"Brigitte Burdine had a heart of gold. Her friends called her “a mother to everyone” and “their shoulder, their rock.” Brigitte came to LA for the same reason many neighbors on the Westside did - to break into the entertainment industry, and she found her calling as a voice casting director.
But it was her tremendous love and concern for those around her that distinguished her. She frequently hosted voiceover training workshops where she met and mentored young talent. When a close friend was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Brigitte brought the neighborhood together to organize a fundraiser to help with the medical bills. Brigitte was still planning that fundraiser when, just a few days after Christmas in 2010, she was hit and killed by a speeding car on Culver Boulevard. The driver dumped the car in a ditch shortly after, and ran off. Too many lives like Brigitte’s have been lost on the streets of Playa del Rey. People you might know: Marc Schacter. Michael Lockridge. Naomi Larsen.
And Jack Tawardy, a beloved neighborhood cobbler. Dozens more have been seriously injured by speeding cars. The devastating loss of a loved one to a traffic collision is not a rare occurrence in our city. In fact, it is the number one cause of death for children under 14 in Los Angeles. These tragic stories are too often forgotten, and in some cases cruelly and intentionally dismissed. I have received emails -- mostly from the South Bay -- describing collision victims as “ignorant” and “too stupid to use a crosswalk.” I’ve received social media comments from beach city residents suggesting periodic deaths and severe injuries are an acceptable cost of their unfettered commutes through Playa del Rey.
I categorically reject those statements, and I think we can do better than this. I know we can do better. We don’t have to lose one more precious life. We don’t need to sacrifice another mother, or child, to make way for as many speeding cars as we can jam through our neighborhoods. We can solve this problem. And in Playa del Rey, neighbors have been working with my office for years to address the dangerous conditions on our neighborhood streets.
A few weeks ago, the City started working on two separate but related projects to improve safety in Playa del Rey. First, crews re-striped Vista Del Mar to move parking to the westside of the road and to remove travel lanes as a way of preventing crashes like the one that killed Naomi Larsen on that road in 2015. Then, crews re-striped and narrowed Culver Boulevard, Jefferson Boulevard and Pershing Drive to add bike lanes and make the street safer for all who use it -- especially people walking. The traffic slowed, in some cases more so than was anticipated, and the calls and emails to my office began.
There are neighbors in Playa del Rey who appreciate the efforts to create safer streets. There are others who feel trapped in or out of their neighborhoods. Both groups have legitimate points, and I want you to know that I’m listening, and I’m working to fix it. The resurfacing and the restriping were finished this past weekend, and traffic should begin to improve now that crews are done working. Also, some of the traffic we are experiencing now will ease over time as commuters grow more familiar and accustomed to the new road configuration. But I don’t want to wait for that to happen before considering additional ways to improve the situation. So, at my direction, City departments have begun developing options for relieving traffic while preserving safety on the street and, once ready, we’ll bring those to you for your feedback.
As these improvements are explored, we will continue to work with you and your neighbors to get more input so we can continue making our streets safe and efficient, in a way that works for Playa del Rey. But I want to be clear about something: My responsibility is to my constituents. My responsibility is to keep Playa del Rey, and those who live here safe. My obligation is to provide for the residents of Playa del Rey the safe, vibrant and inviting downtown area that they’ve yearned for, much like Manhattan Beach has with Highland, or Culver City has with Culver and Washington, or Venice has with Abbott Kinney.
We should never buy into the notion that convenience is worth endangering lives. It is just not true. With respect to our friends in the South Bay, many of whom have made clear they would rather see a four-lane highway traverse our neighborhood in Playa del Rey, I won’t solve their 405 traffic problem on the backs of the people I represent. I will not risk the lives of those who live in and visit our neighborhood in order to provide a convenient cut through for their commute to Santa Monica or Marina del Rey. And I can’t, in good conscience, give in to people who are aggressively anti-Playa del Rey, including those who are now objecting to City efforts to repave Playa del Rey streets as an intolerable “final straw.”
But if anyone, anywhere, has constructive ideas about how to keep people safe on our streets while minimizing the impact to traffic, I have always and I will always welcome that discussion. Our district and our region has the great advantage of being home to some of the most brilliant people on Earth, and I believe strongly that by bringing smart, concerned minds together, we can solve almost any problem. We can have safe streets and minimal impacts to commuters - we just need to come together and continue improving on the progress we've made. Thank you to those of you who have written in to share suggestions and ideas about the Safer Streets for Playa del Rey project, and ways to improve it. Please don't stop sending your constructive feedback and ideas. As we have said from the beginning, these are pilot projects and not yet final. We need your input and constructive suggestions as we gather data about safety and traffic so we can keep what works, and change what doesn't.
Not every neighbor will agree with every part of this, but as long as we are all working toward a common goal - safe and inviting neighborhood streets that minimize traffic - we can make Playa del Rey an even better and more vibrant community. We have set up an online form to gather your comments, which you can find at http://www.11thdistrict.com/safe_streets_for_playa_del_rey.
Also, at the end of next month, about 30 days after all the changes have been installed, the Department of Transportation will be holding a meeting to present information on the impacts of the changes, to get additional input, and to discuss potential future changes. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your feedback. Thank you for being a part of making Playa del Rey a better place to live, work and enjoy."