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Winery sues to stop Hwy 101 changes, family of crash victim pushes boycott

Posted at 8:47 PM, May 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-12 00:07:11-04

A popular Central Coast winery is squaring off against the family of a Cal Poly student, who was killed in a 2018 crash at El Campo Road, over changes to four crossings along Highway 101 south of Arroyo Grande.

The improvements were set to begin Monday evening but a lawsuit filed by the owners of Laetitia Vineyard and Winery has brought those plans to a screeching halt, a move that’s prompting outrage and calls for boycotting the winery by some people.

“I’ve seen so many close calls there and so many people that their lives are just ruined because of it,” CJ Tilford, an Arroyo Grande resident, said.

Tilford drives Highway 101 daily and each time he passes El Campo Road, his mind rewinds to Oct. 7, 2018 when he passed the scene of a fatal motorcycle crash.

“What I did witness was them covering Jordan’s body with a blanket and that image has always been there for me,” Tilford said.

Jordan Grant

Jordan Grant, 18, was southbound on Highway 101 when a motorist entered the roadway at El Campo Road struck and killed Grant.

Grant was just a stranger to Tilford then, but over the past year, the young victim has become the driving force in a movement to change this deadly intersection.

“We’re basically eliminating left turns against opposing traffic,” Caltrans Spokesman Jim Shivers said last week. “This was a move we had to make to maintain safety.”

Shivers had confirmed safety improvements would begin Monday at four Highway 101 cross-sections but those plans have since been suspended indefinitely due to a legal challenge filed in Sacramento County Court by Vintage Wine Estates, the parent company of Laetitia Vineyard and Winery.

“I’m just shocked that they would’ve made this move,” James Grant, the father of Jordan, said.

After months of petitioning lawmakers, transportation authorities and the Central Coast community to make improvements, Grant is outraged that the changes he’s pushed for are being suspended due to the winery.

“It’s an unacceptable exchange of blood for money,” Grant said.

Laetitia Vineyard and Winery declined comment Saturday, but Grant and Tilford believe the lawsuit stems from the winery’s anticipated loss of revenue from would-be customers inconvenienced by the removal of the Highway 101 cross-section.

“At least their guests will get home alive and they can come back and pick up their wine another day because they made it home,” Tilford said.

Grant said he hopes to take a financial swing at the winery by calling for boycotts and picketing outside the business.

“I’m going to show them we can cost them a lot more loss of business by making the wrong choice here, the selfish choice, than if they’d allowed the median closure to occur,” Grant said.