City surrenders in 2nd Street border war

By Paul Teetor

World War 3, traffic-wise, was averted at the last second Tuesday night.

"Blink, blink," a grinning Mayor Walt Dougher said during a recess taken right after the Manhattan Beach City Council blinked first, voting to tear down the 2nd Street traffic barricade that had sparked a border war with Redondo Beach.

Faced with the threat of legal action by the Redondo City Council later this week, attacked for more than a half-hour Tuesday night by the sometimes stinging, sometimes pleading, and often outraged public comments of more than 15 Redondo Beach residents, the council voted 4-1 to tear down the barrier and start over with an eye towards eventually installing a left-turn only or right-turn-only light at the critical intersection of 2nd Street and Aviation Place.

Even the lone dissenter, Councilmember Linda Wilson, said she favored tearing down the barricade, but voted against the motion made by Councilmember Joyce Fahey because it also included language about working with Redondo to install a one-kind-of-turn-only traffic light at the intersection.

"I just feel it’s premature to talk about a restricted-turn light there," Wilson said. "Let’s talk to the residents and get feedback before we move in any particular direction. But I definitely approve of tearing down the barricade. It had too many unintended consequences."

In the end, what started out as a six-month experiment in traffic control turned into a public relations disaster that ignited a war of words with Redondo Beach. It was a 10-week, good-faith effort at doing something about the long-standing traffic concerns of 2nd Street residents that quickly went from a good idea to a bad result.

"The diverter isn’t working," Dougher said. And he wasn’t just relying on traffic statistics provided by the city’s staff, which showed an 8 percent drop in 2nd Street traffic but an 18 percent rise in traffic on nearby 8th Street, west of Aviation Place.

The mayor went out to the controversial intersection himself and watched as drivers pulled every conceivable stunt to circumvent the intent of the diverter.

"It looks like the drivers are smarter than we are," Dougher said. "There are some unintended consequences at work here."

Unintended consequences became the mantra of the night, both from the Redondo Beach visitors and the councilmembers.

"There are some unintended consequences here that we didn’t foresee," Councilmember Jim Aldinger said. "I think we should take a step back and deal with Redondo Beach on this. I’d like to see a team from both cities sit down and share some insights about this problem."

Councilmember Steve Napolitano agreed.

"Councilmember Aldinger is right. We want a global solution to this problem," Napolitano said. "We need to cooperate with our neighbors."

Wilson agreed the diverter isn’t working to the extent the council had hoped.

"Our intentions were honorable, but unintended consequences have happened here," Wilson said."Our purpose was to alleviate traffic on 2nd Street, but the diverter has done that only mildly. I don’t think this diverter is worth World War 3 with Redondo Beach."

Dougher took the defeat gracefully, ending the sometimes contentious discussion with a quip when City Manager Geoff Dolan was asked how soon the city would have the barricade taken down.

"I’m sure there are some people in Redondo who would be willing to help do it tomorrow morning," the mayor said. ER