On a recent weekday morning, after Ben Jr. pulled me to Centinela Feed & Pet Supplies for his morning fix of the store’s free treats, a horrific scene greeted us at the neighboring corner of Pico and Sepulveda. A lifeless body covered with a bloodied sheet was visible under the makeshift coroner’s tent on the southeast side of the street. A cameraman for the local ABC affiliate said the deceased was a hit-and-run victim.
“What kind of human being hits a pedestrian and takes off?” I asked the cameraman.
“You’d be surprised,” the unfazed cameraman replied. “Hit and runs happen all the time in L.A.”
Once every 18 minutes to be precise, accounting for 50 percent of all L.A. traffic accidents, according to a 2016 analysis by the local NBC station. The national average is 11 percent. (2016 is the most recent stats I could find.)
Despite L.A.’s reputation as a laid-back city where yoga and meditation studios are as pervasive as guns in Texas, Angelenos are a passive aggressive lot whose suppressed rage instantly erupts when they start their vehicle ignitions. Drivers here have a mean streak, and they take great delight causing someone to miss their highway exit or street turn. They are quick to lower their windows and shout anatomical insights about you if you don’t yield to their satisfaction. As for all the “oms” and namastes chanted in L.A., they are often as fake as many of the people who live here.
An example of Angeleno insincerity is the widely professed concern for climate change and opposition to fossil fuels. Logic suggests that L.A. would be a city where residents enthusiastically support bike lanes and those who choose walking as their preferred mode of transportation. In fact, bike lanes are vehemently opposed by neighborhood groups and drivers regard pedestrians as annoying gnats that slow down traffic.
Los Angeles County in 2016 had 265 pedestrian fatalities, double that of Phoenix’s No. 2 ranked Maricopa County and triple that of Dallas and Miami-Dade Counties. Pedestrian hit-and-runs are up sharply: Fifty-four L.A. pedestrians were killed in hit-and-run accidents in 2018, compared with 27 in 2014. The increase is despite an initiative by Mayor Eric Garcetti to eliminate traffic deaths by 2025.
Admittedly, hit-and-runs are on the rise around the world. Even my hometown Toronto, a city whose residents were once so law abiding it was dubbed “Toronto the Good,” is experiencing the trend. Behavioral experts say motivations to flee the scene of an accident include fear, shame and guilt, which overwhelms a person’s sense of self-control. Alcohol, a factor in about 30 percent of traffic fatalities nationally, compounds the urge to flee. Other growing causes of hit-and-runs are distraction from cell phone use, and in states where marijuana has been legalized, drug impairment. California legalized recreational marijuana two years ago.
L.A. is America’s leader in hit-and-runs, and I have a theory why. Human beings have a finite capacity to withstand gridlock, and L.A.’s traffic is the vehicular equivalent of waterboarding. Angelenos spend more time idling in their vehicles than actually moving, which causes some people to temporarily go insane, particularly those who don’t regard driving as a minor distraction from texting, watching videos, putting on makeup, or multitasking all three activities.
I confess that I’ve experienced sociopathic urges while driving in L.A. traffic; a recurring fantasy of mine is to take a baseball bat and smash the windshields and headlights of every driver who questions my judgment not to beat out oncoming traffic when making right turns or for slamming on my breaks at yellow lights when approaching intersections that photograph and ticket such infractions.
L.A.’s traffic problems, at least in my neighborhood on the west side of town, are about to dramatically worsen to an unimaginable degree. I live where L.A.’s two major highways – the north/south 405 and the east/west 10 – intersect. Traffic buildup starts forming around 2:30 pm and comes to a standstill between 4:00 and 7 as commuters wait their turns to enter the highways’ metered ramps. I can travel the two mile stretch of Pico from Bundy to my home off Westwood in less than seven minutes in the early morning or late evening. The same trip can take 45 minutes or more during afternoon rush hour.
Now picture this. Early next year a massive residential, office, and retail complex at Pico and Sepulveda will open, further choking the already overcapacity intersection. About a mile east is a former block-long mall that’s being revamped for 3,000 Google employees coming to town. Fortunately for them, construction will soon start for a residential tower a quarter mile up the road on Westwood, worsening the congested rush hour traffic on that street. For good measure, the city has approved a residential-retail complex just west of Bundy where a car dealership once stood.
Understandably, one feels considerable relief arriving home after enduring the traffic slog, but often a surprise awaits. In my neighborhood there are only two kinds of homeowners: Those whose houses have already been broken into and those whose will. Round the clock I get alerts and notifications from area residents sharing Bar Mitzvah quality images of their home intruders captured by Ring security cameras. A woman around the corner told me her home was broken into twice, the second time while she was out walking her dog. I experienced an attempted break-in but fortunately the would-be robbers found it too time consuming to smash through both layers of my side door’s double pane glass.
L.A. is an urban nirvana for home burglars, so much so that tourists from Chile come here just to rob the place. Word apparently has reached South America that the LAPD doesn’t have the manpower to respond to home alarms in real time. L.A. has only 27 police officers for every 10,000 people. By comparison, New York City has 42, Chicago 44, and Washington, D.C. 65. As you can appreciate, investigating an armed holdup, like the one in broad daylight outside my local Vons, takes priority.
The officer investigating my attempted break-in said alarms aren’t much of a deterrent because the thieves know it’s unlikely the police will be arriving anytime soon. As for the impressive security camera photos my neighbors are constantly sharing, they make great souvenirs to remember one’s break-in.
Ring Alert: Homeless lady defecating on steps
We are noticing more homeless people passing through the neighborhood lately. Had another run in with a homeless person on my front lawn too. This is absolutely disgusting and I’m worried it will get worst (sic) if we don’t step up and make the city aware.
There is near unanimous agreement that L.A.’s homeless problem is the city’s biggest issue, which is understandable given outbreaks of typhoid fever, typhus and tuberculosis spreading through camps and shelters. For all their progressivism, Angelenos prefer to welcome into their homes paying Airbnb guests rather than neighborhood folks without roofs over the heads. Although L.A. has a homeless services agency, Angelenos look to the LAPD to deal with the problem. More than sixty percent of the LAPD’s calls are about issues relating to transients.
One of these issues is violence. With the exception of Uber drivers, most homeless people in L.A. don’t own cars, which means they have to rely on more primitive means to express their anger, like slugging pedestrians in the face or pouring liquid human excrement on their heads. Feces-throwing incidents are also occurring in Toronto, which leads me to believe that even the homeless like to benchmark best practices. The local NBC affiliate in L.A. aired a report capturing the surge of violent attacks by homeless people.
L.A. does have Malibu’s pristine beaches nearby, but all is not what it seems in the famous celebrity enclave. The tony city’s beaches, homes, and chic restaurants may be contaminated with radioactive waste. To the relief of the city’s well-heeled residents, the toxic chemicals are locally sourced.
L.A. is a very seductive place, particularly on New Year’s Day when short-sleeved residents in nearby Pasadena are seen on television watching the Rose Bowl parade, blissfully oblivious that most of America is freezing. L.A. has innovative organic, farm-to-table restaurants, and contrary to popular belief, there are places that sell far better bagels than New York City has to offer. Just know that when someone here asks how’s your day going, nothing would please them more than running you off the road.