Thursday, October 8 , 2015, 5:51 pm | Fair 77º

Residents Turn Out in Force to Push for Milpas Street Safety Improvements

Neighborhood Advisory Council takes no action, while Transportation and Circulation Committee supports installing flashers, a curb extension and other measures

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

Milpas safety march from Giana Magnoli on Vimeo.

The Milpas Street community turned out in force Thursday night to demand changes to the busy Santa Barbara corridor in an effort to make it safer for pedestrians and, hopefully, prevent another tragic accident like the one that took the life of 15-year-old Sergio Romero last fall.

Romero was hit Oct. 7, 2011, while walking in the crosswalk at the intersection with Ortega Street after one car stopped but a speeding truck in the other lane didn’t. Since then, the issue of pedestrian safety on Milpas Street has come back to the forefront and traffic experts with the city of Santa Barbara have come up with safety improvement proposals.

Neighborhood Advisory Council member Cesar Trujillo, in red, joins students and other Santa Barbara residents in a march before Thursday night's joint meeting of the council and the Transportation and Circulation Committee to discuss pedestrian-safety improvements for the Milpas Street corridor.
Neighborhood Advisory Council member Cesar Trujillo, in red, joins students and other Santa Barbara residents in a march before Thursday night’s joint meeting of the council and the Transportation and Circulation Committee to discuss pedestrian-safety improvements for the Milpas Street corridor. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

On Thursday, people marched from that intersection to a joint meeting of the Neighborhood Advisory Council and the Transportation and Circulation Committee.

“The street where my son was killed is not a safe street,” Romero’s mother, Lupe, said through an interpreter. “I have two children left, and I love them with all my heart. I want them to be adults. I want to see them graduate.

“Marching down here in honor of my son, lots of cars didn’t make the stop — and we cursed them a lot,” she said to laughs.

In a four-hour joint meeting, the Neighborhood Advisory Council took no action, while the Transportation and Circulation Committee supported installing a traffic light at the intersection of Milpas and Yanonali streets, and if that isn’t deemed possible, then a median refuge island with pedestrian-activated flashing lights.

For the Ortega and Milpas streets intersection, the Transportation and Circulation Committee supported a median refuge island, pedestrian-activated flashers and a curb extension on the southeast corner, across Ortega from the Alpha Thrift Store. It also supported restriping between Canon Perdido and Cota streets, which would restrict access to one lane in either direction with bike lanes.

The Neighborhood Advisory Council is scheduled to discuss it and make a recommendation at its April 11 meeting, and the City Council will consider both suggestions in its final decision.

The restriping proposal was aimed at bicyclist safety, too.

Christine Bourgeois of the Bicycle Coalition said many bicyclists ride on the sidewalks, willing to take the possibility of a citation and fine over injury. She said she has cycled all over the world and doesn’t feel safe on Milpas Street — drivers honk at her even if she’s in the bike lane.

Community members in the area overwhelmingly have asked for traffic lights, but city staff members insist they could actually increase the number of accidents.

The number of vehicles and pedestrians doesn’t warrant them, according to city engineer Derek Bailey. Even if it did, he said, the number of broadside collisions at signaled intersections on Milpas Street means there’s a higher potential of injury and property damage by adding signals to those areas. There were 113 accidents among eight intersections since 2000 — compared with just one each at Ortega and Yanonali streets — and Bailey believes adding lights could increase the number of vehicle-involved, and maybe pedestrian-involved, accidents.

He said it would definitely make it easier for pedestrians to cross, but could decrease vehicle safety. The whole goal of the proposals is to find a plan that increases pedestrian safety while not decreasing vehicle safety.

Members of the community, and both committees that met Thursday, continued to ask for traffic lights as an option.

The city of Santa Barbara Transportation and Circulation Committee supports installing pedestrian-activated flashing lights at Milpas Street intersections with Yanonali and Ortega streets.
The city of Santa Barbara Transportation and Circulation Committee supports installing pedestrian-activated flashing lights at Milpas Street intersections with Yanonali and Ortega streets. (Federal Highway Administration photo)

The Latino Democrats surveyed 103 residents and business owners near the two intersections, and 74 percent of them support stoplights, according to executive committee member Silvia Uribe. Almost half of those to whom the group talked use the intersections daily, she said, while about one-third of them avoid those spots specifically because they seem unsafe.

Santa Barbara High School student Viviana Rodriguez said she won’t cross where Romero was killed.

“If you ask me, yes, I am scared,” she said.

Santa Barbara Junior High School students Angel Gonzalez and Angel Velasquez said they have had close calls on their way to school.

“I don’t want to get hit and killed the way Sergio Romero did,” Velasquez said.

Gonzalez said he was walking across when one car stopped, but the car in the other lane didn’t. His friend was almost hit, and Gonzalez had to pull him out of the way just in time — and the car didn’t even stop.

The Transportation and Circulation Committee and Neighborhood Advisory Council recommendations will be presented to the City Council in May. Police officers continue to conduct crosswalk stings and increased traffic enforcement in the Milpas corridor — even their presence makes people slow down — for which many people at Thursday’s meeting expressed appreciation.

Sgt. Mike McGrew and his traffic team conducted crosswalk stings Thursday at four locations and cited 60 drivers, including 39 at Milpas and Yanonali streets. There have been 12 traffic fatalities — nine involving pedestrians — in the city since July 2007. Police also issued nine citations at Anacapa and Arrellaga streets; one at Salinas and Clifton streets; and 11 at De la Vina Street and Arden Road.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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» on 03.23.12 @ 01:07 PM

Milpas is a four-lane high-speed thorougfare that has absolutely no place running through a predominantly residential and high-pedestrian area, that is the problem. The solution is to narrow it to two lanes.  That would slow down traffic (without increasing the time it takes to get any number of vehicles through), and make the area much more attractive to residents and pedestrians.

» on 03.23.12 @ 02:01 PM

Milpas is a bustling commercial street surrounded by schools, and a high-density neighborhood that has grown up around it. It’s got a highway interchange, and a roundabout. The street needs to evolve to handle multiple uses. Last night’s march and meeting was a fine start in moving towards that direction.

» on 03.23.12 @ 07:54 PM

Interesting how the comments about “evolving” are now bantered around.  These are the same types that stated the Milpas Roundabout would “reduce accidents and would make life better for residents in and around Milpas.

Here are the facts.  (1) The State of California official accident statistics show an average increase in accidents at that intersection of ~400%.  That does not include the “none reported” by law accidents.  (2) The rush hour back up in the afternoon that has and continues to be all the way to Mac D’s.  The city promised that this would disappear.  (3) The City of SB had to sign an document agreeing this roundabout was and is dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists.  (the reason for the Cacique St. underpass at millions to the taxpayer.  (4) The same anti car groups that wanted to take away the patron friendly Milpas in favor of no mid-block left turns, and one lane of traffic are now back.  They chose to forget much “cut-thru” traffic in the neighborhood below Haley is to avoid the vaunted roundabout  

This is not evolution of a thriving business district it is the death warrant for it.  Think this is over the top?  Much of what Milpas is, is what lower State St. was before the “evolution” that killed the middle class businesses and jobs that went with it.

It is difficult when one witnesses the death of a youth from an “accident.”  That is exactly what this was, an accident caused by a speeder.  The driver of the truck was a law breaker, pure and simple. 

That people is the rub of this issue.  There are those in society who will always find a way of justification for lawlessness.  What are you going to do with them?  The residents around Peabody School found quickly, the speed bumps have created more dangerous conditions and higher speeds then before.  Why?  Because faster speeds negate most of the effects of the speed bumps. 

The examples continue but this is not the space for a lengthy review.

The middle class, mostly blue collar businesses serve the Lower Eastside as well as the entire community.  “Evolve” it and they will close, just like State St.  The only place left to get these services will be either Goleta or Carpinteria.

This does not answer the hurt of a death, and, this does not sooth those wanting the perfect world that has never existed.  Unless you want to kill what makes this area work, you have to do the least necessary (yellow flashing lights come to mind) and allow it survive.

» on 03.23.12 @ 08:23 PM

Good grief this street was laid out a century ago to handle 4 Lanes of traffic and zoning has been in place for nearly that long to support commercial development on both sides. It was not built through a residential neighborhood that existed before. The neighborhoods grew up around it, along with commercial development. The thoroughfare serves as a major traffic artery for the east side of the city and unfortunately, rather than connecting with a major east/west artery at its terminus, dumps onto a two lane street trying to serve that purpose. This once again demonstrates the total lack of any coherent traffic circulation in the city.

As I have said quite often, nothing being proposed by “Latino Democrats” or any other partisan political activist groups will save people from their own negligence. That boy did not have to die in that crosswalk. If he were taught by his parents to be more vigilant and aware of the dangers when crossing ANY street he would still be alive today. Instead children are taught they have a right to be there and it’s the other guys fault if they are run over. Fat lot of good that does your children, huh?

I have a good friend who related this story to me and it illustrates perfectly what I am talking about. This friend witnessed a little girl who was walking in front of him on the way to school. The little girl with a group of friends was laughing and distracted as she step off the curb and into the crosswalk and was hit by a car that failed to stop at the stop sign. There was a crossing guard across the street.  The crossing guard could not stop the car, nor did the painted stripes on the roadway or the big octagon sign with STOP painted on it. The driver simply zoned out and ran through a school crossing and mowed that little girl down. Had she been paying attention and thinking personal safety rather than pedestrian rights, she would not have been hit.

Flashing lights, signs, painted stripes only help lawyers reach into deep pockets; they will not save you from your own inattention. The only safety that matters is the safety you as an individual practice and diligently. If you believe otherwise you will be the next victim. Yes the driver of that truck, whose life is now scared forever will have to carry the burden of his actions, he can never escape that. But that boy who died, well at lease he did accomplish one thing in sacrificing his life and that is teaching us to PAY ATTENTION.

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