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Patch Watch: Intersection of Lark Avenue and Los Gatos Boulevard

Our weekly look at blight and other problem zones in and around Los Gatos.

On a recent morning, an elderly man in a mobility scooter at the corner of Lark Avenue and Los Gatos Boulevard was trying to cross the intersection heading south on the Los Gatos Boulevard crosswalk.

Unfortunately, there is no ramp at the start of the crosswalk on Lark Avenue, so he was forced to use the vehicle access to the, 15171 Los Gatos Blvd., to get down to the street and access it.

He then proceeded to the large triangle island, which has the traffic light, but his access again was impeded due to the lack of a ramp. He had no choice but to go around the island to rejoin the sidewalk and attempt to cross the street.

While the light was red, however, he was forced to wait on the actual crosswalk and was nearly hit by a truck traveling eastbound on Lark Avenue and making a u-turn to travel westbound on the road. The truck driver backed up, adjusted, backed up, and finally had enough room to move forward and not hit the man. 

When the road was clear, he finally continued southbound across the street only to find another missing ramp from the smaller triangle island, which also has a traffic light. Once again, he had to go around to finally access a ramp on the south side of Los Gatos Boulevard.

LOCATION: Corner of Lark Avenue and Los Gatos Boulevard.

PROBLEM: ADA non-compliant intersection prevents those in mobility scooters, wheelchairs from access islands that have no ramp access and no gradation to allow for safe passage. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, building on an earlier law requiring curb ramps in new, altered, and existing sidewalks, added impetus to improving conditions for sidewalk users. People with disabilities rely on the pedestrian and transit infrastructure, and the links between them, for access and mobility.

RESPONSIBLE AGENCY: Los Gatos Parks and Public Works Department, which is responsible for maintaining the town's public parks, facilities, and infrastructure. The department is comprised of five organizational units: administration, engineering and capital projects, parks and forestry, facilities and streets and signals.

CONTACT: Los Gatos Parks and Public Works Department, (408) 399-5770, or email department director Todd Capurso at tcapurso@losgatosca.gov. 

DATE REPORTED: Nov. 14, 2011.

DAYS ON WATCH: 9

Mike Calahan November 15, 2011 at 03:48 PM
I have witnessed similar incidents at this corner. This is not a low-traffic intersection, by any means. Why wait until a headline reads "Man In Mobility Scooter vs. Lark Ave. Traffic = Mobility Scooter Loses" before an easy fix can be implemented? Those with limited mobility are LG residents, also. We can't be choosy which ones we provide safety for.
Tanya November 15, 2011 at 06:11 PM
As an attorney representing disabled individuals I appreciate your shedding light on one of the numerous barriers that my clients have to fight every day. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed more than 20 years ago requiring ramps, however there was no enforcement mechanism provided other than private lawsuits. There are more than 50 million Americans, 18% of our population, that live with disabilities but you only see a few of them that dare to leave their homes. Tanya@moorelawfirm.com
Jody Yarborough November 15, 2011 at 06:26 PM
As a woman with a disability and a disability rights activist that works for SVILC, a disability justice center in San Jose, I have to say this story greatly disturbs me. As Ms. Sanchez points out in her column, the City of Los Gatos is in clear violation of failing to enforce the accessibility rights of the ADA. Additionally, this is clearly a safety issue. Anyone with a wheeled device or a sight impairment could be injured at this intersection, either by their inability access the median island, or as a tripping hazard. Access is only half the battle, enforcement is the other half. Bringing these violations to light continues to be our struggle, and we will continue!
Gwen Reandeau November 15, 2011 at 06:57 PM
Very interesting input by Tanya@moorelawfirm.com. The more city council people that read this page, the better chance Los Gatos has to implement recommendations for improvements in this area. Great coverage, as usual, Sheila.
Mckenna Smith November 15, 2011 at 10:03 PM
This is so unfortunate for disabled people. It's sad that these things come to our attention through a lawsuit. :( Let's fix this LG!
Tom Nyren November 15, 2011 at 10:53 PM
This is very unfortunate considering how busy the intersection is. However, in my neighborhood, there are ramps that have been redone 3 times to accomodate very minor changes in requirements, and the ramps are rarely if ever used by the handicapped. In the 15 years I have lived in my neighborhood, I don't think I have ever seen them used, but then again, I'm not watching them 24 hour a day. The few I have seen are in the bike lane.
Mike Calahan November 15, 2011 at 11:08 PM
Tom, I don't understand what you're attempting to convey in regards to a point. No one is suggesting we build ramps, as though Lark Ave were the entrance to a football stadium. A small gradation in the existing islands is not a tall order. How many handicapped folks should be standing in a busy lane of Lark Ave for you to feel their safety is justifiable? Also, there is no bike lane at the intersection for "them" to safely stay out of traffic. The point is that this is a) not safe for someone with disabilities and b) in conflict with federal law.
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) November 16, 2011 at 04:49 PM
Hi Mike, just heard from Los Gatos Parks and Public Works Director Todd Capurso, who oversees the department responsible for this intersection, and he says he will assess the issue before the end of the week. He also says there will be a response shortly thereafter. He encouraged readers with additional questions about the intersection and its ADA non-compliance to contact him in the meantime at tcapurso@losgatosca.gov. Thank you again for your interest in this issue and in this feature.
Meagan November 16, 2011 at 07:36 PM
It would be wonderful to see this intersection fixed to better serve the needs of the disabled people in our community. It was mentioned earlier, but this is a very high-traffic intersection, which makes it all the more dangerous (and all the more high-priority to fix). Please get this fixed, Los Gatos!
Brad Hayden November 22, 2011 at 11:22 PM
Okay Los Gatos Town Council. You now have the attention of a lawyer. An ADA Lawyer at that. Which means, (Sorry Tonya) this person is now going to watch this intersection like a vulture, simply waiting for the opportunity to slap Los Gatos with a wrongful death case. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and needs to be addressed now not when someone dies or gets hurt. We, as a society, tend to wait until someone dies before we make much needed safety changes. The question you should be asking yourselves is what do we say to the family of the victim if you don't fix it. If its fixed, this question is never asked because there is no need. It will cost you far less to fix it now than it will if someone dies or gets hurt. For those politicians who don't understand the complexities of reality, we have a bad economy and a potentially deadly situation which needs to be resolved. Let's not wait for tragedy to happen before we get motivated to do something.
Mike Calahan November 23, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Funding has been allocated for repairing this intersection in July of 2012. Not the immediacy that we may want, but it is something.
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) November 23, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Hi Mike, yes, I was copied on Mr. Todd Capurso's email to you yesterday that contains a lengthy explanation of when the town will fix this problem. I'm working on a story about this issue for Friday or the weekend. The important thing is that he has responded and the town is aware of the dangers and potential liabilities presented by the ADA non-compliance. Thank you.
Mike Calahan November 23, 2011 at 07:11 PM
I'm so happy to hear this. Thanks for your hard work, Sheila. You've done a great service by bringing this to everyone's attention.

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