By Esther Ro/Garden Grove Journal
Just south of Orangewood Avenue in Garden Grove is a quiet residential street that runs westward from Brookhurst Street to Gilbert Street. Royal Palm Boulevard, lined with modest but beautiful homes and lush foliage, lacks stop signs and traffic lights, making it the perfect shortcut for drivers in a hurry.
At least three generations of residents have complained about the drivers that zip down Royal Palm Boulevard at speeds more than double the 25 m.p.h. limit to get to work on time or shave off a few seconds getting home after dropping off students at Gilbert Elementary School around the corner.
Their voices have finally been heard, and changes have been made to curb speeding.
The residents of Royal Palm Boulevard collaborated with the Neighborhood Watch Committee, Garden Grove traffic engineering and Garden Grove Police motor patrol in an effort to make their neighborhood a safer place to live and to prevent tragedies from occurring.
“It’s not that we haven’t had any accidents. We’re just lucky to not have had issues,” said resident Christina Collins.
Collins, mother of a 6-year-old boy, has lived on Royal Palm Boulevard since 1999. She has attended and even hosted Neighborhood Watch meetings to bring attention to and take initiative on the issue before tragedies occurred.
“The traffic is what we do hear the most about just because it’s hard to fix,” said Cathy Johnson, head of the Neighborhood Watch Committee, which addresses other concerns such as crime and gang activity.
Steve Sykora is another resident who has devoted his time and effort to petitioning for various traffic safety measures along the street and to resolve the ongoing issue.
After studying city rules and regulations and receiving guidance from Garden Grove traffic engineering, Sykora went door to door with a written petition, photographs and maps to explain the problem and possible solutions. He received near-unanimous support.
“There was only one man who said no,” said Sykora. “His property is heavily landscaped, looks beautiful. He resented that we would stick a stop sign in his yard.”
While gaining the community’s support was relatively easy, winning approval from city hall was a long and complicated process. Backed by traffic engineering and with his neighbors’ signatures and the same photographs and maps he carried door to door in hand, Sykora approached city officials with his propositions.
“We’ve done similar improvements in the city on a few different occasions over the years, and we’ve had a positive experience with it so we felt comfortable recommending approval to the traffic commission,” said Dan Candelaria, lead engineer of Garden Grove traffic engineering.
Despite this voice of support, other voices of disagreement spoke up.
A traffic circle was denied as records showed that speeding issues were not alleviated by this addition. Residents with property on street intersections protested against a four-way stop, which could potentially amplify the speeding issue rather than subdue it. Speed bumps were also rejected because of the risk they pose for emergency vehicles that may need to travel down the street.
However, there are a few achievements to celebrate.
Two radar speed signs have been installed on Royal Palm Boulevard, flashing reminders for drivers to slow down. Stop signs have also been erected on the corner of Royal Palm Boulevard and Bart Drive. These signs remind drivers that a speed limit is indeed in place and must be obeyed.
“We’ve looked at the speeds since their installation. We have quite a bit of data, and the speed is comparable to what we see in other residential streets,” said Candelaria.
On May 15, white lines were painted along the street’s edges to create the visual illusion of a narrower path and to mark a clearer walking lane.
Although more time is needed to tell whether or not the white striping is effective, residents have expressed a greater sense of security when outside.
“I’ve been complimented by people who appreciate the white lines along the edge for greater safety walking, pushing their kids in strollers and walking their dogs,” said Sykora.
These recent additions could not have happened without Royal Palm Boulevard residents’ determination and perseverance as well as cooperation among the residents and with the city. Their success demonstrates that it is possible for everyday citizens to make a difference in their communities.
“I initially ran into cynicism by older residents and suspicion from some of the newer Asian and Hispanic families,” said Sykora. “Hopefully this will reassure them that their city government can go to work for their needs if only they are willing to participate.”
A Walmart store is set to open in the area at The Promenade center and residents are concerned that this may lead to an increased flow of drivers through Royal Palm Boulevard. Residents and the Neighborhood Watch Committee plan to continue their efforts to eliminate the speeding issue and restore safety.