Second Lawsuit Filed Against Expo Line, But This Time It’s Against the Bikeway

Will a bike path go here?  Time, and a judge, will tell...
Will a bike path go here? Time, and a judge, will tell...

Homeowner’s whose houses abut the future Expo Bike Path have filed suit to force a full environmental review of the bikeway.  The lawsuit charges that LADOT and Caltrans didn’t provide a complete view of the bikeway while applying for and granting  a Categorical Exclusion (CE), a designation which exempted the project from a full federal environmental review.

Or, in plane English, a group of homeowner’s who don’t want part of their yards used an easement for the Bikeway are doing their best to slow down its construction.

The lawsuit has already had an impact.  The state has retracted the CE and LADOT is reworking its environmental documents to meet some of its complaints.  LADOT declined to comment for this article, stating only that “The City does not comment on matters under litigation and that LADOT and other agencies involved, hope to work with all concerned stakeholders on this issue.”

Given that construction of the bike path isn’t scheduled until 2011 at the earliest, the long-term impact of this lawsuit could be minimal if LADOT  can produce a strengthened environmental report in a timely manner.  If the lawsuit is successful and the bike path goes under a full NEPA review, it could kill the bike path because construction costs would increase if the bike path isn’t built at the same time as the light rail.

To earn a categorical exclusion, agencies need to show that a project would have minimal environmental impacts and would be non-controversial.  Faced with a lawsuit that challenges everything from the impacts the new pavement would have to the ecosystem to the effects of the new lighting would have on the neighborhood; those basic assumptions are under attack.

The lawsuit also wants traffic studies for the areas where the bike path moves on to the street.  The separated bike path along Phase II has a gap between the intersection of Motor Avenue and National Boulevard and the area just North of the I-10.  The unhappy homeowners want to know how the plan will be extended into the street and how those bike lanes would effect traffic.  The lawsuit could create an interesting precedent.  To some, it seems obvious that the LADOT is trying to segment the project so that traffic impacts of the on-street portion of the bike path don’t have to be studied in the environmental process.  To others, it could provide a legal basis for more legal challenges to bike lane projects.  After all, if a road diet isn’t occurring for the lanes, then any impact to car traffic should be minimal.

I wonder if kids and bikes don't mix too.
I wonder if kids and bikes don't mix too.

Unsurprisingly, the position of locals on the lawsuit seems to depend on how they feel about the Expo Light Rail project.  The email that alerted me to the lawsuit grumbled about the role that Neighbors for Smart Rail, the organization fighting against the Expo Line as currently configured, had in getting this lawsuit off the ground.  On the other hand, Sarah Hays, one of the co-chairs of Light Rail for Cheviot writes:

it is outrageous that a few people can block a project that will benefit not only our neighborhood, but the entire city.  I have been walking the neighborhood recently, and the majority of the folks I talk to are looking forward to using the Expo Line and the bike path.  It gives us a way to take a bike ride with our kids without the fear of being run over on the city streets.

But popularity and politics doesn’t play as strong a roll in court as it does with the Expo Construction Authority.  We’ll keep you updated on any further legal developments.

  • Chris L

    Every step forward towards a more livable city is met with resistance. It doesn’t have to be this way. I wish NIMBYs could step back and see the big picture.

  • Expo bike path? That will be very awesome !!

  • jakeinla

    Avoiding a proper environmental impact report, not considering rational complaints from residents and forcing an ill prepared train line under “public good” is aligned with corrupt and authoritatian regimes. Thank god we have independent judiciary

  • Right Jake. As we all know, giving people a viable alternative to using their cars to get Downtown will only make congestion worse.

    And don’t even get me started on CO2 and methane emissions from all those people riding their bikes. Clearly, this Expo Bikeway is an environmental disaster in the making.

  • Brent

    It doesn’t look good for the city if it’s already reworking some of the proposal in response to the lawsuit. San Francisco’s bike plan was delayed for years after it fudged some of the environmental reviews and ended up in litigation. As much as I want the Expo line and bike path, the city should be particular in its efforts. Lawsuits by disgruntled neighbors aren’t particularly novel.

  • BJ

    Makes me sad to see how my neighbors are so vindictive. Naively I never imagined the folks in Cheviot Hills and Rancho Park could be so short-sighted with ittle interest in a wonderful legacy of a community-coming-together for their children and grandchildren.

    If I was one affected by the easement (that I would have known about before I purchased my property) I’d be thrilled to have such easy access to a bikeway!

  • Eric B

    The Cheviot mindset is summed up by the signs proudly displayed on their lawns on Westwood Blvd (a beautiful street for biking, btw):

    “Don’t let EXPO block our access to the freeway!”

    If that’s their rallying cry, then there really is no compromise–they just need to be defeated in court. I’m hoping Mayor V, as part of his vocal embrace of biking, will publicly call bullshit on this nonsense.

  • Cheviott Hills homeowners — abetted by Zev Yaroslavsky at the time — were among the first roadblocks (trainblocks?) to Expo Rail way back in the early 90s….

  • graciela.

    It’s a mess like this that makes me feel very pessimistic about LA ever being a truly livable city where public transit, cycling, AND cars can coexist and be viable commute options for everyone. Instead, there are complaints for every single project, which puts a project in eternal limbo.

    You want a new bike path? Complaints. You want a new freeway? Complaints. You want Metro to go to new places so you can cut your commute time? Complaints. Maybe we should sit on our hands and do nothing? Complaints. This town is full of short-sighted, selfish people who can’t see the bigger picture and don’t care to elevate our city to a city of the future.

    For as long as they can have speedy access to a freeway on-ramp, these people aren’t going to care about LA remaining the car obsessed and smog filled city that it is. Nevermind that when you make it to the freeway it’s bumper to bumper because there is a lack of convenient commuting options. The inmates are running the asylum.

  • kare

    Of course there are many of us in Cheviot Hills who support the Expo line, at-grade, and are eager to see it be completed. These NIMBYs are…unbelievable, short-sighted, selfish, ignorant, what can I say.

  • I can understand the lawsuit – people in the Valley fought the same sort of fight over the Orange Line bike path. Once the proper review for the Expo bike path is done, we’ll all be stuck with another isolated bike path perfect for bum camps.

    This issue is being used as a wedge by the people that have seen only the Blue Line, and are afraid of the damage these trains will have on their quality of life.

    Sue over the bike path (because the city was remiss in not doing a proper review of it) in order to stop the whole project or to kill the bike path and remove cyclists’ support for the project.

  • Joseph E

    “This issue is being used as a wedge by the people that have seen only the Blue Line, and are afraid of the damage these trains will have on their quality of life.”

    The Blue Line has been great for quality of life. 80,000 people a day use it to get places twice as fast as they could on the bus, and with more than twice the comfort. Sure, it was designed badly, leading to too many accidents with cars and pedestrians, but the benefit has been huge, at less than the cost of adding 1 carpool lane to 405.

    But of course, the blue line goes thru neighborhoods that were already very poor and run down, due to historical segregation and the freight rail lines nearby, so you might look at it and think that light rail was bad for the community.

  • eric

    Arrggggg!!! When will it all be over. Please just get this thing open and built as soon as possible. What possible truth would a new environmental review for a bike path possibly uncover? This is why the legal system is out of control. Lawsuits like this are given the time of day.

  • The same argument could be used for the Gold Line … BUT, the treatment of the Gold Line at stations, the treatment of the area abutting the train right of way, are far and away better for local commerce around the stations and access.

    The Gold Line goes through some very poor neighborhoods also, but the station designs, the treatment of the community’s best interests, are all far and away superior to the Blue Line.

    This cannot be disputed. It is readily apparent to anybody riding through the disgusting gravel-lined Blue Line slicing a community into halves. It is apparent at stations with poor shelter, narrow walkways on platforms given the volume of passengers.

    Seeing the Blue Line makes a lot of people in town say, “Ooooh scary rail is scary. Keep that out of our neighborhood!”

  • Joseph the Blue Line actually isn’t faster than an express. It’s pretty slow. Take the Blue Line from downtown LA to Long Beach and then take the 460 and see which one takes longer.

    The only good thing about the Blue Line is that you know it’s going to come and the time it’s going to come which gives you more flexibility, unless less it kills someone that day, and being that it’s the deadliest rail in the country that’s completely possible.

    I love saying that.

    My prediction is that bike path will die a horrible death. Zev (along with Henry Waxman) in the 80s actual wrote a law stating LA couldn’t build a subway owing to possible death and destruction in the form of methane explosions and they got that crap to pass, so this is just paperwork that was just a straight out lie. Kiss that bike path good bye.

    Browne

  • graciela.

    I rode the blue line for years and it was always packed with passengers. While there were colorful characters on board, I wouldn’t say that it’s scary. Are the nay sayers really afraid of “scary rail” (as in safety) or are they afraid of the neighborhoods that the first phase goes through and the supposed criminals it will send their way? Quite frankly, I think that’s what this is about. The median income of Cheviot Hills is over $100k and if you compare that to the neighborhoods of the first phase, it’s the same old story public transit has had to phase in LA. There’s always that one neighborhood in a project that just can’t bear to be a part of transit planning. Lord knows they’re not going to use public transit.

    If metro is only allowed to build rail lines that cut through poorer neighborhoods then we’re never going to get anywhere. People have to go to the west side and work, too.

  • Peach

    If we let all the idiots in this world, ( in this case in our city of selfish Los Angelenos), the Rapid Trans System in SoCal will never get off the ground. It is already 50 years past due!!!!

    These morons do not realize, that this is just the beginning of a project to change our city, and get as many cars off the road as possible…

    The are not only affecting their own health, but the health of their children and grandchildren, and all future generations. As southern Californians, not only will we see total Gridlock very shortly, but we will not live long healthy lives, that they say our current population will achieve. Not by a long shot, living in this choked up, polluted city with zillions of cars all over the place!!
    Lincoln said” You cannot please All of the people ALL of the time”. All of these petty interruptions, are driving a death knell into the Expo and other projects. We can then see very poor health, short lives. AND, a poor economy, because of a mass exit by companies escaping California, because their employees cannot get to work, due total Gridlock!!!!

  • ds

    CEQA needs to be reformed. It’s the law that gives California NIMBYs their excessive power.

    In no other state it so easy for small groups of disgruntled individuals to block popular projects on bullshit procedural grounds.

    How the fuck is a BIKE PATH going to harm the environment?

    It works against environmental justice, because rich neighborhoods can afford CEQA lawyers, and poor ones can’t.

  • ds,

    You obviously don’t understand how the Scales of Justice work. Each side gets to pile its cash on the scales, and whichever side has the most, wins.

    I’m with Browne on this one – I think the bike path is dead. Here’s that calculation I’d be going through if I didn’t care about this bike lane, “I’d rather have a bunch of pissed off cyclists rather than another long delay with the Expo line amirite?”

  • ds

    @ubray

    Rich NIMBYs have disproportionate influence everywhere, but nowhere but California can small groups shut down projects that have broad political support on the basis of a “t” not being crossed in the EIR.

    Can anyone seriously argue that a path for BICYCLES to ride on is going to cause a significant environmental impact? But that’s not how CEQA works.

    Judges don’t get to make subjective judgements like “does this project make sense?” or “Is this good for the environment?” because that’s the role of the legislature, not the courts.

    CEQA lawsuits are always based on procedural grounds, where they charge that public agencies didn’t fill out the paperwork right, or they didn’t spend enough money conducting studies of every hypothetical impact.

    Nowhere in CEQA does it require anyone to actually do anything to help the environment, because the enforcer of the law is the court system, and judges only get to make procedural judgements, not subjective ones.

  • @ds
    The suit alleged violation of federal law, NEPA, not state law, CEQA. (See top of page 2 of the Complaint.)

  • Larry Hoffman

    The orange line In The San Fernando Valley was opposed for years by just a few people , but finally was completed and is not only the busiest transportation line in all of Los Angeles . It has provided all levels of cyclists a safe route across the Valley.
    I live by the path and what was a blighted area with abandened rail tracks and trash is now a scenic greenbelt that has enhanced any area it passes through.
    I know in a demicratic system all people and voices must be heard, but the voice of common sense must finally take charge and complete what will some day be the greatest bike path throughout Los Angeles.
    This area deserves the improvements and is now waiting helplessly for its awakening.

    Lets do it!!!!!!

  • Aaron

    Man, f*ck these people. I wish I had something more intelligent to add, but, really, just f*ck these people.

    So discouraging.

  • wanderer

    A lot of people have the fantasy that they’ll be able to keep driving unlimited amounts forever, that nothing needs to change in how they move around. Oil is not going to get into very short supply, the world’s not going to get hotter and hotter, everything will be just like it was (not that that was so great, but folks like this thought it was). And this fantasy is abetted by numerous politicians, supported in turn by the oil industry and other affected interests.

    So if you think Cars, Cars, Cars, cars are all that matters, you can go out there fight rail lines and bike paths in YOUR neighborhood.

  • “The orange line In The San Fernando Valley was opposed for years by just a few people , but finally was completed and is not only the busiest transportation line in all of Los Angeles . It has provided all levels of cyclists a safe route across the Valley.”

    —————

    And now the San Fernando Valley is stuck with a measly busway instead of a proper east-west rail line.

  • Bob Zwolinski

    A chance th enhance this transit corridor with the addition of a bike path and the neighborhood NIMBYs are up in arms about it. I just don’t get it at all…
    Let’s see how the politics play out.

  • Dave Bowman

    Not to be a nag, but if you’re going to write a blog you should know the difference between “roll” and “role,” an apostrophe is not used for a plural noun (“homeowner’s”), and it should be “popularity and politics don’t” (not “doesn’t”). And when did “impacts” become a plural noun?

  • Spokker

    Plane and plain were confused as well, but I ignored it because I’m not Damien’s English professor.

    Unless we are talking about language used in aviation.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, when you board the aircraft please switch to plane English so that we may have a pleasant flight.”

  • ds

    “@ds
    The suit alleged violation of federal law, NEPA, not state law, CEQA. (See top of page 2 of the Complaint.)”

    I didn’t think Expo got federal funds. Perhaps they got federal funds for the railcars, and therefore the whole project is covered under NEPA.

  • Fallopia Simms

    This is not a discussion about the Blue Line which doesn’t have a bike lane anyhow, please try to stay on topic. Cyclists countywide should assemble and march on Cheviot Hills demanding them to drop their lawsuit.

  • If the city failed to do a proper environmental review about this bike facility (which I’m willing to bet is true), then my guess is that the bike lane will be removed from the project to allow the rail portion to move forward.

    I brought up the Blue Line because it is what anti-rail people in L.A. point to when they want to scare their neighbors.

  • Scott Mercer

    What’s so scary about the Blue Line anyway? Nothing. You want to talk about the fatality rate? A good number of those were suicides. Hard to blame Metro for people literally jumping in front of moving trains.

  • graciela.

    Fallopia, the blue line is used to scare people in LA as an example of how unsafe light rail is. And that it brings a criminal element to neighborhoods. So it does have a place in this discussion since those opposing the expo line have used the blue line as a cautionary tale.

  • Jerard Wright

    Graciela,

    So is the Blue Line train the unsafe criminal element or is it the criminal element in the neighborhood in which the Blue Line runs through thats the problem?

    My guess would be the latter than the former.

  • The Cheviot Hill homeowners that expressed support for Expo and bike path… why have you not launched a full out recall campaign against your HOA Board for their continued and destructive behavior? If most people in Cheviot Hill is in favor of Expo line as you guys claim (and I certainly hope so… Expo line will be a boon for property prices for years to come), why have you not organized yourself at the HOA level? Run a slate of candidates at the next HOA election and takeover!

  • Raul Alcala

    wait, aren’t these the same tactics the people of South Pasadena have used for years to keep the 710 freeway extension from destroying that city?

    “Or, in plane English, a group of homeowner’s who don’t want part of their yards used an easement for the Bikeway are doing their best to slow down its construction.”

    lets follow Fallopia Simms to their houses and demand they give us their property.

  • Spokker

    Blue Line more like the Boo Line am I right or what.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t make me go door to door to explain to you NIMBYers what socially retarded nimrods you are, cause I will.