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A father wants to make it safer for his disabled son to go for a walk but change could be a rocky road

Arthur Hausen and his son Noah

Arthur Hausen and his son Noah walk down Graham Street near their home in Huntington Beach. Graham Street lacks sidewalks, which Arthur Hausen says makes it difficult for Noah, who is disabled, to get around.

(Scott Smeltzer / Huntington Beach Independent)

Arthur Hausen just wants his adult son, disabled from a car accident 13 years ago, to be able to walk around Graham Street safely, but a two-block portion that lacks sidewalks makes that difficult.

The 76-year-old Huntington Beach man, who has lived for 40 years on Old Pirate Drive, perpendicular to Graham near Meadowlark Golf Club, said he has reached out to the City Council multiple times through handwritten letters and photographs over the past few years, asking for sidewalks.

“A person could possibly walk along this dirt road, but my son can’t because he doesn’t walk that well,” Hausen said, referring to the rough edges of the paved roadway, particularly uneven bricks that someone placed outside one of the homes apparently to offer some semblance of a walking area. “He has to walk into the street.”

Hausen said his son Noah suffered brain damage in the accident and doesn’t get around that well since, adding that he has fallen a few times and injured himself, necessitating the use a wheelchair for periods of time.

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But Noah still insists on walking, albeit with a limp, to fast food restaurants each day, urging his father not to follow him.

Arthur Hausen

Arthur Hausen places signs near his home on Graham Street to warn drivers that disabled people walk along the road.

(Scott Smeltzer / Huntington Beach Independent)

Graham is his only way out.

“He thinks walking on his own is an expression of his manhood and his independence,” Arthur Hausen said. “I tell him it’s too dangerous but he insists on walking.”

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City officials said they are well aware of the sidewalk issue on Graham.

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Only a handful of locations in the city lack sidewalks, but Graham is unusual in that it is too narrow to accommodate them without encroaching on private property, said city engineer Tom Herbel. So building sidewalks on Graham might depend on the acquisition of neighbors’ land through eminent domain, the right of a government to pay to expropriate private property for public use.

Herbel said the city is looking for grant opportunities to fund such a project and other improvements, like repavement of the street.

“Funding is the limiting factor,” he said. “The estimates range from $275,000 to $900,000, depending on the extent of the work performed to bring the entire street into conformance with the city’s general plan and is inclusive of potential right-of-way costs.”

He said the city budgets $250,000 to $500,000 annually for concrete maintenance, the vast majority of which involves repairing cracked or buckling sidewalks and curbs and gutters that might present a tripping hazard.

Neighbors sympathize with the Hausen family — to a point.

Liz Smith, who has lived on Old Pirate Drive for more than 30 years and often walks with her husband and their dog and grandchildren on Graham, worries about the reaction of neighbors to giving up part of their lawns.

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“I know it would be good, but I don’t know about impacting neighbors at this time,” she said. “Walking around Graham is definitely not an easy thing to do. At some point, I feel like someone’s going to get hurt, and that’s the part that’s such a bummer.”

Walking around Graham is definitely not an easy thing to do. At some point, I feel like someone’s going to get hurt, and that’s the part that’s such a bummer.
Liz Smith

One resident who lives on the portion of Graham where a sidewalk would eat into her frontyard said she didn’t like the idea of the construction. She spoke on condition that her name not be used.

Noah Hausen maintains that a sidewalk would raise the safety level for everyone since cars often drive fast down Graham as an easement between Heil and Warner avenues.

“You’re not going to beat an automobile,” he said. “What are you going to do? Dodge it by falling into the dirt? It’s even worse when you’re riding a bike. You feel like they’re going to clip you.”

Arthur Hausen has taken to placing up signs on the street to warn drivers that disabled people walk along the road. He takes them down each night so as not to annoy city officials.

The father, who gave up being a factory owner to care for his son full-time after the accident, said Noah has short-term memory loss and does not fully know the lengths to which he has gone to reach out to the city.

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Brittany Woolsey, brittany.woolsey@latimes.com

Twitter: @BrittanyWoolsey

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