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City to block mayor's testimony in accident case?

Residents complained of crosswalk danger to then-councilman Faulconer

The City of San Diego doesn't want mayor Kevin Faulconer to testify in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the parents of a seven-month-old girl who was struck by a car and died while crossing Catalina Boulevard in Point Loma with her parents in March 2015.

On December 29, attorneys for the city filed a motion for a protective order that would prevent Faulconer and a city attorney investigator from taking the stand.

John Aavang, his wife, and their seven-month-old daughter Juniper, in San Diego for vacation, were crossing Catalina Boulevard in a crosswalk when David Hoban's 2004 Chevy Suburban struck them, killing Juniper and severely injuring her father.

Hoban stated that a large untrimmed tree blocked his view of the crosswalk and he was unable to see the family in time.

The family later sued the city, Hoban, as well as the homeowners' association adjacent to the crosswalk for failing to maintain the surrounding foliage.

The crosswalk had been in the city's crosshairs for years. As reported by the Reader in April 2015, public records show that residents had complained to then-councilmember Kevin Faulconer, who represented Point Loma on the city council, about the dangerous intersection as early as 2010.

In a message to Faulconer's officer, Point Loma resident Jon Connor notified the councilmember of the dangerous intersection, which, according to a memo later sent to traffic engineers, posed a "complete blind spot for families with kids trying to cross."

Connor likened Catalina Boulevard to a "freeway during rush hour."

"People are going entirely too fast since there are no lights or speed controls in this corridor," reads the "route slip" sent from Faulconer's office in 2010 as a result of Connor's letter. "[Connor] says it's dangerous for anyone since cars are coming down without stopping at the crosswalk and they cannot see [pedestrians] on the sidewalk."

The complaint, however, was set aside. Referring to a 2006 traffic study, traffic engineers did not consider high speed limits to be an issue at that intersection.

Shortly after the family filed the wrongful death lawsuit, the city submitted a cross-complaint against a nearby homeowners' association for not maintaining the trees on the property surrounding the intersection. In court documents, attorneys for the city argue that Aavang was negligent and careless when crossing Catalina Boulevard and the city should not be held liable.

The city is now asking that a judge deny the request to have Faulconer and city attorney investigator Mike Hurley give testimony in the case.

Reads the city's motion, "Deputy city attorney Richardson pointed out that Mayor Faulconer's anticipated testimony is not relevant to the subject matter of this action because he was not involved in the handling of the citizen complaint, and because the deposition notice for the Mayor is not proper."

Furthermore, adds the city, then-councilmember Faulconer was not made aware of potential safety issues at the intersection — this, despite the 2010 written complaint from Connor."[Aavang's] counsel has been advised, and is aware through discovery conducted to date, that the Mayor has no personal knowledge relevant to this action."

A civil jury trial is expected to take place in 2017.

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The City of San Diego doesn't want mayor Kevin Faulconer to testify in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the parents of a seven-month-old girl who was struck by a car and died while crossing Catalina Boulevard in Point Loma with her parents in March 2015.

On December 29, attorneys for the city filed a motion for a protective order that would prevent Faulconer and a city attorney investigator from taking the stand.

John Aavang, his wife, and their seven-month-old daughter Juniper, in San Diego for vacation, were crossing Catalina Boulevard in a crosswalk when David Hoban's 2004 Chevy Suburban struck them, killing Juniper and severely injuring her father.

Hoban stated that a large untrimmed tree blocked his view of the crosswalk and he was unable to see the family in time.

The family later sued the city, Hoban, as well as the homeowners' association adjacent to the crosswalk for failing to maintain the surrounding foliage.

The crosswalk had been in the city's crosshairs for years. As reported by the Reader in April 2015, public records show that residents had complained to then-councilmember Kevin Faulconer, who represented Point Loma on the city council, about the dangerous intersection as early as 2010.

In a message to Faulconer's officer, Point Loma resident Jon Connor notified the councilmember of the dangerous intersection, which, according to a memo later sent to traffic engineers, posed a "complete blind spot for families with kids trying to cross."

Connor likened Catalina Boulevard to a "freeway during rush hour."

"People are going entirely too fast since there are no lights or speed controls in this corridor," reads the "route slip" sent from Faulconer's office in 2010 as a result of Connor's letter. "[Connor] says it's dangerous for anyone since cars are coming down without stopping at the crosswalk and they cannot see [pedestrians] on the sidewalk."

The complaint, however, was set aside. Referring to a 2006 traffic study, traffic engineers did not consider high speed limits to be an issue at that intersection.

Shortly after the family filed the wrongful death lawsuit, the city submitted a cross-complaint against a nearby homeowners' association for not maintaining the trees on the property surrounding the intersection. In court documents, attorneys for the city argue that Aavang was negligent and careless when crossing Catalina Boulevard and the city should not be held liable.

The city is now asking that a judge deny the request to have Faulconer and city attorney investigator Mike Hurley give testimony in the case.

Reads the city's motion, "Deputy city attorney Richardson pointed out that Mayor Faulconer's anticipated testimony is not relevant to the subject matter of this action because he was not involved in the handling of the citizen complaint, and because the deposition notice for the Mayor is not proper."

Furthermore, adds the city, then-councilmember Faulconer was not made aware of potential safety issues at the intersection — this, despite the 2010 written complaint from Connor."[Aavang's] counsel has been advised, and is aware through discovery conducted to date, that the Mayor has no personal knowledge relevant to this action."

A civil jury trial is expected to take place in 2017.

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Comments
7

This a very sad case, especially for the Aavang family. It's also sad for the community. The city's solution was too install a new signal light with a pedrestrian crosswalk control for the sweeping right fork in the road from Catalina onto Cañon, install some new signage and re-stripe / re-align portions of the approaching roadway.

The problem however, still exists.

The light, a green arrow for the right sweeping fork to Cañon, is green 99.9% of the time and has conditioned drivers to expect a green. In addition, the overhead signal light head is camouflaged by the backdrop of a eucalyptus tree behind it from the driver's perspective. I've witnessed many drivers fly right through the red never noticing the red arrows. The partial re-alignment has improved sight-distance, but speed remains an issue.

A more effective soulution to slow down traffic N/B onto Cañon from Catalina would have been to reconfigure the intersection the same way the city reconfigured the nearly identical intersection of Catalina and Chatsworth years ago. There, the city removed the right hand sweeping fork in the road with a traditional right hand turn, thus the reducing speed of cars especially with the proximity of pedestrians at Silvergate Elementary less than a block away.

With the reopening of our local market store, Jensens, there are additional pedestrians crossing the road. The city should reconsider the matter. In my opinion, one that has qualified as an expert, the minimum enhancement would be the addition of LED pedestrians flashers, to startle complacent drivers, like the ones just installed at Catalina and Orchard, which in adjacent to Silvergate Elementary.

My sincere condolences to the Aavang family.

Jan. 12, 2017

What kind of council representative wouldn't have seen this for himself, driving around his own district? What kind of man would have ignored it, when he had the power with a few staffer phone calls to fix it?

Sadly, it's not until a child, visiting the city, is tragically killed that finally something is done.

San Diego will be a better city when birdman Faulconer has flown away.

Jan. 13, 2017

The same thing has happened over the years all over this city--seemingly someone has to die at a known troublesome intersection before anything meaningful is done to solve the problem.

Jan. 13, 2017

The problem is that council reps often don't do enough in their respective districts. I witnessed this in North Park, where (IMHO) Todd Gloria's last two council reps didn't earn their salaries. They schmoozed at local meetings, but they didn't take a proactive stance and report/follow up on problem areas in North Park. They also forgot that taxpayers paid their salaries, not Councilmember Gloria.

Jan. 13, 2017

If I were on the jury and knew that the City would not let the Mayor and the investigator testify that would be it. I would rule against the City and would award a much as I possibly could to the family. I hope the jury will do that.

Jan. 13, 2017

And how would you know that if you serve on a jury? Jurors swear an oath to only consider the testimony presented and not to pre-judge a case based on personal knowledge.

Judges, trained in the law, decide what is relevant for Jurors to see and hear. Lawyers, also educated and trained in the law, present their cases and make arguments for their side.

Each side of a case deserves fairness. Taking any personal knowledge in this, or any other case, bias, or personal beliefs AND letting them alter your decision about the testimony presented is not what our justice system, criminal or civil, is about or intends.

What you and others have presented about actions or the lack thereof is the failing of the system, or, more likely, the "people" who wield the power within it. A better solution in my mind, is to replace those who fail to meet a reasonable standard. Let THEIR record of inaction or ineffectiveness reflect their eligibility to hold the office and responsibilities it has.

If the information regarding council member Faulconer's knowledge and lack of action is true, then he should not hold any position of power. However, the City has stated he had, or has no personal knowledge. A Judge will determine the veracity of that statement and, we, the people, have the power to remove and/or replace him, OR ANY OTHER POLITICIAN if he, or she, has failed to live up to the responsibilities of the office held.

Jan. 14, 2017

I can already see the commercials that'll air when the mayor runs for governor. This will definitely come back to haunt him.

Jan. 14, 2017

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