Fix Expo: We’re Going to Court

Enraged by the Expo Construction Authority’s decision to increase funding for an overpass at Culver City and not for a grade separated area by Dorsey High School, the Citizen’s Campaign to Fix the Expo Line (Fix Expo) has obtained legal counsel and intends to sue to Expo Authority to force more grade separations in the South L.A. part of the project.

Fix Expo’s complaint can best be summed up by one paragraph in the press release:

"They found the money for the Figueroa underpass at USC and they found the money for overpasses in Culver City," said Carol Tucker of the Baldwin Neighborhood Homeowners. "They find the money for everything and everywhere except South LA. Have they no shame?"

It sounds like the lawyers advising Fix Expo are two heavyweights. One is a former California lawyer of the year and the other a veteran of Labor/Community Strategy Center vs. MTA, which resulted in the consent decree which has guided Metro planning for the last decade, will be heading up the legal team.

A full copy of the press release can be read after the jump.

CITIZENS’ CAMPAIGN TO FIX THE EXPO RAIL LINE
Led by Save Leimert, Expo Communities United & Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Homeowners’ Coalition
P.O. Box 8508 * Los Angeles, CA 90008 * Fax: 323.295.9467 * www.FixExpo.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 29, 2008

PRESS CONTACT
Damien Goodmon
xxx

SOUTH LA LEFT OUT ONCE AGAIN AS MTA INCREASES EXPO LINE BUDGET $54 MILLION
On the same day the MTA increased the Expo Line budget $54 million for an overpass in Culver City, a South LA community group announced they’re going to court represented by Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal.

Los Angeles, CA – On Thursday April 24th, the MTA Board voted to increase the Expo Line budget by $54 million for a Culver City overpass, increasing the project budget to $862 million dollars for the 8.5-mile light rail line from Downtown LA to Culver City.  $4 million of the $54 million came from the City of Culver City, while the remaining $50 million came from State Proposition 1B, the $19 billion transportation bond that was passed by voters in November of 2006.  $218 million of the bond has gone towards the increase in the Expo Line budget, which was just $640 million six months ago.

"Prop 1B is the same resource we’ve been requesting MTA go after for grade separations in South LA since the day the bond was passed, yet they keep telling us there’s no money," said Damien Goodmon, the Coordinator of the South LA community group the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line.

"They found the money for the Figueroa underpass at USC and they found the money for overpasses in Culver City," said Carol Tucker of the Baldwin Neighborhood Homeowners.  "They find the money for everything and everywhere except South LA.  Have they no shame?"

The vocal and growing Fix Expo Campaign is concerned about the safety and environmental impacts of the light rail line design as is passes through South LA primarily at street level.  They claim that the street-level design is unsafe and as evidence point to the MTA’s Blue Line which at 91 deaths and 802 accidents to date is the deadliest light rail line in the country.

The close proximity of several schools to the rail line, namely Dorsey High School and Foshay Learning Center, has prompted action from School Board Member Marguerite LaMotte, the LAUSD Board of Education, LAUSD Parent Collaborative and UTLA all requesting grade separation at all or some intersections.

"No child will have to walk across and no car will have to drive across the Expo Line tracks in Culver City.  Yet South LA is being told we have to accept these safety risks," Goodmon said.

Child advocate and West Adams Neighborhood Council member Clint Simmons said, "Instead of insulting our intelligence by telling us they can’t find the money to build underpasses in South LA, MTA should admit that killing black and brown kids, and ruining South LA school environments and communities is a part of doing business."

"They’re spending more money in the 1 mile from La Cienega to Robertson than they are in the 4 miles from Vermont to La Brea," Goodmon said.  The group claims that placing the bulk of the safety hazards and disproportionate environmental impacts in majority-minority South LA community is "textbook environmental racism and against the law."

"We’re going to court," Goodmon exclaimed as he announced that the group has signed an agreement with the international law firm of Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal, LLP.  The group’s legal strategy will be headed by firm partners Ivor Samson, a recipient of the prestigious 2007 California Lawyer of the Year award, and Christopher Prince, who when he was at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund was instrumental in the landmark environmental justice case Labor/Community Strategy Center vs. MTA, which resulted in a 10-year consent decree.

"This firm is huge, these guys are winners, and they know how the MTA operates," said Tucker.  "It speaks to the level of injustice that they’ve agreed to represent us pro bono."

# # #

This press release is available in Word document format at the following web address: http://www.expocommunities.com/info/pr-54million_increase.doc

The Expo Line Construction Authority will officially approve beginning the design of the aerial structure at the 2:30 pm May 1 Expo Authority Board Meeting: http://buildexpo.org/images/agendas/2008/1_May/5.e%20Culver%20City%20Aerial%20Structure%20-%20May%202008.1.pdf

The April 24th MTA Board action increasing the project budget is available at the following web address: http://www.metro.net/board/Items/2008/04_april/20080416P&PItem9.pdf

The full April 24th MTA Board agenda is available at the following web address: http://www.metro.net/board/Agendas/2008/04_april/20080424ARBM.pdf

A map of the census tract racial breakdown: http://www.expocommunities.com/info/Census_Tracts.pdf

The Expo Line Construction Authority presentation showing that $218 million from Prop 1B has gone towards the Expo Line (pg. 4): http://www.expocommunities.com/info/expopresentation-scrt.pdf

Ivor Samson, Esq. biography: http://www.sonnenschein.com/attorneys/index.aspx?aid=0001052
Christopher Prince, Esq. biography: http://www.sonnenschein.com/attorneys/index.aspx?aid=0003223

The 91 deaths and over 802 accidents are from MTA’s Summary of Metro Blue Line Train/Vehicle and Train/Pedestrian Accidents, which is computed quarterly.

For more information go to www.FixExpo.org

Expo Line community forums will be held at Dorsey High School on May 22, 2008 and Foshay Learning Center on May 29, 2008.  Local elected officials have been invited.  Updates will be supplied.

  • And the biggest cheer raised will come from Cheviot Hills NIMBYs who want the whole project sabotaged or bankrupted before it ever gets there.

  • Alan Fishel

    Here is a good example of a solution looking for a problem. Neighborhood activist are looking for a cause to gain political recognition and are making a big deal out of nothing.

    The grade separations at USC, La Brea and Culver City have many thousands of cars passing an hour with complicated intersections. If not separated there would be traffic delays even with only a 30 second period with the gates down as the cars passed. This is not the case at the Dorsey crossing.

    Are the Fix Expo people trying to tell us that the students are not smart enough to stay out of the way of an approaching train even with gates blocking their way? Somehow the students have figured out how to stay out of the street when cars are coming. Come on theses are bright High School students, give them some credit and not use them as pawns to gain political power.

    The MTA, the construction authority and the PUC had it right the first time with allowing an at grade crossing. Even if the money were there a grade separation should not be built

  • Gokhan

    Damien is launching his lawsuit.

    That’s what happens when a transit advocate believes in nothing but subways and trashes light-rail. Not only that but he sides with every NIMBY he can find, including Clint Simmons, who opposes the line because it passes right in front of his house, and Colleen Heller, who thinks Cheviot Hills is elite and must be isolated from the rest of the city.

    He calls the Expo corridor “South LA” and ignores the fact that another at-grade light-rail line is being planned in real South LA in his backyard in Leimert Park.

    I’m sure Colleen Heller and the rest of the Cheviot Hills NIMBYs are thrilled about this lawsuit.

    Dear NIMBYs, have fun while you can. The line will be opened to service by the time you realize it.

    And dear pro bonehead lawyers, have fun while you can as well. Metro isn’t the pot of gold you think and with so many supporters of this project and nonsense NIMBY claims, you haven’t got the slightest chance.

  • Damien Newton

    Just for anyone reading this not familar with the issue…there is a Damien Goodmon who is leading the Fix Expo Campaign and a Damien Newton who writes LA Streetsblog. We’re different people, I promise.

  • The case will not work. Mark my words.

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