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Team Tennessee succeeds in quest for railing

By Times-Herald staff report

In its quest to improve safety along Vallejo's Tennessee Street, a community group claimed another victory Tuesday with the installation of a railing.

City workers placed a railing along a sidewalk in front of the Washington Mutual bank at the corner of Tennessee and Broadway streets to deter illegal parking at the narrow intersection.

Drivers have been parking illegally in a non-parking area for years in order to access the bank's ATM, city engineer David Kleinschmidt said.

ATM users will now have to either park in designated areas or walk around the railing, city officials said.

Members of Team Tennessee, a group of concerned residents and business owners, said in recent months, group members took photos of cars illegally parking in front of the bank and blocking turning traffic at the intersection, team member Maria Guevara said.

Police Lt. Joel Salinas said 25 traffic collisions have been reported at that intersection since June 2006. The accidents, he said, are not particularly related to illegal parking at the bank.

Team Tennessee members will host a celebration of its past year's efforts on April 30 at Vallejo City Hall, and will be looking for new projects to tackle in the coming year, Guevara said.

Safety from numbers

I am the mother of the two girls that got hit on Tennessee and Sutter St. I can't explain the feeling that I felt when my daughter Sheree and I went to go and see what was going on after we had received a phone call from a family friend, asking if we had seen what they did on Tennessee St. She said they finally put some signs up.

So, Sheree and I took a ride to look. As we came down Broadway St. and made a right onto Tennessee St. my daughter Sheree said," look mom they did I can see them from here,' like at least two or three blocks from where the accident had happened. We were able to notice and be aware of the pedestrian cross walk signs. All I could think about was my baby Joanie.

The reason for this letter is because the people responsible for these Pedestrian Crosswalk Signs are people that my daughter and I would like to make a public thank you to and to let them know that this is a HUGE start to making the town safe for pedestrians.

So, to Team Tennessee Traffic and Safety Committee: Laurie Nesci, Susan Noll, Rick Mariani and Lyndy Pickens. and all the businesses also which include John Lord of Lord of Real Estate, Cindy Sproule, owner of Joey June's, Mark Miller of ReMax Gold Millerand and Associates, Lyndy Pickens of Lyndy Pickens Realty, Suzan Noll of Noll Design, and Rick Mariani of Rick Mariani Photography, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time and the money to make a safer future for the pedestrians in our community.


Sheree, and Joanie Marcos


Vallejo lighting the way for safety in crosswalks

By JESSICA A. YORK/Times-Herald staff writer

A sign is located at the intersection of Sutter and Tennessee, where officials hope to reduce accidents. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)
Select intersections along Tennessee Street, including one where tragedy once struck, were outfitted this week with new signage, serving as a pilot effort for city traffic


The new reflective median signs, mounted on toggles and directing drivers to yield to pedestrians, come shortly after the city's first lighted crosswalk was installed to benefit seniors on Redwood Street.

The Tennessee Street signs, costing about $300 each, were the brainchild of community group Team Tennessee, and were bought with donations from local business owners. They are clustered together at Tennessee Street intersections with Ventura, Fresno and Carroll streets.

Separately, in the area of Sutter and Tennessee streets, the two signs are a

A crosswalk sign flashes to alert drivers to the newly lit crosswalk on Redwood Street between Sonoma and Sacramento. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)
nod to the site of where 6-year-old Joanie Marcos was killed and her sister Sheree was injured while crossing the street in February 2005, said Team Tennessee member Lyndy Pickens.

Pickens, also a local real estate agent, said crosswalks alone do not always get the message across to drivers.

"We're doing what we can but parents still need to teach their children safety precautions," another Team Tennessee member, Susan Noll, wrote in an e-mail. "Lights and signs are not a


The city is using the Tennessee Street signs as a pilot program, said Public Works Director Gary Leach. If the signs prove successful in cautioning drivers, city staff may place similar signs in other areas, he added.

"Part of it is we're trying to slow the traffic down to create safer pedestrian walkways because there are businesses and restaurants that they can support, but if they have to walk across the street ...," Pickens said.

About a mile and a half away from the Sutter-Tennessee streets intersection, the city's first lighted crosswalk was also recently installed.

The crosswalk was laid where none had existed before, a pathway between a number of senior housing complexes and a shopping center.

Councilman Hermie Sunga said he began working on the crosswalk more than three years ago when approached by a group of seniors.

"I watched (seniors) walk very dangerously on that crosswalk," Sunga said. "Then I learned that the crosswalk could be built without cost to the city because it could be put in as a condition of (a senior housing development) approval."

Barbara Hawkins, Redwood Shores Senior Housing Property manager, said she and others first began asking for the crosswalk in 1998. She called the new crosswalk the "nicest thing I've seen in my life," but is worried because seniors are not pushing the button that lights up the crosswalk, or even using it at times. She and other senior complexes recently began distributing city-provided instruction pamphlets for the crosswalk.

"They still fly down the driveway, on their scooters, and go across the street," Hawkins said, adding that the end of the housing complex's driveway does not meet with the crosswalk. "Nobody's pushing the light."

Virginia Kolda, an 86-year-old Bayview Vista Apartments resident, said getting across the state-required yellow bumps for the vision-impaired was a hassle in her wheel chair.

"I'm afraid to push the button, that I won't be able to get across in time," Kolda said.

In general, though, Kolda said, "It's much better of an improvement."

The length of time the lights stay on is timed to the slowest estimated walking speed, said Leach, public works director. He added that a second button for the lights is half way across the street.

q Contact reporter Jessica A. York at 553-6834 or at


Click here to read Team 3 Notes 1

Click Here to read Team 3 Notes 2

Click Here to read Team 3 Notes 3


Click Here to read Team Three's letter to join Tennessee Street "Alliance"

Team Three has been very busy going door to door on Tennessee Street, asking each business owner/resident to join the Business Alliance.  The list is almost complete.
They have also been successful in partnering up with Team One to create a Business Watch Group.  A phone tree is being set up so each area has a number of people to call to report, and get support when suspicious activities occur.
Senior Code Enforcement Officer Nimat Shakoor Grantham reports that she is in the process of getting permission from the City to teach residents and business owners how to become Team Tennessee Street Site Inspectors.

Vallejo's roads to ruin

Speeding often a factor in worst traffic tragedies
By JESSICA A. YORK/Times-Herald staff writer

EMERGENCY PERSONNEL gather at the corner of Magazine Street and Gillcrest Avenue, where an 11-year-old Vallejo girl was struck by a car on June 29. Some area residents say a speed bump or other device is needed to slow drivers down (Stacey J. Miller/Times Herald)
When it comes to road rage, unsafe streets and speeding drivers in Vallejo, everyone seems to have a story to tell.

Many of the tales center around Sonoma Boulevard, the city's most highly traveled street. Tennessee Street, Georgia Street and Curtola Parkway fall close behind, said Vallejo police Lt. Joel Salinas, head of the traffic division.

For Salinas, a 20-year department veteran, the traffic fatality that stands in sharpest relief was that of 6-year-old Joanie Marcos, who was crossing Tennessee and Sutter streets with her 14-year-old sister when the two were struck by a motorist in 2005. Community outcry was one of the largest Salinas has experienced in vehicle-versus-pedestrian incidents, he said.

"This caused a lot of stir

PATCHED POTHOLES and cracked pavement mark Napa Street near Curtola Parkway before repairs. (Mike Jory/Times-Herald)
in the community about what we should do about that intersection," he said.

The driver, the Rev. Albert Lee White, an associate minister at the Highway Church of God in Christ, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and sentenced to six months in county jail. He said he had not been able to see through his foggy windows at the time of the accident.

Salinas said the 2005 fatality was the only one at that intersection during his career, although a Vallejo woman carrying a baby was struck in the same intersection in 2004. The mother was knocked to the ground and her legs were broken.

Beyond Vallejo traffic fatalities, of which there are an average seven to 10 a year - typically single-car crashes - Salinas said the public's most

frequent cause for complaint is speeding drivers.

On the afternoon of June 29, an 11-year-old Vallejo girl was hit by a vehicle in what family members said was a speed-related incident. The girl was running down Magazine Street when she was struck, sustaining a head injury and scrapes. Police were unsure at the time if the driver had been speeding on the posted 25-mile-per-hour street.

Police reports show the spots where freeway exits join city streets are often high-speed areas, Salinas

THE PAVEMENT at the intersection of Patrick Court and Parkwood Drive in Vallejo has deteriorated into a mass of loose gravel and potholes. (Mike Jory/Times-Herald)
said. A ball- field fence at a curve in Curtola Parkway, which carries traffic to and from interstates 80 and 780, has borne the brunt of plenty of single-vehicle collisions, Salinas said.

Florin Holm, a 78-year-old retired Vallejo firefighter and lifelong Vallejo resident, has an ideal position from which to watch city traffic patterns. He is the owner of West Hubcaps & Bikes on Sonoma Boulevard, near Florida Street.

Holm, who does not consider Vallejo any less safe a place for drivers than other Bay Area cities, said driver behavior in general has shifted dramatically in his lifetime. Whether it is due to the increased maneuverability and speed of smaller vehicles, the increased volume of traffic or a loss of basic driver etiquette, getting in the car for a drive is just not the same for Holm.

"Cars nowadays, they can get up to 50 miles per hour in a block," Holm said. "Everybody's going too damn fast and speeding. They're going through the intersections too fast. If it says 25 miles per hour, they're going 40."

Other bad habits

Tailgating, general road rage and improper stop sign etiquette are just a few of the driver habits that irk Holm.

"It's not fun to drive no more," Holm said. "There's too many people who aren't considerate of other drivers I get angry too, but I try not to take it out on people."


Vallejo streets where the most collisions were recorded in April and May:

• Sonoma Boulevard: 24 collisions

• Tennessee Street: 13 collisions

• Georgia Street: 11 collissions

Source: Vallejo Police Department

Resident Maria Guevara said being a pedestrian on Vallejo's busier streets is a dangerous undertaking. Guevara is a founding member of a Tennessee Street revitalization effort and her focus has been on a cooperative merchant effort in the area. She tells the story of a friend who fearlessly crosses the street - assuming crosswalks offer her protection. That mindset has led to plenty of close calls with vehicles, Guevara said.

"No one stops for pedestrians anymore," Guevara said. "It's like a race and no one stops anymore."

Guevara said she thinks pedestrians should be a priority in the city's traffic safety plans and would like to see some kind of police sting on drivers who ignore pedestrians, an operation that has been undertaken successfully in other cities.

Fellow Team Tennessee volunteer Lyndy Pickens said she is working to get a pilot pedestrian safety measure going on a small section of Tennessee Street.

At a City Council meeting last month, Councilwoman Joanne Schivley asked Police Chief Robert Nichelini about special cameras that record drivers running red lights at intersections. Nichelini said the council should see a presentation on the cameras, possibly next month.

Salinas feared that drivers running red lights at individual intersections may not be of a high enough volume to justify the devices' cost to the city.

One way Salinas said he feels the department could cut down on traffic collisions, though, would be through officers working specifically to curtail drunk driving. Two officers, have been funded through state and county grants to focus on high-risk drivers.

Curtailing collisions on Vallejo streets could also involve improvements to dangerous intersections, resident Dariece Warren wrote in an e-mail.

Warren wrote that crossing Sacramento Street by car or foot - at Capitol Street is hazardous without a stop sign in place because of a nearby view-obscuring hill. Also, Georgia Street at Sutter Street seems to attract its share of collisions, Warren said.

"I once saw two wrecks within days of each other at that intersection," Warren wrote. "Cars fly down Georgia over the hill, making it extremely dangerous for crossing cars and pedestrians."

• Contact Jessica A. York at 553-6834 or at

Click here to see our Tennessee Street Phone Tree form

1.  Community Involvement - ACCOMPLISHED
Formation of Merchants Association -
2.  Private Security - ACCOMPLISHED
Neighborhood Crime Watch
-> Call each other when there is a concern
3.  Volunteer Code Enforcement -
-> Volunteers doing property maintenance
Team 3 Long Term Goals:
1. Fix street lights
2. Have on-site lighting (solar)
2. Fix blind driveways
3. Fix stripped signs (one-way etc)
4. Maintain vacant lots
5. Vandal proof light fixtures
6. Eliminate bars from windows
7. Post street cleaning times
8. Install curbs on WAMU parking and enforce
    "no parking" signs
9. Secure pedestrian pathway from WAMU to lot on the corner of Broadway alley.
10. Re-stripe diagonal parking & bike lanes at          selected blocks.
11. Install traffic calming "chokers"
12. Bus must self-police/write corporate contact information.
8. More Community Education
9. Find More Grants $$$
10. Document Calls for Service - Neighborhors & VPD
11. Re-open Sub-station - Make it available to people


Logo By: Noll Design - -
~ 730 Tennessee Street ~











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~*~ Making Vallejo better ~*~
~*~ One block at a time ~*~