City officials and community members gathered at a press conference near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Anita Avenue Thursday morning for the unveiling of newly-installed speed feedback signs. A purple blanket shrouded one sign as cars whizzed by the busy boulevard. A large purple bow hung on the poll below it. Councilman Bill Rosendahl, 13-year-old Charlie Horowitz and traffic safety advocate Jody Siegler shared the honor of uncovering the solar-powered speed signal.
Rosendahl presented Siegler with a certificate from the City for her "tenacity and conviction" in improving the traffic safety on Sunset Boulevard and citywide.
"We're going to make sure that this street is cleaned up of vegetation and where there are property owners involved, we're going to encourage them to do it." said Rosendahl. "Obviously, safety is number one. this is a very difficult street—the only way in and out for a lot of people—and some people race without thinking twice. From now on, I hope the think more than twice."
Siegler lost her 14-year-old daughter, Julia, two years ago when she was struck down in traffic on the nearby corner at Cliffwood Avenue. Julia's namesake "Slow Down for Julia" campaign has strived to remind drivers to stop speeding on Sunset. Siegler wore purple, the color of the awareness campaign.
"We are here because making a visible, physical change is the best way in which awareness is achieved across many communities," Siegler told Patch.
Horowitz, also a Harvard-Westlake student, knew Julia and the two lived close to one another for a time. Horowitz raised more than $18,000 through his recent bar mitzvah to put toward the cost of the signs.
There were three signs in total, costing $10,000 a piece for manufacture and installation. The second sign is located near Sunset and Kenter Avenue. The City paid for two of the signs and will be reimbursed by the Julia Siegler Foundation, a fund started by Siegler in her daughter's name. The third sign was paid for by and is located near North Bundy Drive and Octagon Street.
"These are important markers for us to remember her," said Horowitz. "The kids in the community; we respect her and we want to show that we care about her."
The day Julia died, it all happened so fast, said Max Thoeny. He was on the bus, heading to Harvard-Westlake school, where he attended as a freshman two years ago. As the bus pulled through the intersection and stopped, Thoeny glanced to the left and saw what had happened.
"As one of the witnesses, I felt just so committed and almost responsible to take part in somehow helping to raise safety and awareness in the community," said Thoeny, now in 11th grade.
Theony and his friends, Jake Feiler and Eli Kogan, decided to act immediately. They put a sign up on the pedestrian button at Cliffwood Avenue reading "Slow Down for Julia."
"It was instant, but we tried to convert the grief into positive thinking and awareness," Theony told Patch.
The Brentwood Community Council (BCC) discussed errecting the signs at a recent meeting. The understanding reached was that some awareness needs to be brought to drivers about the fact that Sunset Boulevard runs through a residential neighborhood, said BCC member Said Jabbari.
"People live here, people go to school here, kids walk on Sunset, people ride their bikes here," Jabbari told Patch. "In between Cliffwood and Kenter (Avenue), people think it's a Nascar race. … They think it's a freeway. Every initiative that we take that reminds people that this is a residential neighborhood, and that when you drive over speed limits in residential neighborhoods, it's a disaster waiting to happen. It's sad that we had to have a death here by Cliffwood to remind everybody to take these initiatives."
For Siegler, this is just the beginning. Sunset is too perilous in its current state for children and school buses to use safely.
"If you look 500 feet in that direction (Siegler pointed west along Sunset Boulevard), you can't see where 500 feet is. That means that school bus stops that are at Carmelina (Avenue) are not meeting visibility requirements."
Siegler would like the trees cut back and moved away from the curbs so that drivers can see around some of Sunset Boulevard's curves.
"This is certainly not enough and we are not here today to pat ourselves on the back for having solved the problem by any measure," Siegler said.
The facts have to be looked at and the community needs to work with city and sate officials to figure out the next move for traffic safety on Sunset Boulevard, Siegler said.
"It's a big city and you need support, community support," Siegler said. "Teenagers have raised thousands of dollars through their devoted efforts and I think that the adults need to take a lesson from that."