The City of San Diego has tentatively agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a family whose 7-month-old daughter was killed while her father was pushing her stroller across a busy Point Loma crosswalk in 2015.
According to the Superior Court website, a settlement is now "pending city council approval on April 25, 2017."
While the dollar amount has not yet been released, the settlement requires payment be made by October of this year."
As reported by the Reader, John Aavang and his then-wife Ginerva Ryman were crossing Canon Street near the transition ramp for Catalina Boulevard in Point Loma just after dawn when a black Chevy Suburban driven by David Hoban failed to see the man and his daughter, crashing into the stroller, killing 7-month-old Juniper Aavang and seriously injuring the father.
A police report later found that Hoban was driving the speed limit and was not at fault. The police report did find that overgrown foliage, lack of signage, and overall poor visibility at the intersection were partially to blame for the accident.
As a later investigation by the Reader found, nearby residents had lodged complaints about what they considered was a "crosswalk fraught with peril" and posed a "complete blind spot for families trying to cross."
The city, however, was slow to respond to complaints about the crosswalk and was less than willing to release complaint.
Two weeks after the accident this correspondent submitted a public records request for complaints submitted to then-councilmember and current mayor Kevin Faulconer's office, whose district included Point Loma. The city responded with a single complaint from July 2010, nearly five years prior to the accident, submitted by Point Loma resident Jon O'Connor. O'Connor compared Canon Street to "a freeway during rush hour."
Traffic engineers responded, promising to trim the nearby plants and install a ladder crosswalk to improve visibility.
What the city did not release in the public records request, which later surfaced during the two-year long court battle, were three other complaints, two of which from the city's own employees who lived in the area.
Richard Snapper, a 35-year former city employee who worked as the city’s personnel director and served as the assistant city manager, arrived at the scene and requested to speak to an officer. He wanted it in the official record that he had complained about the intersection nearly six years prior. In 2009, during an afternoon walk, Snapper attempted to cross the intersection and found it to be "fraught with peril." He informed the former director of engineering, Patty Boekamp in a phone conversation and a city investigator later went to the site and determined that the crosswalk did not pose a safety risk.
Four years later former deputy city attorney Paige Hazard sent a request directly to then-councilmember Kevin Faulconer's office asking city engineers to "evaluate visibility" issues at the crosswalk.
Despite the written record, none of the complaints were released to the Reader in its public records request, nor immediately to the attorneys for the family who sued the city in 2015.
“[We] have just recently confirmed the lengths to which [the city] has gone to hide critical percipient witness information and documents in this case," reads a February 2017 court document filed by the family's attorney asking that a judge issue terminating sanctions against the city for its failure to disclose the entire written record.
"[The city] can provide no legitimate excuse for concealing Mr. Snapper’s and Ms. Hazard’s records and information. At all relevant times, [it] was aware of these witnesses, and was aware of the records and reports relating to these prior complaints; [the city] did not like the implications of producing this information so [it] tried to hide it. [The city’s] concealment is shocking, and directly contravenes the Discovery Act, the Brown Act, and the [California Public Records Act].”
The city now has decided against taking the case to trial.
Attorneys for the Aavangs declined to comment.
The city council will discuss the settlement offer during a closed session meeting at 10am on April 25.