California Spring Landscape – Walk through the Oaks

A Walk through the Oaks
16 x 12 oil on canvas


This is where I’d like to be right about now, walking along a trail in an oaky meadow. The last 24 hours have been more than a little traumatic to our small town of La Canada Flintridge. If you’re in LA, no doubt you know that a big rig car transport truck came down the Angeles Crest Highway, ran through an intersection, impacting numerous cars and finally stopping in a bookstore on Foothill Blvd., the main street. Two people were killed, a man and his daughter, and 12 were injured, some critically. I have not heard the names of the injured.

The accident is under investigation and the driver, Marcos Costa, has been arrested for vehicular manslaughter. He did not live in the area. Why his brakes failed is not known, whether it was operator error or mechanical error. Nor is has it been revealed if he was DUI. One thing is known, however, and that is that it was an accident waiting to happen. A near miss happened in September and our city council has been unable to get Caltrans to make changes to its policies that ban trucks on the steep mountain road that leads into the city, and to put signage back up that tells drivers that there is a gravel filled runaway median. (Which as not been maintained by Caltrans.) Why the median notification signs were taken down is a good question.

Our city council has been hammering the local Caltrans district office for months since the September incident, only to be rebuffed, ignored, given lame excuses about how they need more time to make a study.

Last month a Girl Scout, Malia Milez, as part of her Gold Award project put together a comprehensive 46 slide powerpoint presentation about this problem and the urgency to fix it. Her presentation ended with a photo of the bookstore and adjacent nail salon – in the bullseye. This was presented at a city council meeting who lauded her for her work and one councilperson suggested that Caltrans should look at it.

What I want to know is, what options does a city council have if they are rebuffed by a bureaucrat, in this case, a Mr. Doug Failing of Caltrans? Other than shrugging their shoulders and saying “oh well” is there no way to file a complaint instead of accepting the typical “we’re studying it – stop bugging us” answer.

Other than the public safety issue, which is of foremost importance, I was also impacted by this terrible accident. A number of my paintings were hanging at Flintridge Books, on the wall hit by the truck. I am optimistic that some of them may be recoverable. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember me writing about the weekend art event in February where I was demoing in the store for two days. When I think how much time I’ve spent there, and that I could have been there on any given day, it just gives me chills. On the art show weekend there were 80 or more people there at times – right where the truck went through. Shiver.


  1. Leslie Saeta
    April 2, 2009

    I am glad you posted this today on your blog. I know it has been a really tough 24 hours for you and sharing your story here should help to ease your grief. I just showed my boys at dinner the cover of the Star News newspaper and said “See here, this is where Karen’s paintings were hanging”. Of course, the wall no longer exists as the truck went straight through it.
    So sorry about your loss of art, and of course we are all praying for the families of those who were lost or injured. I have been thinking about you all day.

  2. Ana Tirolese
    April 2, 2009


    How awful for everyone involved. It is sad that people lost their lives.

    It is also sad that you lost some of your work. Hopefully some of it can be recovered.

    That sounds like a dangerous intersection (from the video I watched).

    Thinking of you.


  3. Suze
    April 2, 2009

    OMG sorry you were impacted by this..
    Tragic that people lost their lives and were injured in an area that obviously has a reputation already for being unsafe..I sure hope that THIS will spur some action…whyever they got rid of the safety lane is unbelievable..

  4. Sell Art
    April 3, 2009

    That is a terrible thing to hear. I hope things get better, and imagining yourself in that painting helps.

  5. Lynn
    April 3, 2009

    Oh Karen, what a terrible tragedy. And so unnecessary! I’m glad that you’re OK and that some of your work is recovered. I hope this situation get resolved so no more people are hurt.

  6. Alex Tan
    April 3, 2009

    It’s a tragic that so many innocent people go hurt in this incident/accident… I feel so sorry for the 2 deaths caused by it too.
    However, it’s good to know that painting helps in forgetting the pain. I know it does the same for me when I feel lonely being in a foreign country, and it also helps wearing off my anxiety towards the uncertainties of my future(I kinda hate my day job right now if you ask me).
    Very nice art work! Like all that you’ve done and posted.

  7. winna
    April 3, 2009

    I was happy to be able to read more on this site—I hope you continue to keep us posted here—those paintings are so lovely–I love the one by the pool with the pink bush—seems like a wonderful place to be..

  8. Timaree
    April 3, 2009

    As far as I know, they could sue CalTrans. They probably won’t though but hopefully CalTrans will do something now.

  9. Karen
    April 3, 2009

    CalTrans has passed a temporary ban on big trucks on the Angeles Crest highway. But there won’t be anyone enforcing it because police resources are stretched thin. And we know how well people obey, say, posted speed limits. There will be a permanent ban on trucks on that highway when legislation is passed.

    Our city council wants another median runaway area farther up in the mountains, probably where it won’t be aesthetically offensive to residents on Angeles Crest. The current median runaway area, in my opinion, needs to be maintained and reinforced for those trucks that don’t obey the sign and may find they have no brakes when they go to use them after exiting the mountain area.

    If they want to see something un-aesthetic they should consider the mangled and injured bodies of the victims. “Oh yes, we should have a runaway truck area but Not In My Backyard!” Hello? It’s already there – it only needs maintenance and adequate signage. It has worked in the past.

    In place of that signage, however, we have a lovely vigil site with candles and flowers and posters for the father and daughter who were torn limb from limb.

  10. Ann
    April 3, 2009

    How tragic this is, especially since it could so easily have been avoided. So sorry this has happened to you and your community.

  11. Jo Castillo
    April 5, 2009

    Oh, Karen. This is so sad and tragic. We had a similar situation with an intersection that needed a light in Austin. The city was dragging their feet with the developer they didn’t like and delayed the installation of the light … until after two fatal accidents. Hope your town has better luck. Sorry for you all.

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