Striking down a lower court ruling, an appellate court Thursday ruled that the city of Santa Ana acted well within its powers 4 years ago in initiating a plan to reroute commuters around congested residential neighborhoods.
"This was a key test of the city's ability to implement its own traffic plan, and this decision should certainly settle the question for everybody," City Atty. Edward J. Cooper said. But the citizens' group that took Santa Ana to court said an appeal is likely.
The ruling allows the city to keep intact various traffic control devices--such as stop signs, no right turn signs, and the elimination of through streets--that it developed in 1985 to combat congestion and discourage commuters along Flower Street and other northern routes within the city.
The plan had drawn fire from some community members who organized themselves as the Concerned Residents of Santa Ana. They charged in court that the city exceeded its power in helping out neighborhood residents at the expense of those in the larger community who were forced to alter their traveling habits.
Superior Court Judge Donald A. McCartin agreed, finding in an early 1986 decision that the city's plan was arbitrary and capricious. Even with that decision, the city was able to keep the new traffic patterns in place while it appealed to a higher court.
In its decision, the 4th District Court of Appeal declared: "The merits of the city's proposed actions were thoroughly explored and debated in the various studies, surveys and public and private hearings undertaken."
The triangular area affected by the ruling, immediately north of the city's civic center and central business district, encompasses all of Santa Ana north of 17th Street between the Santa Ana Freeway on the east and the Santa Ana River on the west.
The city's limiting of commuter traffic through this area has produced a drop of as much as 10% to 20% in congestion, David Grosse, the city's executive director of public works said in an interview.
"It's been successful. The intent was to reduce commuter traffic and relieve congestion, and our counts show that it's done that," Grosse said. He added that the city, confident of prevailing in the lawsuit, had made no alternate traffic plans.
Milo F. De Armey, the lawyer representing the Concerned Residents group, said after learning of the decision: "I can't imagine how they could find that policy sensible." He pointed to one intersection where he said commuters are met by do-not-enter signs on two sides and a dead end on the third.
Noting the likelihood of an appeal, De Armey said: "We won Round One. They took Round Two. Now we'll have to see how it turns out in the end."