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The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

The student news site of California State University - Los Angeles

University Times

Studio City leaders support new street racing bill

Tristan Longwell
A billboard near the corner of Moorpark Street and Laurel Canyon in Studio City.

Studio City is joining the city of Los Angeles in a crack down on street racing and illegal street takeovers. 

On May 17, the Studio City Neighborhood Council board unanimously passed a motion on the new illegal street takeovers assembly bill for the state legislature. The proposed bill, AB 74, seeks to tighten existing street racing laws. 

Under AB 74, any person who knowingly attends, participates in or assists in the organization of a street race could face prosecution. Performing drivers would be subject to possible felony or misdemeanor charges. Spectators, passengers and non-performing drivers could receive a misdemeanor charge. 

The convicted performing-driver’s vehicle may be impounded for up to 30 days and the individual may have their license suspended between 90 days to six months. 

In April, the Studio City Public Safety committee held its monthly meeting where the members passed the motion and sent it over to the full neighborhood council board for a final vote.   

During their meeting, Jeff Hartwick, the chair of the committee, urged fellow council members to support the new bill, as he read their community impact statement. 

 “Illegal Street Takeovers and car racing have been a persistent nuisance and dangerous problem throughout the city of Los Angeles. Promoted through social media, street takeover spectators gather at city intersections, roadways and bridges and proceed to block traffic and engage in dangerous stunts,” Hartwick said. 

He said the council acts as an advisory board for their council members Nithya Raman of District Four and Paul Krekorian of District Two. They review motions or resolutions for assembly bills going through the legislature and give their opinion on whether or not their council members should vote to support it. 

In an interview, Hartwick said he has heard a lot of complaints from community members and stakeholders who requested speedbumps be put in their neighborhood. 

According to Scott Mandell, a board member of the Public Safety committee and president of the Studio City Neighborhood Council, the committee submitted a community impact statement back in 2021 regarding the same issue but the city has had trouble implementing the restrictions that are currently in place.

Studio City residents such as Patty Kirby, a stakeholder of the committee, have noticed the recent uptick in street racing.  

“I’ll just say that locally Studio City had a serious problem recently and LAPD put a task force on it and quieted it down, but it’s picking up again,” Kirby said. “…I’m sure all of you can hear the cars going up and down Laurel Canyon and Coldwater and Ventura.”

Ventura Boulevard, Laurel Canyon and Coldwater Canyon are streets that run through Studio City and have been subject to crashes and street racing over the years. 

In 2018, a man crashed his Lexus into a Fed-Ex store on the corner of Ventura Boulevard and Laurel Canyon in Studio City, in a suspected but unconfirmed street-racing incident. 

Street racing and illegal street takeovers is not only a growing issue in Studio City but has been a persistent problem in L.A. for decades.

In July of 2022, LAPD shut down the 6th Street Bridge in response to takeover activity on the newly built, historic landmark. According to LAPD, street bike riders were doing wheelies, blocked traffic and performed stunts. 

In January, Elyzza Guajaca was allegedly killed during a street takeover in Hyde Park. The suspect was charged with one count of murder and one count of hit-and-run-driving. 

These are just a few examples of takeover incidents throughout the city of L.A. 

To minimize these activities on roads, agencies have created groups to quash these takeovers. 

In May of 2022, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Street Racing Taskforce collaborated with the Los Angeles County Taskforce for Regional Auto-Theft Prevention (TRAP), Long Beach Police Department and Alhambra Police Department to perform a countywide operation where they stopped and arrested individuals engaging in illegal street takeover activity.

During their operation, police made 23 misdemeanor arrests, impounded 14 vehicles and apprehended 15 individuals. They conducted a total of 30 enforcement stops. 

In June of 2023, TRAP and LAPD’s Central Traffic Division’s Street Racing Task force (SRT) performed a joint operation in the following LAPD divisions: Central, Newton, 77th, Southeast, Southwest and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Compton area. They stopped eight street takeovers, performed 17 vehicle stops, issued 19 citations, impounded 17 vehicles and made two felony arrests. 

Car enthusiast Daniel Smith described the scene of the street takeovers and street races he has witnessed as “havoc” and “chaos.” He said participants block intersections, drift, do donuts and light off fireworks. 

The events are typically organized through “word-of-mouth” and Instagram pages dedicated to the takeover community. They post meet-up locations and specific times on these social media pages. 

“You’ll see people literally doing donuts in the intersection with a beer in their hand, drinking it…bystanders all drinking and then getting into their cars and doing 100, 120, 150 plus on the highway,” Smith said.

According to him, at the events people buy, sell and use drugs such as “NOS” inside of balloons. “NOS” is the street-name for nitrous oxide, a gas that produces feelings of euphoria and hallucinations when inhaled.  

He said that people continue to engage in these activities as helicopters shine their lights and police sirens blare. This continues as officers wait for backup to arrive. Participants form what is known as a “blocker” and stand in front of police vehicles as they continue to push in on the crowd. 

From what he has seen, Smith said those who participate in takeover activities have a “f— the police” attitude or disposition towards law enforcement. 

“We don’t care what you’re doing. We’re going to continue what we want to do until it gets to a point where it’s like you’re going to get arrested,” Smith said in relation to the attitude of takeover participants.

There is a “big split in the car community” between car enthusiasts and those involved in takeovers. He said that many people have been switching from the takeover community to the car enthusiast community recently. Some get caught and others “choose to leave the life behind.” 

“There are a lot of people from the street takeover community who have switched over and they’re saying, I don’t want to be a part of this community anymore,” Smith added. “And they’ve switched to purely going to a track or purely going to these events where you have… a big open lot to do this stuff safely and legally.”

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About the Contributor
Tristan Longwell
Tristan Longwell, News Editor
Tristan Longwell is the News Editor for the University Times (UT). She is a senior majoring in criminal justice, with a minor in journalism. Longwell has an interest in documentary filmmaking, creative and uncreative writing, music, fashion, true crime and all things Los Angeles.

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