Collision leaves woman injured, car totaled at no-stop sign intersection

Collision leaves woman injured, car totaled at no-stop sign intersection

Last update: Thursday, May 9, 2024 5:00 p.m.

On a recent spring morning, Martine La Bell hopped into her Mini Cooper and headed to work, plodding along Kern Street, she was traveling well below the speed limit when she was hit by a speeding SUV, totaling the Cooper and leaving her with injuries.

The force of the accident, which occurred on April 16 around 7 a.m., was strong enough to bend the Mini Cooper's axle rendering it inoperable – and irrepairable.

"I was going about 20 miles an hour towards El Cerrito. In order to see any vehicles coming up Esmond from Amador, you literally need to be in the middle of the intersection to see any cars," La Bell said. "People use the street because there are no stop signs, and they tend to speed up towards Sonoma. All of the other streets in the area have stop signs, but this one does not," La Bell said.

La Bell said the driver of the SUV was unlicensed, had borrowed the car, and was speeding because a child, who was a passenger in the vehicle, was late for school.

With two schools and a church in the neighborhood and plenty of back-and-forth traffic, La Bell isn't the only resident in the area who feels a stop sign is in order.

Longtime Richmond resident Ed Sheldon Jr. said he believes the intersection of Kern and Esmond is the only un-controlled intersection in East Richmond Heights.

Richmond collisions in 2024: The traffic accident map
To keep you up-to-date on traffic issues in the city and your neighborhood, The Grandview Independent has created an interactive map of traffic collisions by Richmond City Council Districts. 2024 traffic collision map As of April 9, Richmond has had 276 traffic collisions in 2024, with five fatalities, according to

"The City of Richmond sent an electronic message asking for suggestions for services. I requested a stop sign. No response for the city," Sheldon said.

Sheldon also said there is a blind spot southbound on Kern approaching Esmond, and there are always cars parked too close to the corner. "Eastbound cars are below grade level from Amador and are accelerating uphill. Eastbound cars are hard to spot until they are within feet of Kern. Then there is the dip with uneven pavement," Sheldon said.

At the February 27 Richmond City Council meeting, eight-year-old Saiid Mbarki and his father, Sidi Mohammed, asked the council for their help getting a stop sign installed at two intersections near his home. One of them was Esmond Avenue and Kern Street.

“My name is Saiid Mbarki there’s no stop signs on Lassen and Clinton, Esmond and Kern. I think maybe we should change that. When the council presumably goes there they should look at other streets too. I ride my bike there not only for fun but to commute there, and I don’t want to get run over by a car. That almost happened, “Mbarki said.

On March 5, the pair returned to speak before the council, once again appealing for a stop sign.

“I was here at the last open forum to try and get stop signs at the intersection of Lassen and Clinton and the intersection of Esmond and Kern," Mbarki said. "Me and my father went back, and nothing has changed. Why wait for something serious to happen, and the city could possibly be sued?"

Mohammed told the council he'd requested a stop sign many times without results, once going so far as to offer to purchase a sign himself from Amazon.

Mysterious traffic calming measures spark conversation about safety
North and East neighbors celebrated when mysterious traffic control devices popped up at the sites of several recent high-speed collisions on Esmond Avenue. Residents were equally upset when they vanished. The orange cones first appeared around July 16. The following Friday, plastic poles materialized, glued and bolted to the ground.

"We came here last week, but this is not the first time we’ve told the city about these two intersections. We went to the city's public works and talked to them. They sent us to the mayor’s office. We talked to the mayor, and I went on Instagram to talk to Claudia Jimenez," Mohammed said. "We saw the mayor when he was six years old. He’s turning eight in a week. I know you guys have a lot of things to do, but I think that putting up a pole and the sign – it's $88 on Amazon. Can I take up funds and just put it up myself?"

For La Bell, who is now without a car and is currently sporting a medical boot on her foot, it is an unwelcome interruption to her life that may have been preventable. "I have to work from home now because I can't drive, and I guess I need to get another car," La Bell said.

Grandview reached out to the City of Richmond Public Works Department and received a reply from Robert Armijo, the Deputy Public Works Director / City Engineer, who said the city is aware of the recent accident and neighborhood concerns about the intersection.

"We are aware of the recent collision as well as the requests from local residents concerning traffic control measures at this location. To address these concerns, we requested an evaluation from W-Trans, one of the City's on-call traffic engineering firms, in early March. This assessment is to determine whether a stop sign is warranted at this intersection and another nearby based on established criteria. We completed the necessary contractual arrangements with W-Trans in late April to formalize this study," Armijo said.

Armijo cautioned that arbitrary installation of stop signs could lead to increased accidents and non-compliance by drivers, reducing overall road safety.

"Our goal is to ensure that any alterations to traffic control at this intersection are backed by data and analysis, promoting the safety and well-being of all road users. Once the study is complete, we will have a better understanding of the appropriate measures to be implemented," Armijo said. "We anticipate the evaluation to conclude within the next few weeks, and we will be sure to keep the community informed of the findings and any subsequent actions."

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