Cloverdale council rejects four-way stop at dangerous intersection

  • Thirteen year-old Baldemar Torres is wheeled by friends and family to a Cloverdale City Council meeting, Monday Nov. 4, 2013 to urge the city to install safety measures at a crosswalk in north Cloverdale after Torres and a cousin were hit by an automobile last week. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

An overflow crowd of sometimes angry, tearful and frustrated people implored the Cloverdale City Council Monday night to put in a traffic light or make other safety improvements at a crosswalk that was the scene of a fatality last summer and serious injuries for two teenage boys on Halloween night.

More than 100 people filled the council chambers asking for an immediate solution, and spoke for hours. But almost all of them had left by the time a council motion failed to put in a four-way stop sign at the controversial pedestrian crossing at South Cloverdale Boulevard and Healdsburg Avenue.

Only Mayor Joe Palla and Councilwoman Carol Russell voted for the stop signs as a precursor to a traffic light that could take years for the cash-strapped city to fund.

Other council members said it was premature to put in stop signs, but agreed to form an ad hoc committee that would take a look at strengthening the street lighting at the crosswalk and other improvements. They also agreed to investigate installing flashing, embedded crosswalk lighting similar to some crosswalks in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Healdsburg and other cities.

City Manager Paul Cayler said such a system could cost $35,000 or $40,000 at the one intersection.

Time and again Monday, residents urged the city to act quickly.

"Move on this before the city is responsible for another death," said Gloria Ponce, one of nine children of Maria Ponce, the Cloverdale grandmother who was struck and killed by an elderly driver in July.

And some speakers suggested there was a racist element to the city's slowness to act after being urged to do something at the crosswalk months before.

"If this was an animal, something would have been done. Because we're Hispanic, I feel no one is doing anything about it," said Alicia Rivas.

But Mayor Palla disagreed. "We are a community- Hispanic and Caucasian," he said.

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