Sometimes everything comes down to a good, old-fashioned hump. Er, speed hump, that is. At least, that may be the case in Four Hills Village in District 9, where residents are getting all riled up over a familiar issue just in time for the Oct. 4 city election.
It all began last September, when 15 speed humps, six on one road and nine on another, over the course of a day, mysteriously plopped down on Stagecoach Road and Wagon Train Drive, the only two roads that serve as an entrance into the upscale neighborhood at the base of the foothills which houses over 1,300 homes. They were put there by the city, who cited safety concerns over speeders as its motive (in a brief study done by the city before the humps were installed it was found that motorists were sailing down the streets at 32 mph in 25 mph zones).
To get an idea of neighborhood support for the traffic calming devices, before the humps were installed the city surveyed 165 residents who lived along the corridors, discovering that 82 supported the idea of humping, 34 didn't, and 49 didn't answer the survey at all. That seemed to be enough data, and in came the humps.
Within days, the community was divided—mainly between those who like the speed humps, the pro-humpers, a group that contained Mayor Martin Chavez' mother, and those who hated them, the anti-humpers.
The anti-humpers were initially upset because no one told them the humps were coming, and no one asked them to vote on whether they should come in the first place. And so, when some residents left their homes in the morning and went down one of the two roads, the pavement was humpless, but when they returned that night, humps were in full-force. It caused quite a stir.
Over time, the anti-humpers became concerned about the humps for other reasons, the main one being that they were worried the humps would severely slow down emergency response vehicles, and ambulances wouldn't be able to get to one of a large number of elderly residents on time. Other concerns were that it caused discomfort to many residents who had back or other health problems as they passed over them every day—to the point that many would avoid coming and going from their homes as much as possible—and that it caused damage to their cars.
Rebecca Loring, who started the website dumpthehumps.com, echoes the above concerns. "I'm angry I'm being punished for something I didn't do," she said, adding that every time she goes over the humps it hurts her back and she worries about damage to her car. Loring, who has lived in her Four Hills home for 12 years, said the humps have also increased traffic on side streets, to the point that now several more humps have been installed on a side road to mitigate the effect.
But Loring's main objection to the humps is the safety risk she believes it poses to residents. "I see ambulances here more often than I ever saw speeders—I'm afraid it will take someone dying for the city to wake up [and remove the humps]."
The ordeal has caused such a commotion that it actually spurred the resignation of several of the Four Hills Village Homeowners' Association's board of directors. Roger Mickelson, who served as president of the board for two years, resigned this last February, in part because the "speed hump issues [had] consumed far too much of [his] time," according to a statement by Mickelson on the association's website. He was replaced by Christina Parlapiano, who resigned last month.
Parlapiano is one resident who is not upset over the humps, but rather, is upset over other residents' reactions.
"The humps are a nuisance for me too, but they make the neighborhood safer," she said, adding that there was a safety hazard from speeding before the humps were put in. "There are no sidewalks in our neighborhood, and if people want to take a walk with their dog or kids or just check their mailbox, they shouldn't have to worry about speeders coming around the bend."
Many residents are upset about the way the situation has been handled by both Mayor Martin Chavez and their councilwoman, Tina Cummins; so much so that it has influenced how they will vote in the city election on Oct. 4.
Loring, who used to be a Chavez supporter and actually gathered signatures for him when he ran for his first term, said she feels ignored by the mayor and will not vote for him this time around.
Her main cause for complaint is the lack of warning the majority of residents were given before the humps came in and, secondly, the response the mayor has given to anti-hump residents, who soon after the installation of the humps gathered the signatures of nearly 1,000 residents who wanted either some or all of the humps removed.
The mayor's response this last January was that he'd revisit the situation around November, after the election, at which point he'd hold an open forum for residents to voice their concerns and conduct a comprehensive traffic study.
The mayor didn't return the Alibi's calls for further comment.
Even more important for District 9 is their Council race, which is getting pretty heated among residents—to the point that now residents are waking up with their support signs for candidates missing from their yards.
Incumbent City Councilor Tina Cummins has her fair share of support signs in the neighborhood, yet many residents, such as Loring, are angry toward her for her lack of response to the speed hump issue. According to Loring, Cummins failed to answer any calls asking for her assistance.
Even Parlapiano, who's a Chavez supporter and thinks the mayor has done a fine job of handling the situation, was adamant in saying she will not vote for Cummins, although she declined to state her reason why.
Cummins declined to comment to the Alibi on the issue.
Other Council candidates, however, were happy to give their two cents on the topic.
Candidate Don Harris said he thinks the process in installing the humps was handled poorly, and that the whole community should have been involved. He would like to re-examine whether the humps are the best option for traffic calming, and noted alternatives such as adding curb extensions or sidewalks in their stead.
Candidate Chris Catechis agreed, and said he thought a more comprehensive traffic study should have been done, one that included more than the average speed on the roads. He added that not putting more research into the project before installing the humps could be a waste of taxpayer dollars, especially if they're later just taken out. He also said he thought the priority for the project may have been misplaced. "There are neighborhoods in District 9 without streetlights, some that haven't been paved in years."
Catechis' solution is to bring people together to address the problems in the neighborhood and come to an answer everyone can agree on.
Final candidate Vivian Cordova, who lives in Four Hills Village, also agreed that things were handled poorly and suggested replacing the humps with "wake-up bumps," the 2-inch wide by 2-inch deep grooves found on the sides of freeways. "I was in favor of the humps when they first came in, but then I learned more about them and now I have concerns."