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CROSS PURPOSES BRIDGE CLOSURE SPLITS RESIDENTS.

Byline: James Nash Staff Writer

SHERMAN OAKS - The footbridge at the end of Rye Street spans the usually tranquil waters of the Los Angeles River, but reaction to Councilwoman Wendy Greuel's decision to close the path has been anything but calm.

Renters on one side of the bridge are accusing Greuel of lying about the reasons for closing the bridge and slighting them in favor of the better- heeled homeowners on the other side.

Homeowners on the northern side of the bridge say they're simply trying to protect themselves from litter, vandalism and other nuisances the bridge attracted before Greuel ordered it closed temporarily in July.

Greuel expects to decide next week whether to make the closure permanent. No matter what she decides, she said she anticipates that residents on either side will be angry.

Some already are.

``As much as I love that bridge - and it's a very tranquil thing in the middle of an urban area - it wasn't so much that it was closed but the way that it was closed,'' said Paul Erlich, who lives on the renter-heavy south end of the bridge.

``We were deceived by Wendy Greuel that it was about crime when it really was about parking.''

Erlich and others on the Rye Street side of the bridge say Greuel yielded to homeowners on the other end who were upset that some residents and guests parked in their neighborhood and then walked to the parking-deficient cluster of apartments along Rye Street.

Greuel has been unable to produce evidence of a crime problem attributable to the bridge, said resident Bruce Forkush, who started a Web site - www.ryestreet.com - to criticize the closure and Greuel's role in it.

``It's insulting and it's dishonest,'' Forkush said. ``Maybe the bridge should be closed and maybe it should be closed because of crime, but this whole thing was being handled so disingenuously and dishonestly that it just got me fired up.''

Greuel said she's always maintained that the bridge was closed because of crime. She denied that parking was the overriding factor and said her only mistake was not to label the closure as temporary in July.

``For me, the issue since Day One has been a public-safety issue,'' Greuel said. ``We've received a variety of complaints from people on the bridge side of graffiti, vandalism, drug sales.''

Greuel said she decided to close the bridge for 90 days after consulting with the Los Angeles Police Department and the City Attorney's Office's neighborhood prosecutor in Sherman Oaks.

LAPD Capt. James Miller of the Van Nuys station said the department doesn't have statistics on nonviolent crimes in the areas, but that complaints from residents and observations of officers substantiated the notion that the bridge is causing problems.

``It's been the subject of our attention for a while because of complaints from the neighborhood on a number of issues: drinking, graffiti, people congregating by the bridge,'' Miller said. ``It looks like there's a relationship (between the bridge and petty crime), but we won't know until this experiment is over.''

On the north side of the bridge, many homeowners hope the ``experiment'' becomes permanent.

Resident Robert Donham said he has collected about 250 signatures urging Greuel to keep the bridge closed.

``We were getting a lot of foot traffic from people we didn't know,'' Donham said of the pre-closure days. ``It's not a personal thing, but there's a lot of people coming over that bridge who are not taking care of things.''

Howard Raphael, who lives on Allott Avenue north of the bridge, said his neighborhood has become cleaner and quieter since the bridge was padlocked and chained.

``The issue is more than just parking; it's a quality-of-life thing: the noise, the debris, dog feces left on lawns,'' Raphael said. ``It was a polyglot of issues that led to that bridge being closed.''

For her part, Greuel said she hasn't decided whether to have the bridge reopened. She said she's disappointed that the issue has become personal and nasty, but accepts that as part of her job.

``Every day, you're going to make someone angry because you're going to do something they don't like,'' she said.

James Nash, (213) 978-0390

james.nash(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

photo, map

Photo:

Apartment dwellers on one side of the footbridge at the end of Rye Street in Sherman Oaks are upset that the bridge, which crosses the Los Angeles River, was closed by City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel.

Tina Burch/Staff Photographer

Map:

Pedestrian bridge
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 5, 2004
Words:751
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