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In case of Wildfire: Waze poses a Death Sentence for residents of Los Gatos Glenridge & uphill neighborhoods

Sept 8, 2019

Los Gatos resident: Waze a 'death sentence' to neighbors in the event of a wildfire A Los Gatos man is waging the most recent war against Waze for routing beach traffic through his neighborhood. By Allison Levitsky – Reporter, Silicon Valley Business Journal Sep 8, 2019, 2:35pm PDT Updated Sep 9, 2019, 7:10am PDT A Los Gatos man is waging war with Waze, the Alphabet Inc.-owned routing app that he says endangers his neighborhood by diverting traffic heading to and from Santa Cruz on summertime weekends. Jeffrey Siegel, a tech consultant who founded the Los Gatos Historical Society this year to advocate for the preservation of the town’s historic homes and other neighborhood causes, says the traffic diverted from Highway 17 would amount to a “death sentence” for people in the Glenridge and Almond Grove neighborhoods in the event of a wildfire. Siegel — who said his neighbors include employees from big tech companies including Google, Apple, Facebook and Cisco Systems — haven’t made headway with Waze by talking with several members of its government affairs team. The company didn’t return a request for comment from the Business Journal. “If you saw the Paradise fire photographs, a lot of people died in their cars, trapped in traffic and they instantly died in an inferno,” Siegel said, referring to the Butte County town that was wiped off the map in a deadly fire last year that killed 85 people and caused $16.5 billion in damage. “That’s exactly what the potential is to happen here, especially in the August-September months when the wildfire hazards are super high.” Siegel pointed to USA Today's recent investigation into wildfire risks across the western U.S. The newspaper measured the wildfire hazard potential for 5,000 communities in 11 states, ranking each on a scale from 1 to 5. Los Gatos ranked at 4.06 — more susceptible to wildfire than Paradise, which scored a 3.81. (San Jose got a 3.29 and Saratoga got a 3.96.) “Traffic congestion along the Highway 17 corridor, which includes the community of Los Gatos, does present a unique challenge for us with respect to a wildfire occurring either along Highway 17 or adjacent to the communities that are affected by that traffic,” Santa Clara County Fire Capt. Bill Murphy told the Business Journal. “The traffic congestion does affect, ultimately, how we can respond to that when a wildfire occurs.” Siegel said the traffic in his neighborhood has gotten noticeably worse in the last three years, which he suspects is a result of the Bay Area’s growing population and the increased use of routing apps that send drivers to the backroads when highways are backed up with traffic. A drive to Safeway that takes five minutes during the week can take 45 on the weekend, he said. “It would probably take (Waze) 10 minutes to barely modify any part of an algorithm to change this,” Siegel said. “They probably have one that says ‘Here’s the places not to go’ and they just have to put this route on that list.” It's not the first time Los Gatos residents have rallied against Waze for sending beach traffic through neighborhoods.