2012-01-05 / Front Page

Some parents peeved by Arboles restriping

Charter school upset over removal of stop sign
By Michelle Knight

RECONFIGURED—A vehicle prepares to make a left turn from Avenida de Los Arboles onto Calle Bouganvilla on Tuesday. RECONFIGURED—A vehicle prepares to make a left turn from Avenida de Los Arboles onto Calle Bouganvilla on Tuesday. Traffic citations and accidents are down on Avenida de Los Arboles, police say, but parents at a nearby school are unhappy with an increase in congestion since lanes on the busy street were reconfigured a month ago.

Juliett Herman, Bridges Charter School education coordinator, said parents have complained of more traffic tie-ups on Arboles and voiced concerns about their children’s safety without a crosswalk at the street’s intersection with Calle Bouganvilla. The charter school is in its first year at 1335 Calle Bouganvilla, a half-block south of Avenida de Los Arboles.

“The stop sign being taken out has been the most significant impact for us here,” Herman said Tuesday, calling it the “chief complaint” of parents whose children walk or ride their bikes to school.

In November, city repaving crews restriped a 1.25-mile, heavily traveled section of Arboles between Moorpark Road and the 23 Freeway, changing it from two travel lanes in each direction to one, with a two-way turn lane in the center. The stop sign at Calle Bouganvilla was removed during the process because it failed to meet state criteria warranting a stop sign, according to Jay Spurgin, interim public works director.

“There really shouldn’t have been a stop sign put there,” Spurgin said.

Herman said parents driving in from the east are upset that morning traffic on Arboles backs up in the center lane to turn left. And turning left onto Arboles after leaving the school is dangerous, she said, because vehicles in both directions are traveling fast.

“It’s a pretty treacherous left turn because there is no stop sign anymore,” said Herman, who lives a few blocks from the school. “It used to be really easy and lovely when there was a stop sign and now it’s more . . . of a difficult driving maneuver to have to turn left.”

School officials have also seen a noticeable increase in students arriving late to school since Arboles was restriped, she said.

The City Council approved the restriping in October after a public hearing and two public meetings.

The project received the endorsement of the Thousand Oaks Traffic and Transportation Advisory Commission and the police department.

During the October meeting to approve the restriping, the issue of the stop sign and the crosswalk was brought up several times by parents and by council members, but city staff contended that both were unnecessary and causing more harm than good.

Councilmember Tom Glancy said that, although he hasn’t been at the school during operating hours, if the police department reports that the change is a safety threat, the council will act.

“If there’s any decrease in public safety, let me tell you, it’s going to change back,” Glancy said. “But sometimes you get anecdotal comments about, ‘Oh, it’s just much worse than it used to be—people are almost getting killed’ . . . and then the reality—it just really doesn’t exist.”

Aside from the school’s complaint, the response to the restriping has been primarily positive, Spurgin said.

He said the city has received a few calls praising the new traffic pattern on Avenida de Los Arboles. At least one property owner on the busy thoroughfare has thanked the city for making it easier and safer for him to get in and out of his property, Spurgin said.

As for children’s safety, there is a crosswalk and crossing guard at Arboles and Avenida de Las Plantas, which was deemed a safer route to school than crossing at Calle Bouganvilla, Spurgin said.

No school officials spoke during the public meetings about the project.

But Herman said no one from the city asked her or Director Hilda Salas for their opinion before restriping Arboles, although another administrator or a member of the school’s board of directors could have been contacted.

Even so, Bridges parents have felt left out, Herman said.

“Our parents are not happy; we feel like they . . . didn’t really take us into consideration,” Herman said of the city, adding that the brightyellow signs along Arboles alerting drivers to a school in the vicinity are gone.

Spurgin said his staff contacted Bridges for its input before the street lanes were changed, but he’ll be glad to talk with school officials about what can be done to alleviate traffic and other problems.

Thousand Oaks police Capt. Bill Ayub said there have been no reported vehicle collisions on Avenida de Los Arboles since the street was restriped.

Ayub said he didn’t know the number of citations given in the area since the traffic pattern change but anecdotal evidence suggests citations have gone down.

He attributed that to the community being well-informed of the lane changes beforehand through the media, road signs and officers who gave drivers warnings.

“We tend to be a little more lenient when there’s a change to traffic patterns; we’ll give warnings before we give citations,” Ayub said.

“That’ll change over time—(but) it’ll certainly give people a chance to adjust.”

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