Coalition of L.A. and Pasadena residents wants a safer and slower Avenue 64

Southbound car on Avenue 64

By Brenda Rees

The wide roadway of Avenue 64 is a well-used commuter route through Garvanza, Highland Park and Pasadena for drivers either getting onto or coming off the 110 Freeway. The downward slope from La Loma Road in Pasadena to York Boulevard in Los Angeles naturally speeds up cars heading southbound. But, now, some residents in both cities want to slow down traffic and make Avenue 64 safer.

“I live on Avenue 64 on the Highland Park side and when we moved in, we didn’t realize how crazy the traffic was,” said Pilar Reynaldo. “At first I thought it was me, but talking to neighbors and people I have met out walking, I discover this is a problem that has been going on for 45 years. Now is the time to finally fix this for everyone in Pasadena and Highland Park.”

Reynaldo is a member of the Avenue 64 Coalition, which made a presentation last week before  the San Rafael Neighborhood Association in Pasadena to garner support for their effort to make Avenue 64 a safer street. The coalition will be making a similar presentation to the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council on Thursday, Sept. 19  from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at the Highland Park Senior Center, 6152 N. Figueroa St.

Traffic engineer Sam Morrissey  at Avenue 64 presentation /Brenda Rees

Sam Morrissey of the Avenue 64 Coalition led the evening discussion on what he and his fellow members see as problems and possible solutions regarding the roadway that bisects the boundaries of Pasadena and Los Angeles.

A traffic engineer for the City of Santa Monica, Morrissey worked with the coalition earlier this year to draft a presentation that outlined issues and offered ways to slow down traffic and potentially save lives.

“In 15 years, there has been six documented deaths on the street and numerous collisions at the intersection of Avenue 64 and Church Street,” he said at the San Rafael meeting, citing frequent speeding violations and unsafe vehicle maneuvers such as passing on the medians and in parking lanes.

Morrissey then described the environment of Avenue 64 which includes  homes as well as two community hubs: the Hillsides School and Church of the Angels; limited parking at both results in churchgoers and school staff and families parking on the west side of the street and walking across at Church Street – which has proven to be potentially dangerous.

The downward slope from La Loma to York and a confusing stop sign at Church Street has been a problem for years, Morrissey said. Also, the lack of pedestrian walkways – especially for the church and school – needs to be addressed.

“As a traffic engineer, I know that people feel comfortable going fast when the roads are wide,” he said. “They drive differently when the roads are narrow.”

Narrowing the road is part of the Avenue 64 Coalition’s solutions, with Morrissey offering both interim and long term versions. Some ways to narrow the street would be to repaint lane stripes, add a center, landscaped median, add more cross walks and install a round-about at Burleigh and Avenue 64. All in all, Morrissey estimated that the cost could be as high as $10 million.

Currently, the coalition has support from Pasadena councilman Steve Madison, whose area includes Avenue 64. This week, San Rafael area residents are being asked to fill out a neighborhood traffic survey as part of Pasadena’s Complete Streets Program which would give officials a better idea on what conditions exist on area streets. No such plans are in the works to survey Highland Park residents who live on Avenue 64.

Recently, Pasadena has earmarked $750,000 in grant money to implement the Avenue 64 Coalition proposal, but L.A.’s Councilman Jose Huizar “has not made any steps toward this project,” says coalition member Reynaldo.

Back in July, the coalition made a formal presentation to the Historic Highland Park Land Use Committee to get their support for the proposal. At the upcoming Sept. 19 meeting of the general neighborhood council, Reynaldo hopes to make an impression for action to council members.

“This is a street governed by both cities and one side cannot move without the other,” she said.

Brenda Rees is a writer who lives in Eagle Rock


  1. I am definitely in support of making changes on Ave 64. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been passed (it’s a single lane road) by kooks doing 50+ mph, when I’m driving the speed limit (35).

    I’m glad to hear that the Highland Park folks are in support, because most of the west pasadena folks I’ve talked to are also in support. Traffic and speeds will likely get worse as they continue to build high density housing in Highland Park… many of those folks who need to head north will come up Ave 64

  2. just do what they did to York blvd, put two bike lane on both side of the road. problem solve…..

    • Good point, there have been fewer recorded collisions on York Blvd since the “road diet”


    • That *might* slow down cars but the bike lanes might simply be treated as the passing lane by the insane on the downhill side. There are a lot of different things a city can do to get people moving smoothly under the speed limit. Bike lanes work well in some contexts but not all contexts. I had to ride this street this past summer with my kid (to summer school at San Rafael Elementary) and it is insane – but a white stripe of paint for a bike lane isn’t the only thing needed here. There is a downhill portion of 23rd Street in Santa Monica (that then turns into Walgrove) that has medians and other things along with bike lanes that have partially tamed the roaring maniacs in cars at rush hour.

  3. Here’s a really old fashioned idea, just have the LAPD do speed traps on these streets regularly. That will slow things down. Also, the city will make $$$. Has anyone thought of what will happen in an emergency when we may need these wide streets?

    • To quote Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do and What It Says About Us, “speeding cars have surely claimed more lives than speeding responders have saved”

    • a) enforcement would be good, but the problem is that it has to be a regular event to be effective. It would be better to make a road that most people do not feel comfortable driving super fast. I do support enforcement on Ave 64, though.

      b) Ave 64 is already only single lane. Making it feel more narrow with bike lanes and occasional center median thingys won’t impact emergency driver’s abilities to exceed the speed limit when duty calls.

    • Good idea, or just have them cruise. Simple solutions to simple problems, not 10million dollar solutions.

  4. I’d love to see more sidewalk trees, roundabouts, and cobblestone or some other texturized pavement. Texturized pavement might be too cost-prohibitive but perhaps other measures like chicanes which force drivers to swerve (and thus can’t maintain a straight path the entire time to pick up high speeds) can be implemented to slow the street.

  5. “As a traffic engineer, I know that people feel comfortable going fast
    when the roads are wide,” he said. “They drive differently when the
    roads are narrow.”

    That statement makes sense for the upper part of Ave 64 in Pasadena and near the Church of the Angels. However, I live off of Ave 64 in Garvanza down where the road is pretty narrow (2 lanes total and no middle turning lane). The posted speed limit is 30 but those signs might as well be invisible. Turning onto Ave 64 is almost impossible in the morning as people FLY down this stretch of street. I feel like the old lady on the block who shakes her fist at the perpetrators as they speed by. From my house, I’ve lost count at how many times I’ve heard loud screeching tires, sometimes followed by a hit.

    I will definitely be at the council meeting.

  6. How much will it cost to pay someone to drive the speed limit? Oh wait, don’t we have cops to do that?

    • If we can make a slight change to the physical environment that gets drivers to moderate their own speeds, then instead of paying cops constantly to hang out on this street, we can let cops fight crimes that can’t be fixed by slight physical changes.

  7. If there are issues that make the road dangerous, such as people breaking the speed limit, making unsafe maneuvers, a bad stop sign, and the like — then crack down on speeders, those making unsafe maneuvers, fix the bad stop sign placement,, etc.

    But to instead use this as cover to change a major thoroughfare into a side street is dishonest and unacceptable. It is also very inconsiderate to take action to eliminate traffic lanes in order to clog the street and thwart traffic to someplace else — the old NIMBY attitude.

    Its a shame if you don’t like living on a main thoroughfare, but then, you should not have bought a home on a main thoroughfare. You can’t just buy there, and then demand that it be changed into a side street! Taking some steps against bad driving practices and poorly designed signage and the like is perfectly acceptable and good; but simply eliminating traffic lanes where anyone can see there is a great demand for them, is not.

    • Mary, don’t be a goofball. No one is eliminating any traffic lanes. Ave 64 is already single lane each way. The proposed changes are traffic calming changes to help people naturally obey the current posted speed limit…

    • Has anyone else noticed how almost everything counts as a “major thoroughfare” to people opposing traffic calming and safety improvements on neighborhood streets?

  8. On the reverse side it might be nice to add “Welcome to Garvanza” to complement a similar median sign in the nearby Hermon section of Los Angeles at Monterey/Ave 60.

  9. Reynaldo just knows all the answers and has been living in Highland Park for a minute. Nothing will be done until the City of Los Angeles gets on board and starts to have interest in Garvanza. Huizar is a lazy uncaring councilman, but somehow get re-elected.

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