2 Years After Point Loma Accident, Neighbors Say Intersection is Still Deadly

Critics say the city must do more to prevent deadly crashes at Canon Street near Catalina Boulevard in San Diego's Point Loma area

Memories are still raw for neighbors shocked by a tragic pedestrian accident that happened two years ago in a crosswalk in Point Loma.

The victims, struck in the 4000 block of Canon Street, near Catalina Boulevard, were a baby girl -- just seven months old -- and her father.

New information uncovered by NBC 7 Investigates shows the City of San Diego was aware of dangerous conditions at that intersection at least five years before the driver of an SUV accidently killed baby Juniper Aavang and seriously injured her father, John Aavang.

Despite some improvements made at and near the crosswalk in recent years, residents and a pedestrian safety expert insists the intersection is still too dangerous for safe pedestrian crossings.


“Here is a perfect example of where safe street design really needed to be put in place, much, much earlier than waiting until someone died,” said Kathleen Ferrier, a pedestrian advocate with Circulate San Diego.

On March 2, 2015, John Aavang was pushing his infant daughter, Juniper, in a stroller through the pedestrian crossing, when they were hit by the SUV. Police traffic investigators concluded neither the victims nor the motorist were at fault.

According to the police report, obtained by NBC 7 Investigates, an overgrown palm tree and a street-side utility box obstructed views from both sides of the curve leading to the pedestrian crossing.

“If the foliage and palm trees had not been at the location and all other factors remained the same, the line-of-sight issues that directly aided in this collision would have been greatly reduced,” an investigator said in the report.

Other documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates show the city had been repeatedly warned about potential dangers at this intersection, years before Juniper was killed.

In 2009, in a complaint to the City, one homeowner asked traffic engineers to "evaluate visibility of the crosswalk on Catalina Boulevard north of Jennings Street." In 2010, another neighbor complained the intersection was "dangerous since it is a complete blind spot for families with kids trying to cross." That resident also warned city engineers traffic “is like a freeway during rush hour, and people [are] going entirely too fast since there are NO lights or speed controls in this corridor.”

In response to those complaints, City of San Diego traffic engineers said they would install pedestrian warning signs and ask police to more strictly enforce the speed limit.

In the documents, engineers also noted: "...vegetation near the crosswalk has been recently trimmed and the visibility has been significantly improved."

Still, complaints continued.

Three years later, in 2013, another resident asked traffic engineers to “evaluate [the] visibility of the crosswalk” and noted, “...vehicles  do not stop/yield for pedestrians.”

After Juniper’s death, more improvements were made by the city. The palm tree and utility box, referred to in the police report as obstructing views of motorists and pedestrians, were removed and, in July 2015, a stoplight was installed at the pedestrian crossing.

Juniper’s family is suing the City of San Diego for negligence, dangerous condition of public property and wrongful death.

Citing the pending lawsuit, neither city traffic engineers nor the city attorney’s office will answer questions about the intersection or any additional improvements that might be planned for the area.

In court documents, the city argues John Aavang was “negligent,” and at least partly responsible for the accident. The city also argues it exercised reasonable care in keeping the intersection safe.

Despite the improvements, Ferrier and others told NBC 7 Investigates they feel the intersection is still dangerous.

"We [are] just scared,” said Nayra Cordero. She works near the intersection and frequently walks in the area with her friend, Gabriela Mendoza. “We actually [just] crossed, and we were both scared, looking around just to make sure,” she said. “Even if we saw it's green for us to cross, it's safe for us to cross, we still were careful."

Both Cordero and Mendoza said the 40 mph speed limit at the intersection is too high.

“You can’t even see the light until you’ve hit the curve,” Mendoza said.

Ferrier agrees that some motorists disregard even the 40 mph speed limit.

"The design of the street may be 40 miles an hour, but cars are going much faster because they can," said Ferrier.

"Oh, yeah, I would say between 45 and 65," Mendoza added.

Ferrier said the stop light has improved safety at the intersection, but also says other improvements should be made. Along with better signage, a lower speed limit, and more enforcement, Ferrier said a round-about like those along La Jolla Boulevard would calm the traffic flow.

“It forces cars to slow down, so as the pedestrian is crossing, the car is absolutely going to see that person crossing and has enough time to react,” she said.

Whatever improvements are made, Ferrier said she hopes they happen soon and, in her words, "certainly to do it before someone is killed again.”

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