This article was originally published in the Burbank Leader on Aug. 14
In its first meeting since last week’s car crash that killed three people, the Burbank City Council asked the city manager to gather potential measures addressing speeding on Glenoaks Boulevard.
Since the matter was not on the council’s agenda on Tuesday evening, the panel was legally prohibited from discussing its ideas in depth. Among the members’ requests were a discussion on installing traffic lights along the sprawling thoroughfare, compiling speeding and accident data for the city’s busiest roads, and seeking suggestions from the community. City staff members could also bring other ideas to the council.
Department officials won’t be able to prepare the agenda item by the council’s next meeting on Aug. 24, according to city spokesman Jonathan Jones, due to the number of agencies involved.
The fatal collision on Glenoaks Boulevard and Andover Drive, which occurred the night of Aug. 3, killed Burbank resident Jaiden Johnson, 20; Pasadena resident and John Burroughs High School alumnus Cerain Baker, 21; and Calabasas resident Natalee Moghaddam, 19. Burbank police said they believe the victims’ car was struck by two other vehicles that were street racing.
The driver of the car that was struck was hospitalized after the crash but was discharged as of this week, according to Sgt. Emil Brimway of the Burbank Police Department. The driver of one of the other vehicles remained hospitalized and in stable condition this week. Police interviewed and released the two occupants of the second car that police suspect was racing. Authorities have not identified any of these individuals.
The lack of arrests so far has angered many in the Burbank community, particularly residents near Glenoaks who say they have contacted police for years regarding speeding on that road. The BPD has said it will submit its findings to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office “for criminal filing consideration” when it concludes its inquiry, and on Tuesday interim Police Chief Michael Albanese asked the public for patience.
“This is a complicated investigation that involves a number of things,” he told the council, saying the department had a large amount of evidence to sift through.
Dozens of Burbank community members, as well as friends and family of the three killed last week, rallied in front of City Hall on Tuesday before the council’s meeting to demand the panel address what they called nightly speeding on Glenoaks. Several said they felt the city had failed to respond to complaints about street racing made in the past.
Some encouraged attendees to vote out the council members if they did not address the issue. Others also pressed the D.A.’s office to charge the other drivers involved in the crash. Comedian Aida Rodriguez, a friend of Cerain Baker’s father, Tony Baker, told the crowd to closely watch the city’s political leaders.
“These things change through legislation and our votes, and we need to hold accountable the people who turn a blind eye to these tragedies,” she said. “And we can march, we can revolt, we can draw signs, but until these people who are in office make it a priority to make a change in our community … these things will not change.”
“Tony Baker and his family should not be, in this moment, preparing for a funeral,” Rodriguez added.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Bob Frutos expressed condolences for the recent deaths and said he and his fellow council members had been working “aggressively” with the city manager on potential solutions. He added that speeding is not an issue unique to Burbank, referencing a high-speed vehicle pursuit last week that began in Glendale and ended with a rollover crash in Silver Lake.
Like the police chief, Frutos implored the public for patience, saying he wanted to ensure the city’s response didn’t simply move the speeding issue to another part of Burbank.
“I can’t just snap my fingers and put the infrastructure in that you want,” he said on Tuesday. “I don’t want to put a Band-Aid — I want to find a solution. I want to think outside the box with my colleagues to make sure we address everything, but we don’t move the problem from Glenoaks to San Fernando [Boulevard].”
‘BYE, LOVE YOU’
Those who addressed the City Council for public comment Tuesday offered a variety of suggestions, though most advocated for either more police patrols on Glenoaks or infrastructure changes such as speed bumps and stop signs.
Whatever the method, Sabrina Castro, Tony Baker’s girlfriend of four years, said she just wants the speeding to stop.
“We don’t want anyone else to go through this,” Castro said, adding that she lives just two blocks from Glenoaks Boulevard and hears cars racing through the street. “We’re not alone. The city’s been trying to get something done, and it breaks my heart that we have to go through this tragedy to possibly see a change, and it’s not even a guarantee.”
Castro said Johnson and Cerain Baker were best friends, producing music together; Baker wrote lyrics and Johnson created beat tracks.
She described Cerain Baker as a friendly person who would see someone standing alone in a crowded room and walk up to them. He never wanted anyone to feel lonely, she said.
“He always said ‘Love you’ after he said ‘Bye,’ and those were his last words to us,” Castro added. “And that means everything to us, and it replays in our heads every day. And I just want everyone [to know], always tell your loved ones, ‘Love you.’”