First published in the Nov. 11 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
History repeated itself not once, but twice, in La Cañada Flintridge with two different vehicles crashing into businesses at the intersection of Angeles Crest Highway and Foothill Boulevard last Saturday.
A car collided into Hill Street Café early Saturday morning, and hours later, another vehicle speeding down the highway crashed into neighboring businesses Veruca Salt and Compass Real Estate.
“It looks like a bomb went off in there,” Carolyn Bretz, owner of Veruca Salt, told the Outlook Valley Sun on Wednesday. “It’s bad — even though they only hit the front of the building. We had glass all the way in the back and cracks in the ceiling.
“I’m just grateful that there was no one in the store at the time.”
The Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station received a call for service at approximately 2:15 a.m. on Saturday after a motorist driving southbound on Angeles Crest Highway entered the intersection at an excessive rate of speed and collided into Hill Street Café. Sgt. John Gilbert said the driver — who was not from LCF — was not injured and stayed at the scene when deputies arrived. No other injuries were reported. Though the crash is still being investigated, Gilbert said that speed seemed to be a “primary cause or factor.”
Speeding also appears to be the cause of the second crash, which was called in at approximately 8:05 a.m. An unknown driver attempted to turn left and lost control, crashing into Veruca Salt and Compass Real Estate. The driver fled the scene and a passenger who suffered severe injuries was taken to a hospital, according to Gilbert. The case is under investigation, he said, and there was no information on the condition of the passenger as of press time on Wednesday.
Hill Street Café is still cleaning up the damage but is still open for business, something that cannot be said for Bretz’s shop. Veruca Salt, which moved from Montrose to LCF in June 2020, is unlikely to reopen, even if the building owners and her insurance allow her to get the business up and running.
“I think I’ve had enough of being in a place that is being hit by cars,” Bretz said. “I do not believe it’s safe. … It’s a dangerous intersection. I don’t think [any business] should be there until safety barriers are put in place.”
The intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Angeles Crest Highway has been plagued by collisions, the biggest occurring in 2009 when a large truck smashed into a vehicle, killing a 12-year-old girl and her father.
Concerned residents have taken to social media and reached out to local officials with suggestions to make the intersection safer, such as having barriers on the sidewalks in front of businesses.
Patrick DeChellis, LCF director of public works, said such suggestions are “complicated” because they would make the sidewalk and driving lanes even smaller.
“I wish we had more room out there,” said DeChellis, who added that a reduction to the sidewalk at the intersection would possibly not make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. “If we had more room, there are all sorts of things that could be done that would minimize damage to people, property, etc., but we don’t.”
DeChellis said the city traffic engineer is looking at the design of the intersection — including signs and striping — to see what the city could do to better prevent such accidents but noted that the city is only responsible for the highway south of the 210 freeway. Any changes made north of the freeway would have to be done by Caltrans. As soon as the traffic engineer finishes his assessment, a report will be submitted and presented to LCF’s Public Works and Traffic Commission.
Recent complaints from residents regarding vehicles speeding on Angeles Crest Highway prompted the sheriff’s station to add more patrol units.
“Our station has been very proactive on monitoring Angeles Crest Highway and getting racers going up and down and end up speeding along the city,” Gilbert said. “The city has given us extra enforcement and we utilize that quite often.
“A public safety message: Obey the speed limit and watch your speed when going down steep hills. Angeles Crest Highway is very steep and has a speed limit of 45 mph, which is comparatively slow considering how wide the lanes are.”