is not a through-street, then turning around and speeding back out to the intersection with Alameda and Olive avenues after they find out.

“You guys have had enough time to do the research,” Dilacar said. ““It can’t continue because it’s frustrating me, it’s frustrating customers [at nearby eateries], it’s frustrating everyone on that street.”

Fran Avery, another opponent of the barricades, complained that residents in the area are blocked from entering Alameda Avenue from the north except at Hollywood Way, Buena Vista and Niagara streets. She also said dozens of residents living on Alameda are blockaded from their own garages and have to go out of their way to access them from the alley behind their homes.

Several also claimed the closures don’t fix the problem, but push traffic onto other nearby streets. Jennifer Heath, another Ontario Street resident, said the council’s support for the temporary cul-de-sacs perplexes her and seems designed to “placate a vocal minority” at the expense of their neighbors.

“We need solutions that serve the entire neighborhood,” Heath said. “We need to share the pain of our overburdened streets.”

However, Councilman Will Rogers said he has tried to bring together the two sides to broker some kind of compromise, but he said he has been rebuffed in those efforts.

The council agreed last fall to test the street closures when they approved the Talaria project, a 241-unit apartment building atop a Whole Foods store slated to be built across from the blocked streets, in an effort to bring peace to the neighborhood as it is and to prepare for the impending traffic impacts of the project.

Several critics said the impacts of the closures won’t be fully understood until the Talaria project is completed. Councilman David Gordon called that “the gorilla in the room.”

David Kriske, the city’s deputy city planner for transportation, said the traffic analysis will not only involve traffic counts before and after the barricades went into place, but will include projections of future traffic impacts from all planned development in the study area, including the development of the nearby Disney and Warner Bros. studios, as if those projects were already completed.

The city’s work plan also calls for a community meeting to present draft findings of its traffic analysis and proposed mitigations, a presentation to the Traffic Commission and City Council review of the findings before starting an environmental review that would be necessary before considering whether to make the barricades permanent.

Supporters said the temporary closures have restored tranquility and they want to keep it. Twelve-year-old Elizabeth Kundibekian, who praised the barricades for giving her a sense of security, said people who complain about traffic “do not get it.”

“This is Los Angeles,” Kundibekian said. “We have traffic. People should deal with it.”

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