Parents Take Up Slack Around OB Elementary School Cross-Walk While Waiting on City

by on November 18, 2013 · 8 comments

in Education, Environment, Ocean Beach

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Joseph Pina helps parents and students at Ocean Beach Elementary School cross Santa Monica Avenue on Friday morning. (Photos by Matthew Wood)

Crosswalk Coming to the Mid-Block on Santa Monica Avenue – Eventually

By Matthew Wood

The city is putting in a much-needed crosswalk on Santa Monica Avenue outside Ocean Beach Elementary School, just not as soon as teachers and parents were hoping. In the meantime, a group of concerned fathers have taken up the cause to ensure safety for kids going to and from school.

According to John Ly, a council representative and policy advisor for Councilmember Kevin Faulconer’s office, funding has been secured and the project is set to be completed by the end of the fiscal year, which is June 2014. He said part of the holdup comes from a city ordinance that states a crosswalk cannot be put in unless there is a street light nearby. Santa Monica doesn’t have any street lamps on that block, which is just east of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard.

 “Funding for the light has been secured,” Ly said. “Through this process we learned that funding was not for a raised crosswalk. Our office is going to pay for the curb cuts.”

 He said the entire project will cost around $30,000 – about $15,000 for the new street light, $5,000 for each curb cut and another $5,000 for the crosswalk itself, which will be a ramp-like structure that will also serve as a speed bump.

Parents have been clamoring for the crosswalk, which would connect the main OB Elementary building – known as the Big School – with a smaller building across the street that houses Kindergarten classes. They’ve been waiting for years to get some sort of safety measures in, according to Suzy Reid, a parent of two kids at OB Elementary.

 “We’ve been asking the city and begging Kevin Faulconer’s office for the last four years,” Reid said.

 Anyone who has driven down that stretch of Santa Monica can see how it would be a safety hazard. Cars go way too fast, especially heading west down the hill, and many show little regard for their surroundings.

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Joseph Pina, left, and Wayne Simard were the first two Ocean Beach Elementary School parents to volunteer as crossing guards before and after school. There are now five parents who help out.

Fed up with seeing the kids’ safety at stake, a couple of parents took up the cause and became volunteer crossing guards.

“At first I got yelled at a lot, but now it’s more ingrained with drivers” said Joseph Pina, whose daughter, Emma, is in third grade at the school. Pina, known as Moondoggie, and fellow parent Wayne Simard started coming before and after school about three years ago to help the kids safely cross the street and have now built a group of five volunteer parents. Their goal is to have all four corners around the school covered every morning and afternoon.

A fellow parent secured a grant for them to get vests, signs and traffic cones to make people aware of the situation. “It’s the power of the vest,” Pina said of his ability to control traffic.

That’s a temporary fix that has grown into a more permanent solution, but the ultimate goal is still to have a crosswalk to help the kids.

“If they’re not there, nothing is there,” school principal Marco Dreapeau said of the volunteers. He said for now he can live with the fiscal-year timeline. “I can swallow that, as long as it happens.”

 To add to the frustration, the city came out a year ago and painted lines for a crosswalk. A day later, realizing the ordinance about a street light made the crosswalk against code, they came and painted over it. You can still see the remnants of the yellow line with the black paint, fading from weather. Pina and Simard joke that another couple of rainstorms will wear away the black paint and make the crosswalk visible again.

Kindergarten teacher Molly Stewart is one of the teachers with a classroom across the street from the Big School. She said she fears for the kids’ safety every day.

 “It’s going to be incredible,” she said of the crosswalk. “We cross 25 students at a time. People drive too fast and get annoyed that we’re crossing.”

 The classes include a student with muscular dystrophy who is confined to a wheelchair. Stewart said there are parents and grandparents in wheelchairs who have had to miss school functions because they couldn’t get across the street.

 “It’s going to be life-saving,” Stewart said.

 It’s clear that everyone wants the crosswalk as soon as possible, but Ly admits bureaucratic issues have tied up the project way too long. He said if ground is not broken by June, he would be out there himself with a shovel.

He’s not alone. Another father, Caleb Webb, said he offered to do the curb cuts for free, but so far the city has not taken him up on that. James Leiner, executive director of Pioneer Day School next door, offered to pay for the curb cuts out of his pocket. Ly said his office would be open to donations.

Until work begins on the project, Reid and other parents will continue to pester Faulconer’s office until they get what they think is a necessary addition. They sent a letter to the OB Town Council and have the support of president Gretchen Kinney Newsom.

 “I honestly do believe it’s going to happen, mostly in part due to the fact that I’m very persistent,” Reid said. “It’s been such a collaborative effort. It’s going to be a big sigh of relief when people see those crosswalks going in.”

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jake November 18, 2013 at 11:22 am

I don’t disagree with installing a crosswalk and light. Seems necessary and reasonable. Let’s build it.
However, is it really ‘news’ worthy that a group of parents have taken personal responsibility for getting their children safely to and from school?

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avatar Caleb webb November 19, 2013 at 9:03 am

Jake,
Yes this is defiantly newsworthy because of the recognition of getting the much needed crosswalk. Please come down at 740 am and check out the confusion of this whole dilemma and you will see for your self or better yet come volunteer as a crossing guard And help us out!

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avatar Nicole November 19, 2013 at 9:09 am

Jake,
It is ‘news’ worthy to talk about the parents who volunteer. They are showing that they are not only concerned about getting their own kids to school safe, they are showing that they care about the safety of all the kids. Its all about the kids. People speed down that street everyday with no regaurd to the little kids crossing. Every one of those parent crossing gaurds would do everything they could to make sure a car doesn’t hit a child. Everyone who has kids at that school feels like a large family we all do what we can for each other and if that means taking time out of our own day to set up a ‘crosswalk’ , because the city is to slow to make it happen, then so be it.

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 19, 2013 at 10:14 am

Totally agree Nicole. When my daughter went to OB Elementary and we used to drop her off in the morning on Newport, some people would blow through there as if they were chasing a fire engine.

This is yet another example of what OBceans do best – doing our own thing without waiting for the grandiose word from on high.

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avatar Frank Gormlie November 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm

The city stalls, yet OB has another mid-block cross walk without warning lights and sirens: right there on 4800 block of Newport Ave.

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avatar Wayne Simard November 19, 2013 at 11:37 am

I love this town and the parents at our little elementary school. “News worthy”? This is the OB Rag, not the Washington Post or NY Times…so for this situation, absolutely. Thanks for publishing this guys! The more support we get, the more likely it will happen. We crossing guards who volunteer love the appreciation and smiles we get everyday out there. We laugh when people get angry and “flip us the bird” because we know we are doing the right thing. I personally became involved when I saw 3 near misses in one week with children narrowly escaping being hit by cars. I feel if we weren’t there these past 3 years, that kind of tragedy would be reality. My goal is to be there for the next 8 years or so to help prevent that from happening. The light in question is a street light to illuminate the crosswalk at night, not that we think it is needed at night being it is primarily for the kids, but rules are rules, no matter how much we disagree with them. This crosswalk is a long time coming and I for one can’t wait until they put it in. I hear the Newport Ave side of the school needs our attention and with this crosswalk established, we will be able to better handle that problem as well. To any and all parents….please…If you can…park a block or 2 away and walk to the school. To everyone else….please slow down and be aware of the kids in that area, and not just in the morning or after school…that crosswalk is used all day by the kindergarteners…Thanks and feel free to come give us a hand, we love volunteers!
Thanks Joe (Moondoggie) for starting this thing and Thanks to all the parents that help us or have helped out when they could…Caleb, Troy, Dylan (spelling?) Zachary, Tommy, Monique, and anyone I missed :)

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avatar Matthew Wood November 20, 2013 at 10:43 am

Caleb, Wayne and other parents: You’re doing a great job. Keep it up!

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avatar Kila November 20, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I think it becomes news worthy when parents have been fighting for this necessity for four years. At least it’s proactive news, and it’s because of parent volunteers over the years that have prevented any tragic accidents from happening. Is that the kind of news worthy you want? This needs as much attention as we can get. Thanks OB Rag and OB Town Council for your support. Maybe it should be worthy of the Washington Post or NY Times…it is in my opinion. Thanks to everyone for looking out for the safety of our children. I wish to read more positive news stories like this! We will succeed in this crosswalk fight!

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