Sleepy Hollow Christmas lights

Dozens of homes are decorated with Christmas lights to the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood in Torrance on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. The Sleepy Hollow Holiday Lights Extravaganza has been going on for over 40 years as neighbors along many streets including Reese and Robert roads, Doris Way and Sharynee Lane decorate their homes with over the top light displays. The display continues through Christmas from 6-10 pm. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

Residents of Torrance’s Seaside Ranchos got their Christmas wish early this year.

The City Council this week approved parking restrictions for the neighborhood, known for its glittering light displays that attract thousands of gawking carload, in an attempt to help ease residents’ struggles with the influx of traffic that has exploded there during the holiday season in recent years.

The neighborhood, known as Sleepy Hollow, will get temporary signs prohibiting stopping on one side of every street, in an effort to improve traffic flow and ensure access to the neighborhood for fire and police personnel during an emergency.

New permanent stop signs will be installed at key intersections that currently don’t have them.

And illuminated signs that usually advertise the longstanding neighborhood tradition to passing vehicles will instead warn drivers of the new measures in place.

The council adopted those measures after months of study in the wake of last year’s holiday season, when some residents, fearing their cherished neighborhood tradition was being loved to death by the sheer crush of humanity, appealed for help.

The traffic congestion, unprecedented numbers of street vendors and overflowing garbage cans outside homes prompted hundreds of local residents to attend seven neighborhood meetings since December to discuss possible solutions.

A council subcommittee discussed those options before the full panel adopted them, prompting residents to thank the city for the response.

“Nobody has any illusions this is going to eliminate the vehicular hordes descending on us,” resident Mario Bejas told the council. But it’s a start.”

City staff has also said they’re trying to have an ordinance in place regulating — and reducing the number of — street vendors before the holiday season begins.

That proposal comes in the wake of the state’s decriminalization of the sale of food, drink or other items from sidewalk stalls.

But the resulting over-commercialization of a grassroots neighborhood festival — some vendors staked out the same sidewalk spot outside a home night after night, residents said — dismayed many.

More directional signs to ensure unfamiliar drivers aren’t trapped in the hilly neighborhood, with its winding roads, may also come under consideration in future years.

For now, though, municipal officials also pledged to:

  • Empty the temporary street garbage cans more frequently;
  • Take traffic counts, so a more accurate picture of just how many vehicles take in the displays can be made;
  • Create a page of frequently asked questions on the city website; and
  • Discuss using nearby South High School as a free parking lot, in a joint meeting with Torrance Unified School District officials. A public meeting is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Sept. 24 in the West Annex Commission Room at City Hall.

“The neighborhood association supports all the suggestions,” said Tricia Blanco, Seaside Neighborhood Association president.

All told, taxpayers will spend a little more than $10,000 for the new measures.

Residents brought up similar traffic concerns in 2010 and 2015, but little was done by the city because it was regarded as a private, spontaneous neighborhood event.

But Councilman Aurelio Mattucci, who grew up in the area, observed that the decades-long tradition never before attracted the scale of visitors it does today, in the age of Facebook and other social media, and that something needed to be done.

“It seems it just sort of blew up, it’s a beautiful lights display,” he said. “I do see a huge benefit with the city investing in trying to keep it safe.”

Contact Lisa Jacobs or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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