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Petitions Filed to Reopen Poli Street : Traffic: Road bisecting Ventura High campus has been closed to cars during school hours. Residents angered by congestion seek ballot measure.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

A group of Ventura residents who oppose the closure of Poli Street turned over two petition-filled boxes to the city clerk Monday, hoping they have enough valid signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

The group, which calls itself Concerned Citizens of Ventura, has collected more than 11,300 signatures. Of those, 8,589 must be from registered voters.

“We’re about to drop!” said Jack Biller, one of the group’s oldest and most steadfast members. “We have worked like the dickens. It’s shot a whole year.”

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The proposed initiative seeks to reopen Poli Street, a road that bisects the Ventura High School campus. The Ventura City Council agreed last August to shut off Poli Street to through traffic during school hours, after 150 people crowded the council chambers to demand the street closure for safety purposes.

But residents of homes near the high school have protested against the closure because they say it creates congestion on nearby streets.

Now, supporters of the proposed ballot measure must wait until each of the signatures collected for the initiative has been checked by the county elections office.

If enough signatures are validated, the council will have to vote on July 25 to place the measure on the November ballot, said City Clerk Barbara Kam.

School officials say they would wait to see if the initiative is going on the ballot before launching a counterattack. Even if the measure qualifies, that doesn’t mean the community will support reopening Poli Street, said Diane Harriman, president of the Ventura Unified School District’s board of directors. “People will sign almost anything that’s put in their face,” Harriman said. “Getting something on the ballot doesn’t mean it will pass.”

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Nicky van Nieuwberg, president of the Ventura High School Parent-Student-Teacher Assn., said she is prepared to fight for the peace of mind the school community has gained since the street closed.

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“The students feel really safe right now . . . and the teachers like teaching without all the noise,” she said.

Specifically, school officials and parents worry about the potential for a drive-by shooting or other gang violence on Poli Street.

Although there has not been a drive-by shooting on Poli Street in recent memory, two violent incidents near campus in the past five years have triggered fears of encroaching gang problems.

In February, 1993, a student was stabbed to death at night a few blocks from the campus. In 1989, drive-by gunmen shot a student six times as he walked along Main Street two blocks from campus in the middle of the afternoon.

Poli Street parallels Ventura’s Main Street from Ventura Avenue on the west to just beyond Seaward Avenue on the east. The high school sits a block west of Seaward Avenue.

To redirect spillover traffic onto Main Street, the city has installed gates at Palomar Avenue and Sunset Drive.

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