Residents opposed to recent changes along Broadway cursed and shouted during a Beer & Politics forum Wednesday night, often interrupting the speakers as they discussed contentious changes to the Alamitos Beach thoroughfare.
“I’m sick, I’m cranky, and I’m not going to stand here and be yelled at,” said Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, who at one point left the stage as a small number of people shouted.
Michael Clements, the organizer of the event at Liberation Brewing in Bixby Knolls, had to intervene on several occasions, imploring attendees to write their questions down and behave civilly.
Pearce, along with city engineer Alvin Papa, said the Broadway project continues to evolve as the city receives feedback. The work included reducing the vehicle lanes from two to one in both directions, reconfiguring bike lanes, replacing sidewalks, gutters and installing new landscaping. The initial work was completed in May, but since then several changes have been made to appease business owners and residents.
The changes to Broadway have become a major election issue in the March 2020 race. Pearce’s most outspoken opponent, Robert Fox, has continued to hammer the incumbent on the changes that he and others say have made the roadway more dangerous.
Several questions were raised Wednesday about the seemingly conflicting police data on the number of collisions on Broadway: In late July, Pearce held a press conference with police officials, who said collisions are down based on the five-year average; a few days later, police released data for the last six months, showing collisions had nearly doubled in that shorter span.
“Why did you lie?” one man shouted.
Pearce and Papa said they needed more time to assess the data as drivers become accustomed to the changes—”It takes about six months for driver behavior to change,” Pearce said—and leaders have more information on which to base conclusions.
“If the data shows the street is not safe, we will make changes,” the councilwoman said.
“When all the businesses on Broadway go out of business?” a woman shouted.
Pearce responded that some businesses had reported a dip in sales when the changes were first completed, but since then the majority have said business has stabilized or improved.
Pearce said she needed to take all of her constituents into account, not just the loudest minority.
“Can you do a survey?” one man yelled.
“Sure,” she said.
Clements, who asked some tough questions during the forum, added: “Everyone wants a good neighborhood. I think we can all agree on that.”
Beer & Politics is a monthly forum designed to facilitate weighty discussions about issues of concern to residents.