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.
“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.
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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.