“Slow down. This ain’t LA.” –bumper sticker seen in Laguna Beach
Two men died April 2 unnecessarily in a Laguna Canyon car accident. While the police continue to investigate what caused the 4,674-pound Tesla to crush a late-model Honda Accord to nearly half its size, there is a lesson for all of us who drive around Laguna Beach, especially Laguna Canyon Road, aka “Blood Alley” for all the deaths on that road…slow down and pay attention.
Let’s plan and design for better safety.
We’re all guilty in one way or another. It’s easy to be late, to take a call, make a call, text, eat, drink, speed…the list goes on. The streets of Laguna, particularly Laguna Canyon Road, are dangerous enough with hills, seven-way stops, pedestrian crosswalks, narrow roads and other obstacles. We don’t need to add to it with cell phones, speeding or half-baked stops.
If someone wants to merge on Laguna Canyon Road, make space. If you’re coming up to traffic and you have to merge, find a safe place to do it. Don’t accelerate and pass in the merge lane. Let your ego go, and let the other driver in. Your brake is as easy to use as your gas pedal.
The reasons why we make stupid decisions don’t really matter when it costs someone else their life.
Alberto Casique-Salinas, 47, and Armando Garcia-Gonzales, 38, worked for my neighbor’s company, Stewart’s Landscaping. Alberto had been working for Steve and Liza Steward since 2005. He was supporting his four children and his mother, who is raising them in Mexico. He also did a lot of the work on my yard—he was a friendly, hard-working man who mixed his sweat and toil with our community to make it a better place to live.
Armando was new to Stewarts but was already establishing himself as a dedicated worker and reliable. His wife and three children are now fatherless in Santa Ana.
The Stewarts sent out a letter to the community last week explaining that their workers had died and that the Laguna Beach Police Employees Association was taking donations for the families—you can make checks out to “Alberto and Armando Memorial” and mail them to LBPEA, PO Box 4611, Laguna Beach, CA 92652. Half of the people who received a letter have already responded with calls, letters and donations.
We can do better.
The police will determine what caused the accident and make appropriate charges against the Tesla and Mercedes drivers. The families will likely get a settlement.
No amount of money will replace a child’s father.
As we hear more plans and debate about a Laguna entrance, expanded parking development and other ideas, it might be wise to develop a master plan for the city, particularly the entrance and exits to our town. We need to address traffic flow, public safety, and possibly rethink how we currently manage bikes, pedestrians, crosswalks, flooding and, yes, parking too.
There are great minds, like William McDonough + Partners, who are brilliant at taking the competing needs of a city and creating a master plan that is beautiful, environmentally healing, cost-effective and generates returns rather than simply creating costs. Safety should be one key driver for why we need to overhaul the Band-Aids we have on a city entrance, exit and downtown that don’t work.
In the near term, we need to support the devastated families of two men who were killed coming to work to make Laguna Beach a better place, and we need to work on what we can control—our own safe driving skills. For the future, we need to develop a master plan for our city that specifically addresses safety, traffic flow, environmental concerns, creates sufficient parking and is financially sustainable.
Previous plans and designs for our town did not effectively manage the current demands and uses that are needed today. Before we start debating the details of a village entrance and parking structure, let’s take a step back to strategically plan and design for the current and future needs of Laguna Beach with the right intent.
No one designed Laguna Canyon intentionally as “Blood Alley.” We know it’s dangerous. Let’s plan to wash the blood off of our hands.
David Vanderveen is a Laguna Beach resident, husband, father and energy drink entrepreneur. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.