Westminster mobile home residents are begging a distracted city council for help with a traffic issue that residents say is potentially creating a deadly environment when they come and go to the park.
After months of pleas to the city council, no solution is in sight.
Residents at Driftwood Mobile Home Park are performing risky maneuvers with their vehicles during rush hour traffic — resulting in near accidents daily — just to access their neighborhood entrances on McFadden Avenue and Beach Boulevard after the widening of the 405 and road marking changes.
“I’m afraid I’m going to get killed,” said 16-year resident Maureen Caruso.
At least one accident has been reported outside the mobile home park on McFadden Boulevard within the last month, but residents say they feel like they’ll get in an accident nearly every time they exit the park.
Entering the mobile home park has never been easy, but new 405 freeway roadway widening has made getting home nearly impossible, says resident Richard Toro.
There used to be a center lane on McFadden Avenue to turn left into the park, but now residents have to do u-turns, turn on their hazard lights or cross over into oncoming traffic to enter their neighborhood.
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” Caruso said.
While city officials have recently met with concerned residents, the problem persists because the Orange County Transportation Authority is heading up the project — not the city.
OCTA also increased the number of lanes on McFadden Avenue from two to four in an effort to relieve congestion.
The current 170 units in the park that houses hundreds of individuals — many are seniors — say the plan disregarded them.
Concerned residents met with the city traffic engineer and 405 Project representatives in 2019 to discuss solutions for this dangerous maneuver as traffic was said to increase by the 405 widening project.
OCTA and city officials said installing a traffic light near the McFadden bridge being built would reduce traffic and make it easier for residents to access their neighborhood.
Residents said the opposite happened after the project was completed last October.
“Putting a light was supposed to alleviate the issue, but it really hasn’t at all,” 16-year resident Beverly Gutierrez said. “If anything, it’s created more of an issue.”
Some residents also find the alternative entrance on Beach Boulevard hazardous because it is right next to the 405 freeway onramp.
Toro said he has contacted the city traffic engineer, mayor and city council members in a series of emails since May. Officials in some cases took months to respond.
Caruso, Toro and other residents are asking the entrance of the mobile home park to be moved or that the city restore the center lane on McFadden along with flashing warning signs.
Residents say that most of their pleas to city officials have gone unanswered until Mayor Tri Ta and City Traffic Engineer Adolfo Ozaeta visited the neighborhood July 23 to discuss the problem.
Since then, Westminster city officials have contacted the Orange County Transportation Authority to find a solution, according to Ta.
The land that makes up McFadden Avenue is owned partially by the City of Westminster and partially by the County of Orange, so city officials do not have jurisdiction to make the necessary changes independently, Ta said.
Ta explained that city staff have been in communication with county officials, including Supervisor Andrew Do, regarding the mobile home residents’ concerns, but the problem remains unresolved.
There isn’t much Westminster can do to help, outside of advocating for residents to OCTA, CalTrans and the County, said city traffic engineer Adolfo Ozaeta. He has met with dozens of residents in two separate visits to Driftwood and said he relayed the situation to his colleagues.
Despite this effort, some residents still feel like they aren’t being heard.
“It feels like the city has been unresponsive,” said Belinda Walker, who moved into the Driftwood Mobile Home Park in May. “It does take a long time to make change, but how long is too long?”
Toro, who has been in contact with city officials for months, expresses a unique frustration due to the lack of solutions.
“In situations like ours where there is an obvious danger to the lives of the residents, the elected city leaders need to take a more proactive approach,” said Toro in an email to Mayor Ta on July 22.
The city is instead working on other roadway improvements as part of the 405 expansion project that they wouldn’t be able to fund without the help from OCTA. This includes waterlines, traffic signals, roadways, sidewalks and bikeways across Westminster.
“This is an example of a driveway approach that wasn’t touched and they’re unhappy, but in other parts of town, we’re enhancing driveways that have been affected by that construction, and the property owners are very excited about that,” said Ozeata.
Jillie Herrold is a Voice of OC News Intern. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jillieherrold.
Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC News Intern. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.