In March 2011, the Burbank City Council accepted a $125,000 federal grant to install sidewalks along the 1800 and 1900 blocks of Screenland Drive to give students a safe path to walk to Luther Burbank Middle School.
While city officials billed the project as a safety issue, a group of Screenland residents said sidewalks would change the character of their neighborhood and likely go underutilized, since the street currently carries little foot traffic.
Sidewalk supporters, however, argued that foot traffic would increase with sidewalks, and would thereby reduce vehicle traffic.
The 5-foot-wide sidewalks will be constructed on public property, said Ken Johnson, the city’s traffic engineer.
Councilmen David Gordon and Bob Frutos stood firmly with sidewalk opponents, noting that throughout their campaigns, they vowed to protect neighborhoods.
“If there was an imminent threat to safety I'd be on board,” Gordon said. “We haven't seen hospitals filling up with children perishing.”
City officials reported three traffic collisions involving pedestrians on Jeffries Avenue near Screenland since 2004, but sidewalk opponents were quick to note that the collisions occurred on Jeffries, not on Screenland.
“I don’t know how much safer, or how much you can improve on a perfect record,” said Screenland resident John Pinnow.
Sidewalk proponents, though, said they would rather be proactive.
“Do we need to have an accident before we are going to take steps to prevent an accident?” asked parent Heather Brown, adding that if there was a safe route for her child, she wouldn’t drive him to school. “If there was a safe way for him to walk that route, I would much prefer him to get out and get that exercise.”
Councilmen Jess Talamantes and Gary Bric have supported the sidewalks since the funding was approved in 2011. However, Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy was not on the Council at that time and cast the swing vote in favor of the sidewalks.
“It’s the most safe alternative for our community,” she said.
She did, however, question why, after more than two years, no progress was made on the project, and asked officials to bring back a report on the roadblocks the city faced along the way.