Screeching for a Stop


Even here, one of the most affluent and idyllic cities in the county, there is no escape from traffic problems for some residents.

Racing motorists, screeching tires and too many cars traveling through Francisco and Vida drives have turned this peaceful neighborhood of ranch-style homes into a suburban speedway. Many of the drivers are outsiders using the neighborhood as a shortcut, racing through the deeply curving streets that call for low speeds and high levels of caution.

Over the years, out-of-control drivers have careened onto neighborhood lawns, hitting brick pillars, knocking down curbside mailboxes, tearing up shrubbery and plowing into fences and houses, sometimes barely missing pedestrians.

Residents rarely take a stroll, jog, ride a bike or walk their dogs on neighborhood streets for fear of getting run down by a careless motorist. They don't let their children play in frontyards or walk to school around the corner. Many homeowners are also uneasy gardening for the same reason.

"Our main concern is simple: It's safety," said Dr. Kelly Tucker, who moved to a house on Vida a year ago.

Francisco and Vida have become a well-known shortcut for motorists wanting quick access to Katella, Tustin, Prospect and Collins avenues. More than 1,200 cars travel through the neighborhood daily.

Burglaries and vandalism also have plagued this neighborhood where homes that sell for half a million dollars or more are situated on half-acre lots. Sidewalks and street lights are nonexistent to preserve the country-like atmosphere.

For many years, residents have raised concerns about the dangerous traffic conditions to city leaders with few changes made. In 1988, the City Council rejected a proposal to close Roberto Street, which provides access to Collins Avenue.

Now, a decade later, a new generation of residents have united with old-timers to demand a permanent solution from the council. Residents have formed a steering committee, and the Public Safety Committee, made up of council members Patricia L. Bortle and Bob Bell, has called two meetings with residents in recent months to discuss solutions.

Suggestions have included closing the neighborhood to through traffic, restricting turning at Roberto and Collins or installing speed humps, adding traffic control signs and increasing police enforcement.

The City Council on Tuesday was expected to discuss these options, but residents have asked the council to postpone a decision until the May meeting.

Tucker said residents wanted more time to talk to neighbors and gather more opinions before deciding what would be the best resolution.

Some residents oppose installing speed humps or traffic signs. Such measures would clutter the neighborhood visually and cause more accidents, they say.

Many residents of Francisco and Vida, who bear the brunt of the traffic, say their only hope of eliminating the shortcut motorists take is to close Vida at its southerly intersection with Fernando Circle or at Fernando and Roberto.

"While it would be inconvenient for many of the residents, we would accept [a street closure] if it would improve the safety of the community," Tucker said.

"In the last 15 years we've lived here, we've noticed an increase of speeding and the amount of traffic has gotten worse," said Francisco resident Dennis Deovlet.

But Tucker said a street closure could cost $50,000 or more and residents would have to foot the bill.

The city's consulting traffic engineer confirmed that there is a high percentage of motorists speeding--traveling 40 mph to 50 mph--in the 25-mph neighborhood zone. The study also found that about 40% of the motorists are using the area as a shortcut.

Nancy Deovlet said that along with the constant concern for the safety of pedestrians and children, their quality of life is at stake.

"We should be able to walk comfortably in our neighborhood," she said.

NEIGHBORHOODS: The Villa Park 'Shortcut'

Bounded by: Francisco Drive, Vida Drive, Montana Circle, Fernando Circle and Roberto Street

Population: About 60 homes affected

Hot topic: To rid neighborhood of traffic, speeding and reckless driving. Residents overwhelmingly favor closing Vida at its southerly intersection with Fernando or at Fernando and Roberto to eliminate traffic using the neighborhood as a shortcut.

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