Mayor Blames County for Girl’s Traffic Death
Pomona Mayor Donna Smith has blamed county officials for the death of a 3-year-old girl who was struck by a truck last week in front of a county building that lacks off-street parking.
Smith said that if parking had been provided at the Department of Public Social Services offices, the child would not have been crossing busy Holt Avenue.
But Barbara McGowan, assistant division chief in the county Administrative Office, said the county is not at fault.
“I regret terribly that (the death) happened,” she said. “But it could have happened anywhere.”
McGowan said the county, as a matter of longstanding policy, does not provide off-street parking for the public at its social services offices. She did not offer a reason for the policy, but said, “It’s older than I am.”
The Pomona office, which serves about 600 people a day, administers Medi-Cal, food stamps and welfare programs.
The office, at 2040 W. Holt Ave., has 202 parking spaces, but they are reserved almost entirely for employees.
Thus, many clients park on the street. Others park illegally in a shopping center across from the office, creating jaywalking problems on Holt and depriving the shopping center of parking spaces it needs for its customers.
Police said the uncle of 3-year-old Yasmine Tapia Infante of Baldwin Park had dropped off other family members at the county office, then parked in the shopping center. The child got out of the car and darted across Holt Avenue, where she was struck and killed.
Smith said the city has been trying for months to persuade the county to provide adequate parking. One solution, the mayor said, would be for the county to buy city-owned land next to the county office and build a parking lot.
But, Smith said the county has refused to resolve the problem. In a letter to Richard Dixon, the county’s chief administrative officer, she blamed the county for the child’s death and called the bureaucracy’s inaction “heartless.”
“How many more fatalities or crippling accidents must happen before the county takes this situation seriously?” the mayor asked.
Smith said she has yet to receive a reply from Dixon.
Speaking on behalf of Dixon, McGowan said the county has taken steps to accommodate some public parking by encouraging employees to car-pool and by allowing some employees to work at home under a telecommuting arrangement. In addition, she said, the department is planning to put employees on staggered shifts. Even with these steps, she said, there will still be a parking shortage.
McGowan said the county does not have money to buy land for more parking.
Smith said that if the county cannot provide adequate parking at its offices, then it should build such facilities in unincorporated areas, instead of burdening cities with traffic problems. She said the county apparently expects all the people going to welfare offices to take the bus.
“It’s ludicrous,” the mayor said.