If crowd and race participants’ reactions were any indication, the Wonky Street Kart Racing event held July 30 on the much-maligned and joked about Ladd Lane, was a huge success.
To some, though, it doesn’t matter how successful or unsuccessful the event was. And even though Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez saw the humor in the botched striping job on Ladd Lane, some who live nearby didn’t see the humor in being ridiculed locally and nationally on the “Jimmy Fallon Show.”
“This is so crazy, it’s funny,” Velazquez said. “Some people are upset, but I think it’s just politics. This is something odd that happens every so often. Laugh with it.”
Resident Gerry Wright wasn’t laughing though. She quizzed the mayor by email as to why the event was going to take place. According to her, the mayor responded, “It’s for the kids to have some fun and the recreation department is putting it on.” Velazquez told BenitoLink much the same thing. Her response to him was, “I thought the changes on Ladd Lane were being made to discourage racing on the street. What is the purpose of closing the street now to have kart races?”
City Manager Brett Miller, who the Hollister City Council had given the authority to close streets for events, told BenitoLink he thought it was a good family-oriented event and was in favor of leaving the paint scheme to attract tourists. He said the recreation department only had three days to prepare and suggested it could be much more popular if there were more time before the next race, should there be one.
The $596,000 project that covered adding the slurry and stripes on Ladd Lane and Southside Road was designed to slow down traffic and provide a buffer zone for bike riders on each side of the road. Velazquez showed BenitoLink the engineers’ drawings illustrating how the lines should have been laid down. He looked at the drawing and then the road and shook his head in dismay. He said it was obvious that the yellow lines on the drawing that gently curved in and out had been painted on the street as confusing, jagged lines.
Velazquez said the problem that necessitated the redesign of Ladd Lane was that drivers were racing on it.
“They start at Southside Road and don’t slow down until just before Safeway,” he said. “It’s literally a quarter-mile drag strip.”
He said speed limits were based on average speeds and people were driving faster. He said the council first considered speed cushions, but they were not allowed because of the basic 45 mph speed limit and because Ladd Lane was a four-lane road. The council decided that four lanes were not necessary and so the painted lines were changed, making the road two lanes with traffic circles and buffer zones.
The original design was contracted through Kimberly Horn. The city will not have to pay more to fix the mistake. Velazquez said the city engineering department will meet with the subcontractor in a week or two.
“They’ll need to grind it off and resurface it again,” he said.
“I’ve had a lot of people asking me if we could leave them the way they are,” he said. “I agree, personally, but the problem is the contract says the contractor must do it correctly. I don’t know how the painting contractor did it.”
Councilman Rick Perez said he was in favor of leaving the design and even changing the name of the street.
“Can you imagine families traveling to the Pinnacles and the kids shouting they want to see Wonky Street,” he said.
Councilman Rolan Resendiz didn’t express an opinion about the future of the street but did say he talked to the engineering department about removing the subcontractor that did the painting from the list of approved companies the city works with. Velazquez, though, told BenitoLink it isn’t a simple thing to remove a contractor because the city is required to work with companies that submit the lowest bids. He said if the company were removed from the list, it could potentially sue the city.
The event was promoted on social media as a family day and proved to be so as entire families showed up to take part in races, using bikes, scooters, skateboards, and electric play cars. With no age limits, grandparents were seen racing alongside grandkids. Adults and kids of all ages raced down the street, circled a roundabout and back up to the finish line.
Henry Martinez drove from Salinas with his two grandsons, Kevin and James, to take part. He raced against them and other children on bicycles. After seeing the race promoted on social media, Juan Arjona drove from Aromas to watch.
“This is a great family event,” Arjona said. “I saw it on the news and decided to come over and check it out.
Councilwoman Dolores Morales’ district includes Ladd Lane. Watching from the sidelines, she said the city should leave the striping alone.
“I think we should embrace this,” she said. “Obviously, it’s received a lot of attention worldwide. This is an opportunity for us to bring out our community. People are actually posting about the challenges of driving along here, but I think our children and adults are able to take advantage of this. It’s another way to bring people out in our community and give people something to do.”
Debbie Brown, who lives in Twin Oaks, was enjoying the races.
“This is wonderful for the kids,” she said. “They’re having a blast. It’s great to see the community spirit here. I think it’s good to have events for the children right here.”
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