SIDE STREETS: Ivywild welcomes 'oblongabout' as cure for goofy intersection

December 7, 2012
photo - Martin Harper, a certified public accountant whose office is in Ivywild, studies two engineer's concepts for a $1.5 million roundabout at the intersection just outside his window. Harper welcomes the roundabout. Photo by Bill Vogrin -- The Gazette
Martin Harper, a certified public accountant whose office is in Ivywild, studies two engineer's concepts for a $1.5 million roundabout at the intersection just outside his window. Harper welcomes the roundabout. Photo by Bill Vogrin -- The Gazette 

In most neighborhoods, installation of a roundabout at a busy intersection might spark some complaints by motorists unfamiliar with the configuration. Or it might be ignored.

Not in Ivywild, a working-class neighborhood south of downtown struggling to renew its homes and businesses against an onslaught of homeless who drift through from flophouse motels and low-rent apartments along South Nevada Avenue.

Folks in Ivywild are generally welcoming, even anticipating and celebrating a proposed roundabout — actually more of an oblong-about — planned for the goofy five-point intersection of Tejon Street, Cheyenne Boulevard, Cascade and Ramona avenues.

They don’t seem worried about some harmonic convergence of texting teens, truckers and bicyclists causing a traffic disaster.

Instead, they have visions of the roundabout helping improve Ivywild’s image.

Some see it as a way to build on the momentum they expect once Mike Bristol, of the Bristol Brewery, and Joseph Coleman, of the Blue Star restaurant, complete their transformation of the Ivywild School into a hip new destination for beer- and food-lovers.

Others even envision it as a bit of a destination if they can turn it into a centerpiece for a major work of art.

Everyone will get a chance to see the plan and comment on it at a city-sponsored open house scheduled 5-8 p.m., Tuesday, at the St. Aidan's Anglican Church, 1626 S. Tejon St.

I talked to folks in the neighborhood, and most gave positive reviews.

“I think it’s a good plan,” said Martin Harper, a certified public accountant whose business sits at the southeast corner of Cascade and Ramona.

Harper has a perfect view of the intersection out his office window.

“There’s a lot of honking out there,” Harper said. “It’s a confusing intersection.”

Folks driving south on Tejon can turn hard right onto Cascade or make a sweeping right turn up Cheyenne or a soft left onto Cascade or a hard left onto Ramona.

That’s too many choices for folks chatting on cellphones, juggling Big Macs and fries and driving with their knees. Trust me. It’s so bad I spilled my Diet Coke!

Others in the neighborhood echoed Harper’s optimism about the oblong-about.

“I’m excited,” said Ethan Beute, an Ivywild activist. “My primary concern is whether or not our drivers are sufficiently comfortable executing a clean roundabout at a five-way intersection.”

Officials are confident motorists will adapt, just as engineers have gotten better at designing them.

“We have 64 or 65 roundabouts now,” city engineer Mike Chaves said. “Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about them, studied them and made modifications and built better ones.”

An early roundabout was built along Lake Avenue and it was not ideal, Chaves said. It was too small to accommodate some of the truck traffic that uses Lake to reach The Broadmoor hotel and resort.

(I have an aerial photo on my blog showing a semitrailer roaring straight through a tight Lake Avenue circle.)

“The Lake Avenue roundabout was a learning experience,” Chaves said. “From it we created design criteria. They have to be a certain size. If they are too small, they don’t work.”

The proposed Ivywild roundabout would be fairly long, eating into a corner of Harper’s property, cutting off a couple of private driveways and biting off the end of a U-Haul Co. parking lot that sticks into the intersection.

Chaves said computer models predict it would accommodate heavy traffic flows without problem. And he likes it because it would eliminate traffic signals and cars sitting idle at red lights, a fact that qualified the project for $1.3 million in federal clean air grants. The city is contributing about $200,000.

The project, expected to begin next summer and take eight months to complete, would result in new sidewalks, curbs and gutters all around, filling in significant gaps in the existing infrastructure.

And Harper said neighbors are talking about ways to make the roundabout a focal point of Ivywild.

Some have even suggested approaching the family of the late sculptor Starr Kempf to inquire about acquiring one of his spectacular wind sculptures and erecting it in the center.

“It’s just an idea,” Harper said. “I think it would look great.”

Certainly, it would look better than the spiderweb of electric wires, power poles and the dozen or so traffic signals that now clutter the intersection.

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