Dory Foster woke up to the sound of the crash. She looked out the window, thinking the noise came from a neighbor’s house. The police outside her house, on Bel Aire Drive, indicated that it hadn’t.
So did her husband’s parked car, which she said had been pushed up onto the curb by the force of the vehicle that struck it on Aug. 13, also hitting her brand-new Hyundai Palisade. Foster believes both cars are totaled.
The driver that struck her family’s vehicles at about 1 a.m., she told the Leader, didn’t appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Police officers recorded the incident as a traffic collision and noted the parties involved exchanged insurance information, according to Sgt. Emil Brimway of the Burbank Police Department.
It’s unclear why the driver struck her cars, Foster said, though she calls the crash a result of reckless driving. She’s grateful that no one was hurt — her 12-year-old son sometimes skateboards on the sidewalk — but added that she and other residents have witnessed cars zoom through their neighborhood streets for years.
After one finally crashed into her vehicles, and following the Aug. 3 deaths of three people whose vehicle police said was torn apart by two cars that appeared to be racing, Foster said she’s had enough.
She’s been collecting signatures from neighbors for a petition to put speed humps on Bel Aire Drive. Though she’s not sure if the additions — which she hopes to have from Tufts Avenue to Magnolia Boulevard or even further — will stop the issue, she believes it will help. Foster added that she wants to see other changes, such as more police officers and more severe punishment for reckless driving.
“I’m not going to stop,” she said of her efforts. “What else can we do?”
For weeks, groups in and around Burbank have demanded change from the city’s leaders following the fatal collision earlier this month. A demonstration in front of City Hall last week attracted dozens of supporters. A Change.org petition apparently launched by the stepmother of Jaiden Johnson, a Burbank resident killed in the crash, exceeded 15,000 digital signatures within a day of its posting. The petition proposes that the city increase police patrols around Glenoaks Boulevard — where the crash occurred — and install speed humps, cameras and other infrastructure.
“We demand the city takes responsibility, and criminal charges are filed for all alleged ‘street racers’ involved,” the petition adds. “This needs to be done now. No one else should feel this pain that we are going through.”
On Thursday, the Burbank Police Department announced that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office had charged 19-year-old Burbank resident Hamlet Aghajanyan — who allegedly drove a Kia police said caused the crash — for three counts of murder and one count of reckless driving. A 17-year-old was also arrested for allegedly driving a second car involved in the collision, the department said, but had not yet been charged.
The majority of her neighbors have supported her efforts, Foster said, offering their own stories of vehicles damaged by careless drivers. But some have told her she’s wasting her time, citing similar frustrations with what they feel is a lacking response from the city.
Burbank’s public works department requires residents to contact 80% of people who live on the streets where the speed humps are being requested — with two-thirds giving approval — before the agency will consider the application.
Even if she meets that criteria, Foster’s campaign might meet some road blocks. The city’s traffic division webpage includes a notice that all requests related to stop signs, speed humps and other items are temporarily suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on traffic volume — and therefore the required traffic studies — and to keep residents from mingling during the petition process. However, Public Works Director Ken Berkman told the Leader in an email that the department would soon begin accepting traffic requests again, potentially next month. He added that department officials plan to bring speed hump program revisions to the City Council early next year.
Foster may also have to contend with Bel Aire Drive’s proximity to a fire station. The road is listed on a city map of streets ineligible for speed humps, which includes most of Burbank’s main thoroughfares.
But Foster believes the city could construct the humps in a way that won’t impede emergency vehicles. She feels Burbank officials have done little to address residents’ concerns about speeding in years past, instead providing excuses for not making changes.
“We need to send a clear message out that Burbank is no longer going to accept this reckless behavior in our city,” she said.
The Burbank City Council has taken early steps toward responding to the public outcry. At its most recent meeting, the groups asked city staff members to look into a number of topics related to potential solutions, such as speeding and traffic accident data, new traffic lights and other infrastructure changes.
But it’ll likely be some time before those items return to the council. City spokesman Jonathan Jones previously told the Leader that they wouldn’t be prepared in time for the City Council meeting next week, and the panel is not scheduled to reconvene until Sept. 14.
Until change comes, Foster said, she’s worried that reckless driving will cause more deaths.
“I wouldn’t move to Burbank right now,” she added. “It’s not safe.”
The Change.org petition can be viewed at bit.ly/3D1mQPk. Foster asks residents with questions about her campaign or with similar concerns to email firstname.lastname@example.org.