San Gabriel Valley residents demanded that Alhambra’s leadership make the city safer for pedestrians in a highly emotional City Council Meeting Monday night.
Leading the charge was an extraordinarily poised high school student who told the Council: “No more excuses…I want answers.”
Kimiko Nishitsuji was one of the closest friends of Bo Feng — a 17-year-old girl who was hit by a car and killed when walking with a friend last month at the intersection of Shorb Street and New Avenue.
“She was one of the nicest people you can ever meet,” Nishitsuji said. “There wasn’t one moment I saw her anything but smiling.” While others talked about the need for greater safety after the tragedy, Nishitsuji took action. The Gabrielino rising senior created an online petition to get the cities of Alhambra and San Gabriel to add new LED pedestrian crossing signs at the intersection, quickly collecting more than 1,000 signatures. On Monday, she attended her first Alhambra City Council meeting to present the peitition to the city's leaders. Accompanying her was her mother, as well as Feng's parents, immigrants from China for whom this was also the first trip to a City Council meeting.
Nishitsuji was not the only one who came to the Alhambra meeting to express concerns about pedestrian safety. Before she got her chance at the podium, two other concerned residents who came to the meeting independently spoke about the issue. Jesus Hernandez said that there had been problems on El Molino. “One of these days it’s going to be a little kid,” he said. “Neighbors are afraid.”
Peter von Haam came next, saying he too had been concerned about a potentially fatal intersection: the one where Bo Feng died. He told San Gabriel officials about his concerns before her death, he said, but he regrets he did not push city officials to act. Expressing concerns about Alhambra's pedestrian safety record, including that it ranked most dangerous city of its size for senior citizen pedestrians, Von Haam presented a public records act request for more information about pedestrian saety in the city and specific to the deadly intersection.
Then Nishitsuji stood up to present her petition asking for LED Pedestrian signs and electronic reflectors at the intersection of New Ave. and Shorb St. She said the death was preventable and that she had signatures from as far away as Croatia determined to change the situation. “It shouldn’t take a tragedy like this for both cities to make a change,” she said and then broke down into tears. In the seats were Feng’s parents, immigrants from Northern China. When Nishitsuji started to cry the sobs of Feng's mother, who had lost her only child, echoed throughout the Chamber.
Mayor Gary Yamauchi said that the city would investigate. A greater response about pedestrian safety was provided to Hernandez. City Manager Julio Fuentes said that unsafe drivers “seems to be a problem we have everywhere.” Even though the city tries to control it through police officers and other forms of enforcement, he says it is not enough, adding that the 710 Freeway gap contributes to the problem. Speed bumps, one suggestion from Hernadez, pose a problem for the fire department by slowing down key safety routes.
Nishitsuji was not satisfied with the promise of an investigation. She said she was done with “excuses,” adding “this crosswalk has been a problem for so many years.” Next week she plans to attend the San Gabriel Chamber meeting, on August 16th at 7:30 p.m, to present them with her petition.