South El Monte Residents Consider Possible Improvements to Durfee/Peck CorridorPosted: November 20, 2011
On Saturday November 11th the City of South El Monte, Local Government Commission (LGC), Barrio Planners and California Center for Public Health Advocacy hosted a walking audit and urban planning workshop for local residents to examine manners of improving the Durfee Ave/Peck Rd. corridor. The event was the center piece of weeklong series of presentations and outreach work conducted by the Local Government Commission, a non-profit organization whose focus is assisting local governments create “livable communities.” According to LGC’s website, the key elements of a livable community include “a healthier human and natural environment, a more sustainable economy, an actively engaged populace, and an equitable society.”
The walking audit was attended by approximately thirty members of the public, including South El Monte Council Member Joseph Gonzalez and local resident/WSGVBC co-founder Alice Strong. LGC’s team of planning experts – Paul Zykofsky, Dan Burden and Steve Tracy – led the group down Durfee/Peck, making frequent stops to highlight pedestrian safety and ADA accessibility issues. Thanks to Paul’s fluency in the Spanish language, discussion and Q&A were handled in both English and Spanish. This allowed several members of the public whose command of the former was more limited an opportunity to actively participate in the tour and workshop.
During the hour long walk residents and LGC staff highlighted a wide range of problems, including the high speed of traffic, lack of crosswalks at several major intersections, insufficient sidewalk width, existence of obstructions that impede ADA accessibility, and frequency of sidewalk cycling.
Of particular concern to many participants who had children were routes to South El Monte High School, which is inconveniently located apart from most of the City’s residential housing on the far side of the 60 freeway. In addition to having a detrimental impact on air quality at the school – researchers continue to find freeway-related pollution has significant public health effects on brain function and respiratory health – the freeway’s location and access points currently make walking and cycling to school a difficult and dangerous proposition for students.
For example, residents pointed out that the freeway’s on-ramps on Peck Rd. do not have crosswalks and the nearby pedestrian bridge is poorly lighted, lacks visibility, and has been the site of assaults on and harassment of students. The vast majority of students are thus driven to school, exacerbating congestion and gridlock on Durfee Ave. during pick-up/drop-off hours. Parents stated that this situation was made worse by the fact that no left turns are permitted into/out of the high school parking lot. This forces drivers to take a lengthy detour onto Santa Anita Ave. to return home. A possible solution to this issue, according to LGC staff, would be the implementation of a road diet on this stretch of Durfee. By reducing the number of travel lanes from 4 to 3, a road diet would provide motorists with a center turning lane.
Following the walking audit, participants returned to the South El Monte Senior Center for lunch and then group work facilitated by Belinda Campos and other members of CCPHA staff. Attendees broke into teams and jotted down their proposed recommendations for Durfee/Peck onto blown-up maps of the City. Each team then reported back to the entire group; recommendations included planting more shade-bearing trees, widening sidewalks where possible to encourage walking and provide space for outdoor dining, placing green bike lanes along the length of the route, painting high-visibility crosswalks on all major intersections, lengthening crosswalk signalization, and utilizing traffic calming measures to discourage speeding.
As a whole, the following 3 priorities emerged from the group’s work:
- Fix crossing at Durfee/Peck and Highway 60 on-ramps
- Add bicycle lanes
- Encourage development of sidewalk cafes
Overall, the inclusive tone and interactive format of the event appeared very successful at encouraging public participation. LGC staff will take the input received during the day to compile a final set of recommendations for the City that should be completed and publicly available in early 2012. Stay tuned for more information.