'It simply is not fair. We would lose two-thirds of our yards.' Homeowner Lois Smith For the past five years, elderly, mostly retired residents of a one-block section of South Bundy Drive have fought off repeated city attempts to widen one of the major north-south links to the Santa Monica and San Diego freeways.
They did it again last week, when district Councilman Marvin Braude agreed to withdraw the draft environmental impact report from the City Council calendar.
Their victory may be short-lived. Braude remains committed to the widening and will resubmit the report in a couple of months, according to Braude aide Claire Rogger.
"He feels something must be done about the street," Rogger said. "He only agreed to suspend action because there was such deep concern expressed by the community. He wants to see if some compromise can be worked out."
Compromise thus far has been elusive. The city wanted to widen the street from just north of Wilshire Boulevard to just south of Missouri Avenue and install a continuous median lane to ease congestion resulting from motorists making left turns.
There are no left-turn lanes along this section now. During peak traffic times, motorists trying to turn left bring traffic to a halt on one of the two lanes in each direction.
The proposed median would exact a heavy price from residents living on the west side of the 1700 block of the street. The 20 feet needed for the widening would come off their front yards. No room is available on the east side of the block because apartment buildings are so close to the curb.
"It simply is not fair," said Lois Smith, who lives with her husband, Harold, 84, at 1707 S. Bundy. "We would lose two-thirds of our yards, while people on the other side lose nothing. As it is now, we cannot open our doors during the summertime because of the noise. Imagine what it will be like if they bring traffic even closer to our home."
Sympathy for the Smiths
Michael Stafford, the city engineer assigned to work up plans for the widening, said that he can sympathize with the Smiths, retired McDonnell Douglas aircraft workers, and the other residents along the block.
He pointed out that although the 20 feet under discussion was dedicated to the city, residents have come to regard the property as their own.
"We could do nothing, as the residents want," Stafford said. "The question that has to be asked is whether leaving things as they are on Bundy is the best use of money available to the city."
Stafford said that the entire paved section of Bundy needs to be replaced.
"It is more than 40 years old and not up to current road standards," he said. "It simply does not stand up to the heavy use already on the street. And if you are going to redo the surfacing, shouldn't you consider the improvements that have been in the works for several years?"
Stafford said that the approximately $6-million cost of the project will be paid by gas tax funds, not by property owners.
The Smiths and John Urbany, 77, a neighbor, suggested improving traffic by banning left turns on the street or making Bundy and Centinela Avenue into one-way streets to accommodate the traffic.
"There are all kinds of solutions, if they would only consider them," said Urbany, who bought and moved into his house 43 years ago when the tract was built.
"What they are proposing to do is deplorable."