Re: Mr. Lawson’s letter (“Emergency Access We can Live With,” Feb. 17 edition:
This city has long ignored the access issues of the safety element in the general plan as adopted in June 1995. The plan identified 16 neighborhoods or groups of streets throughout the city with impaired access for emergency vehicles. Three neighborhoods, Canyon Acres, Bluebird Canyon and Diamond Crestview, were identified as the most seriously access impaired.
Upon adoption of the safety element, the city was to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of each public and private road and neighborhood in terms of providing emergency vehicle access and evacuation routes, including pedestrian access ways or trails.
However, some 20 years later, a late evening ride through several neighborhoods with fire department personnel and bureaucrats led to the conclusion that the Alta Vista neighborhood would be the ideal candidate since, as the fire chief stated last week, “this area was selected because it would affect the least number of houses.”
This path of least resistance does not serve our community’s safety issues well.
At a meeting in December, members of the Emergency Disaster Preparedness Committee could not recall having read the safety element or seen the detailed neighborhood map until concerned citizens brought it up.
Earlier, no city representative could answer a question about the incidence of blocked access of emergency vehicles by neighborhood or street in the recent past. So where is the comprehensive access evaluation for all public and private roads in the city?
Furthermore, what is the criteria to measure this pilot program? Permanently remove 100 resident’s parking spaces from the smallest residential neighborhood and it’s a success?
Trending nationwide is a movement to make emergency vehicles to best fit the location where used. After a campaign by former San Francisco Supervisor Scott Weiner, the San Francisco Fire Department ordered equipment configured to address their narrow winding streets. “Our fire trucks should be designed around the needs of our city, not vice versa,” Weiner said. So when we hear our fire chief state “we can’t decrease the size (of engines) from what we have,” I think they have to be willing to think outside their big red box.
What is “immediate” is the course change the EDPC needs to make. What is “dire” is the need for a comprehensive solution the city can live with and not another failed bureaucratic program as was the “red flag” pilot program.
Mark Sommerfield and Sam Dawson, Laguna Beach