Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl has announced a new traffic measure for Culver Boulevard in Playa del Rey in the wake of a hit and run accident that left a popular video game casting director dead last month.
Brigitte Burdine, 48, of Venice was struck by a vehicle headed eastbound on Culver at approximately 1:45 a.m. Dec. 29. She later died at a local hospital.
Rosendahl, who was joined by Burdine’s family at a press conference Jan. 11 announcing a $50,000 award approved by the City Council for information on the hit and run, told The Argonaut that a device called a “speed feedback” sign will be posted on a trial basis east of the intersection of Culver and Vista del Mar.
“This is one of the measures that we will be taking to slow down traffic on Culver Boulevard,” the councilman said.
The speed feedback signs are equipped with radar to gauge speed. As a motorist drives by, the vehicle’s speed is displayed on an electronic sign.
Rosendahl, who chairs the council’s transportation committee, said he also plans to seek additional input from the city’s Department of Transportation as well as the Los Angeles Police Department on how traffic safety can be improved along Culver.
“I’ll be asking that they take a fresh, hard look at some improvements so that maybe a tragedy like this can be avoided,” he said.
Burdine’s death has spurred calls for improved traffic conditions on one of the beachside community’s most heavily traveled thoroughfares. Commuters from the South Bay to the Westside often use the boulevard as an alternative to the freeways. Some residents have complained for years that the design of the street and the lack of parking has prevented Playa del Rey from joining its beach counterparts as a destination and also allows vehicles to speed through the coastal community.
Last year, the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa appointed a community design overlay committee to research a variety of elements on Culver, including feedback from merchants and residents on how they would like the boulevard to look over the next several years, due to several pending development projects that are in the planning stages.
From that 10-member committee, a subcommittee on traffic and parking – arguably the two most contentious topics of conversation in Playa del Rey – emerged. After holding two public meetings on traffic and parking, the neighborhood council committee has not convened any meetings for 10 months.
Cyndi Hench, president of the neighborhood council, said the committee has been dormant because several members of the board who were in key committee positions did not run for reelection.
But not all members of the community district overlay were members of the local council. Hench claimed the others “didn’t stick together” to continue the committee functions.
The neighborhood council president was concerned that the community district overlay might fall victim to the city’s budget woes, but says she recently had a conversation with a member of the city’s Planning Department that was encouraging.
“There have been so many changes in the planning process that many of us weren’t sure what was going to happen,” she said.
Burdine’s uncle, Michael Burdine, said he hopes that the media attention being given to his niece’s death will bring a renewed focus to what some feel are at times dangerous traffic conditions on Culver.
“I’m sure that it will,” Burdine told The Argonaut. “It’s opened a lot of eyes to what happens out there.”
The driver of the vehicle that struck Burdine has not been identified and remains at large.
Det. Martha Dominguez of the Los Angeles Police Department West Traffic division said hit and run accidents with little or no information can be difficult to solve. “It’s much easier when we have a license plate number, a witness or a vehicle description,” Dominguez acknowledged.
Rosendahl pledged to focus more on Culver Boulevard in the coming months.
“We will be having many more discussions on the safety of that corridor,” he said.
Hench said the disparate approaches on how traffic should be mitigated and parking is structured have added to the difficulty of achieving any sort of consensus on what the future of the boulevard should be. “Traffic is an issue of politics and parking is an issue of space,” the local council president said.
Rosendahl is also aware of the differences between some of the members of a subcommittee of the community district overlay and the need for all groups on Culver to realize the need to be flexible in their own personal opinions about traffic safety.
“There’s a lot of disagreement on which traffic calming measures would work the best,” the councilman acknowledged. “I hope that they will all understand and appreciate the complexity of the situation and look at the big picture.”
Burdine’s uncle said his family was still in shock over losing his niece and urged the driver of the car that killed her to come forward. “We just want to know what happened,” he implored.
Hench hopes to reactivate the committee by this spring. She mentioned a possible roadblock to any substantial progress on Culver due to a long-ago designation by the city for the coastal thoroughfare. “The real challenge is that Culver is designated as a secondary highway,” she said. “That’s going to be something to look at going forward.”
Marcia Hanscom, a Playa del Rey resident who was on the traffic and parking subcommittee, agrees.
“There should not be a secondary highway, which is what the ‘professionals’ at the Department of Transportation decided to change this community collector street into, going through any part of our community,” Hanscom, the co-director of the Ballona Institute in Playa del Rey, said.
While the neighborhood council committee’s recommendations are not binding, Rosendahl said they would be given serious consideration in any new traffic planning initiatives.
“But the more effective methods will require more professional engagement,” he added.
Hanscom is leery of having the city agency most responsible for controlling traffic fashioning a solution for what she views as unnecessary speeding vehicles on Culver.
“While I appreciate the councilman’s perspective, I would submit that if it is the Department of Transportation ‘professionals,’ they are the ones who have brought us high-speed traffic that mirrors a freeway running through our community,” she asserted.
Dominguez said lighting in the area that encompasses the Ballona Wetlands could help a driver’s visibility at night. During a heavy fog, visibility can be difficult for commuters heading both east and west.
Burdine was hit near the wetlands, just east of Culver and Nicholson Street.
Rosendahl said after he has heard recommendations from transportation and law enforcement authorities, he would consider putting in a motion to the City Council to implement more permanent traffic mitigation measures for the boulevard.