Councilwoman Suzie Price on Tuesday will ask the City Council to temporarily close a small pedestrian bridge that connects the Park Estates neighborhood to Atherton Street, citing public safety concerns.
The bridge spans about 20 feet and goes over a fenced flood control channel right off of Elmfield Avenue. A quiet, upscale neighborhood with roomy mid-century modern homes and tree-lined streets sits on one side of the channel. A preschool, an apartment building and busy Atherton Street are on the other side.
The temporary bridge closure is part of a nearly three-year-long effort to quell crime that some residents feel is a constant threat in their neighborhood: package thefts, car break-ins and home burglaries. According to Ted Brodeur, the president of the Park Estates Homeowners Association, the bridge gives criminals easy access to the neighborhood with its winding and often confusing streets. The neighborhood has few outlets by car and one other footpath that connects to Bellflower Boulevard.
“What ends up happening, is the criminal element will park a vehicle or shopping cart on Atherton, come burgle, steal things or break into cars, and then they use that (bridge) as an entrance and exit— to get in and get out,” Brodeur said.
Once criminals are on the Atherton side, they can easily slip away, either toward the freeways by car or into the housing tract just on the other side of the street by foot, he said.
Price said she’s heard residents’ complaints about the bridge individually and at community meetings for several years and it has taken so long to bring a possible solution forward because it was unclear if the city or Los Angeles County controlled the bridge. They found the county maintains the bridge and needs to keep access to at least the Atherton side open. The bridge was originally intended to be used for a maintenance route, Price said.
In years past, parents in the neighborhood would use the bridge to walk their kids to school, but it’s not often used for that purpose anymore, according to Brodeur. He and another resident even sat at the entrance of the bridge for an entire Saturday a year and a half ago and only saw about a dozen people use it the entire day, he said.
Price is asking the council to consider closing it for six months to gather data on whether closing the bridge helps calm crime or not, she said. Her office does not yet have an estimate of how much a fence will cost, she said.
News of the potential closure has some residents on the fence.
“What about the people that use it on a regular basis?” asked Allison Bremmer, who lives near the bridge.
While she doesn’t often use it herself, she notices others using it daily, either to walk their dogs or ride their bikes, sometimes to even drop their kids off at the preschool. Bremmer said she sometimes sees homeless people using it to go collect cans on trash day, but she’s not bothered by them. She has heard about cars getting broken into and a home burglary about three years ago, but doesn’t see it as the normal use case for the bridge.
“I think there’s an impression that bad people may come through there, but there’s a lot of regular people who come through there with no ulterior motives,” Bremmer said.
Her neighbor Adele Davis recently moved back to the area and said that she didn’t know of any criminal activity, but notices “dozens” of people using the bridge every day.
But residents who live near the bridge say the issue is there.
Price said that Daniel Lowenthal, a Long Beach Superior Court judge and Congressman Alan Lowenthal’s son, was among those who complained about the bridge, but so did many others in the neighborhood.
“They’re getting more and more brazen,” Brodeur said of criminals.
“There will be some people that are impacted (by the closure),” Brodeur said. “The difference is whether or not their needs supersede the needs of the homeowners.”
Brodeur said he and the homeowners association are not trying to gate the neighborhood, they are just trying to keep people from having easy access who aren’t supposed to be there.
The Long Beach Police Department did not have any immediate data available on crime in the area. A spokeswoman said they would not be able to comment on the situation until the recommendation is presented to City Council.
Price said that if the council approves the recommendation, her office would ensure that the community is made aware of the closure through “extensive notifications” and the city will be working with the police department to gather the necessary data.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to remove quotes from someone who was under 18 years old at the request of their parent.