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Friday, October 24, 2014

Solano Canyon braces itself for a new season of Dodger fans and fireworks*

 

By Terese Jordan

SOLANO CANYON — Juicy hot dogs. Ice-cold beer. The crack of the bat hitting the first pitch. The sound of your screaming child and whimpering dog terrified by thunderous fireworks. The start of Dodgers season means different things to different people. And for the residents of Solano Canyon, it often means suffering loud fireworks displays, out-of-control fans, and parking and traffic nightmares.

Though Echo Park’s frustrations with the re-opening of the Scott Avenue gate have gotten the most attention in recent weeks, it’s the folks northeast of Dodger Stadium in Solano Canyon — the ribbon of homes straddling the 110 Freeway — who may feel the worst of Dodger traffic hell as game day traffic jams narrow streets that were never designed to accommodate so many cars and trucks at once. “Solano Avenue was never intended to be a high-volume artery; it was intended to provide local residents with a means to have access to their homes,” said resident Lydia Moreno.

Fake “Resident Parking Only’ signs that appeared in Solano Canyon in 2009.

“Unruly fans, some of them inebriated,” said former resident Larry Bouett, “walk through the community after some games, throwing trash on the streets and into private yards; urinate in public on sidewalks, streets, and into private yards; and occasionally engage local residents in a hostile and threatening manner.”

In the past, Solano residents have anticipated the traffic tsunami with a mix of foreboding and trickery. In 2009, The Eastsider documented how at least one crafty canyonite posted fake signs to deter drivers from parking in the community.

But, Solano is now bracing itself for a never-before-seen barrage of cars. Two years ago the number of season ticket holders was 17,000, but that number has now shot up to 33,000, according to Dodgers spokesperson Renata Simril. Simril anticipates the majority of games will be attended by well over 40,000 people — most of them will arrive by auto.

The Dodgers stress that there is “not one solution to eliminate the traffic problem,” and the organization is working to tackle it with a “multi-motor approach.” This approach could mean parking restrictions for those tens of thousands of motorists. “We really want to protect the neighborhood on game days,” said Simril. “A parking district might be an option so that LAPD can ticket a car.”

Permitted parking would only allow permit-holders, in this case Solano Canyon residents, to park on the street during certain hours and days. Right now, the Dodgers organization says it’s gathering information on how permitted parking in Solano Canyon might work and how much it would cost.

But, so far, feedback from the community has been divided. Many residents believe permitted parking would create too much of an inconvenience in the neighborhood. “Many of those who are currently opposed to permit parking simply may not understand how the process works,” said resident Lydia Moreno. “But even if permit parking were to be implemented, it would not solve the problem of transient traffic through the neighborhood on game days.”

Councilman Gil Cedillo’s office says it supports implementing permitted parking in Solano on game days only. But  less than a week before the start of the Dodgers’ home season, it’s still not clear exactly how permitting would work.

To make matters potentially worse, the Dodgers increased parking prices ahead of season, so residents near the stadium have real concerns that fans will jam their neighborhoods in search of  free parking. But the Dodgers are banking that new, cheaper pre-paid parking passes  will make it more convenient for fans to choose to park within the stadium.

Simril says the Dodgers organization is also working to push alternative transportation: launching an express shuttle with the help of the LA Metro, expanding bus lanes during the season, and outfitting the stadium with additional bike racks. Simril says the organization is also looking into the creation of new bike lanes.

To combat safety concerns, Simril says the Dodgers are pushing for the LAPD to introduce bicycle police patrols into the Solano neighborhood to work with LADOT officers to direct traffic and secure safety within the area. Moreno admits that the LADOT presence “did reduce significantly the volume of non-local traffic on Solano Avenue.” And the Cedillo’s administration says it has “already requested to put additional DOT officers near Cathedral High School to move traffic in and out in a much [safer] manner.”

And while the fate of permitted parking hangs in the balance, there’s also no consensus on what affect the re-opening of the Scott Avenue gate will have on residents in Solano. While many in Echo Park are incensed — going so far as to draft a petition that has now racked up nearly 500 supporters — The Dodgers insist that the gate’s opening will help ease the congestion in other neighborhoods.

Simril says the Dodgers have “gotten support from the Solano community.” Cedillo’s office adds, “For years, the Solano community has had to bear the burden of Dodger traffic with no relief. We believe that creating an extra valve, it will alleviate some of the congestion. ”

But, Solano residents aren’t convinced. Dan Reza says warily that while the Scott avenue re-opening may “ease impact on Stadium Way and Elysian Park,” he’s “not sure how it will support the neighborhood.”

But it’s not just fan traffic and parking that’s giving Solano a headache.  “You do get impacted by the fireworks,” Reza said. “They can be really loud — scares the dogs and wakes the children. That’s 13 or 14 times a year.”

A recent fireworks display rehearsal went off with too big of a bang, with the Dodgers calling it “a failed test”  in an e-mail, “The fireworks were too loud and not at all what we plan for Friday night fireworks,” said the Dodger email. “We are currently working with the company to ensure that the fireworks will be no louder than last season.”

Councilman Cedillo’s office says it will be setting up a meeting with residents and the Dodgers”to attempt to mitigate these issues.”

And for those who would predictably scold Solano with the refrain: “this is the price of living so close to a stadium,” resident Bouett replies that the problem is really not about the neighborhood’s proximity to the ballpark; it’s the “seeming indifference” as to how one of city’s oldest neighborhood’s is being treated. “If the City of Los Angeles is going to allow the Dodger organization the right to exist and make money, then the City owes it to the Solano Canyon community to protect its citizens’ rights to the safety and security of their own homes and property,” he said.

Moreno, a Dodger fan who attends the games,  said Solano Canyon residents are seeking consistency when it comes to deal with the annual onslaught. “Residents do not know, from year-to-year, what processes and safeguards will be in place to protect them from the negative effect of stadium traffic,” she said. said. “It is critical that a reasonable plan and set of policies be enumerated that will guarantee continuity from one year to the next, not simply impose a roller-coaster of emotions and changes from year-to-year.”

*Correction: A previous version of this post described Bouett as a resident of Solano Canyon. That’s wrong. Bouett‘s father and grandfather were from Solano Canyon.


View Solano Canyon in a larger map

Terese Jordan is a writer, producer, and violinist living in Echo Park. She has produced broadcast news and documentary television for CNN, NBC, and Discovery.



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14 comments

  1. how about those parking permits? where do I show my ID and/or utility bill to pick one up?

  2. Ghetto Fans Ghetto Team.. Used To Be A Dodger Fan Back In Days Of Steve Garvey Ron Cey Dusty Baker .. Those Where Not The Ghetto Teams We See Today I Miss The Old Dodgers”

  3. The issue for the neighborhood is that right now all that parking is free to anyone who wants to use it, anytime. If residents don’t want Dodgers fans to be drawn to parking there, they should lobby city hall for some mechanism to charge for parking on their streets, and put the monies made from that directly into Solano Valley neighborhood improvements. Maybe they’d like increased police patrols? Or fixed sidewalks? Or better access points to Elysian Park? Who knows. But if you charged everyone parking there for Dodgers games something like $5/car for the privilege of using the street parking in Solano Valley and then the neighborhood kept all the proceeds above and beyond the city’s costs to administer the program, you’d have a win-win.

  4. Echo Park resident

    “Simril says the organization is also looking into the creation of new bike lanes.”

    What?! This is the Dodgers’ “big plan” to help decrease car travel to games? What a joke!

    Adding bike lanes won’t convince Dodgers fans to bike to the stadium. I highly doubt a large enough majority of the fans are regular cyclists in the first place — and how many game attendees actually come from a 2 mile radius around the stadium? Yes, some fans are local. But most of the sans are coming from outside the neighborhood, and even outside the immediate area of NELA. How are bike lanes going to deter the crowds of people coming from East LA, the Westside, the SGV, etc? We don’t need bike lanes — we need the billion dollar Dodgers to invest in shuttles that bring fans from these locations to Echo Park. The Hollywood Bowl does it, the Greek Theatre does it. What gives, Dodgers?

    • You couldn’t build enough shuttles to bring folks from the Westside to Dodger’s Stadium. The solution is the continued expansion of regional transit. The Red Line has helped at least cap the traffic at the Hollywood Bowl and we have transit tacitly around the stadium notwithstanding directly to it would be ideal. Bus lanes on game days along Sunset coming from the Sunset/Vermont Red Line stop and the SM/Vermont Red Line stop would act as bookends to the bus lanes already coming from Union Station. 70 years of allowing the oil, rubber and auto corporations dictate policy in this city has really gotten us in a jam. I agree that bike lanes are not the answer, though at this point we are so deep in car dysfunction that every little bit helps. With every Small Lot Development that is opposed, people who could have lived closer are pushed further out. Then they really have no choice but to drive in for work and play only making everyone elses commute even more frustrating. Wake up people!

      • Echo Park resident

        I think bus lanes are a great idea, too. And yes, this all stems from the mistakes made in this city half a century ago. Still doesn’t negate the fact that bike lanes aren’t going to do crap.

  5. Lawrence Bouett

    I am the ‘lifelong resident Larry Bouett’ referred to in the article. I wish to clarify that, although I provided some input for the article, I am assuredly NOT a lifelong resident of Solano Canyon; in fact, although I have roots in Solano Canyon that trace back to the founder, Francisco Solano (he is my great-great-grandfather) in 1866, and to Los Angeles itself back to its founding in 1781, I have never lived in Solano Canyon. I do have many friends who live there, however, and I have been present in the Canyon on many game days, so my observations are based upon my personal experience.

  6. Lawrence Bouett

    By the way, about the photograph of Dan Reza standing under the Solano Avenue street sign:: he’s at the intersection of Solano Avenue and Bouett Street—yes, it’s named for my family. My great-grandmother María Agustina Solano (who married Guillermo Bouett) is the daughter of Solano Canyon founder Francisco Solano.

  7. “Simril says the Dodgers have gotten support from the Solano community”. Dodger Management is extremely crafty at dividing and conquering! Solano Canyon residents are clear in our message- Scott traffic does not affect us, as that is traffic going to the stadium on the opposite side of Elysian Park. We support their efforts to keep the gate closed. Additionally, Solano Canyon was not part of the decision process, in fact, the Dodger organization, as a powerful commercial force in Los Angeles, puts on a demonstration of concern for the community; but rather than listen and try to accommodate the needs and the rights of the community, the community was pretty-much told what to expect. This may appear as outreach, but it is really just a way to pass along information. There is little opportunity for the community to give input.

    Residents do not know, from year to year, what will be in place to protect us from the negative effect of stadium traffic. Just last week we received and e-mail (one hour before Thursday’s exhibitions game) from our field deputy informing us that CD1 reduced and eliminated most of the protection already in place for Solano Canyon, Stating it “posed a safety issue for the DOT officers that are there as well as other drivers, since the cones and signs are disregarded and people turn anyway.” If they are concerned for the man in uniform, what does that say about those not in uniform?! Our kids, our moms, our grandparents.

    The City Council must realize that one of its functions is to protect the citizens of Los Angeles, not just the very large and powerful commercial interests in Los Angeles.

  8. The Rose Bowl, the Greek, and the Hollywood Bowl are very serious about NOT inconveniencing their neighborhoods. I find it very frustrating that the needs of residents in more affluent areas are catered to, making sure they are not inconvenienced by events in their neighborhoods. Dodger fans make massive messes in Elysian Park, are loud, congest streets that were not intended for this volume of traffic, and make life hell for locals. The Dodgers should be stressing incentives for taking shuttles from Union Station. I say MORE shuttles from the Gold and Red lones,higher priced parking at the stadium, and major discounts for showing a Metro pass, etc. SOMETHING has to be done similar to our more affluent neighbors!

    • Excellent idea! Ride Metro free game day with a shuttle from area Gold and Red Line stations. The problem is that most of the politicians and sadly there constituents are still stuck in the 50’s and haven’t even realized the amazing system being built around them. Therefore they are inept in how to use it to relieve congestion.

  9. the dodgers have made pedestrian path improvements on their property, now they need to work with the city to continue those improvements on the city streets surrounding the stadium. priority #1 should be making a nice walking path from the “downtown gate” that leads to the ped bridge over the 110 to yale/bernard in chinatown – from there its just a few blocks to Chinatown Gold Line Station. This is the closest rail stop to the stadium, an 18 minute walk to the park from here – if more people realized that i think they would use this route and not drive.

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