The potential opening of a gate to the Ballona Creek Bike Path on Jackson Avenue will be voted on at Monday’s council meeting, but not without facing a great deal of opposition in the form of a petition from residents in the area surrounding the gate.
The petition — which was submitted with 320 signatures from residents near Jackson Avenue — is the most central piece of a four year movement to prevent the city from opening the gate, which has been used only for maintenance since its inception.
For the city, the refurbishment and use of the Jackson Avenue entrance was a starting point for the city’s initiative to revitalize Ballona Creek, first introduced in 2016. When the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) requested council take up the matter following their approval of the project this past May, the committee cited its location as an opportunity to provide a protected route for people in the area without having to access entrances on high traffic streets like Overland, Culver, Farragut, and Braddock. The committee also argues it will decrease overall traffic in these areas, and encourage more people to travel outside of motor powered vehicles.
In 2017, two members of the City Council and the Public Works Director met with councilmember Mike Bonin from LA Council District 11 to discuss opening-up a gate along the creek that would service the Sunkist Park neighborhood. This potential gate opening is under the jurisdiction of the City of Los Angeles. In exchange, councilmember Bonin requested Culver City consider opening-up other access points to the Creek in its residential areas.
The Jackson Gate Project was one of several ideas to emerge from this request, and on May 18, 2019, Public Works staff lead held a community meeting at Carlson Park. City staff spoke with neighbors and the community about the proposed idea and fielded questions and concerns. At the same time, an online survey was made available and advertised through postcards, social media, and on the City’s website to capture community input about the possibility of opening up the Jackson Gate.
The online community survey was made available and advertised through postcards, social media, and on the City’s website to capture community input about the Jackson Gate Project. The survey closed at the end of June 2019, and city staff completed its review of the data.
In June 2019, the petition was initially submitted by Creekside Neighborhood residents, first with 262 signatures, and then resubmitted a month later with 320 signatures. A map was also submitted with these signatures, showing the close proximity of all of the signees to the gate.
The BPAC acknowledged the concern of residents, it stated in its letter that it believed “these concerns can be readily overcome and the benefit of opening Jackson Gate vastly outweigh any foreseen burden.”
These concerns mainly stem from two main issues: safety concerns due to increased traffic and a perceived lack of outreach to the residents closest to the gate.
On the first front, residents note the structure of Jackson Avenue, particularly its narrow nature and the fact that it is a dead end street. These characteristics make residents believe it will not be able to handle the increased inflow of pedestrian and biker traffic.
They also argue that there are dangerous blind spots on the driveways near the gate that could lead to liability and safety concerns.
“Residents backing out of their driveways every day and at any time, day or night, will not be able to see people – especially minors – exiting and entering the bike path from the Jackson Gate,” one of the points on the website of the movement against the opening of the gate argues.
On top of that, they are concerned with the increase of crime that they expect to come with the opening of the gate.
With their other main issue, the residents against the project believe that outreach was not properly focused on the people most affected by the opening. While the city released data from a community survey that saw over 380 respondents, only 6% of them lived on Jackson, and just over a third lived within three blocks of Jackson.
Additionally, they believe that the city misrepresented the purpose of the project, accusing the city branding surveys about opening the gate as about “connectivity” and “access,” as opposed to focusing on the actual reopening of the gate.
They also claim that the meeting in 2019 misrepresented the purpose of the gate as “reopening” when the gate had never been open for public access.
Finally, the residents cited three meetings held in May and June of 2019 where they claim the city actively ignored their concerns. More details on these meetings and the residents’ full list of grievances can be found on their website at culvercity.com (not to be confused with culvercity.org, the official website of the city).