Crenshaw Subway Coalition Gears up for Legal Battle. Metro Pushes Date for EIR Review

The Crenshaw Subway community group is kicking its planning for a legal challenge to the Crenshaw Line in to high gear, announcing an “emergency meeting” tonight to brief their members on their preparations.  Originally, the meeting was scheduled because of Metro’s plans to certify the environmental documents at their August 4th Board Meeting, despite the fact that the documents have not been made available for public review.  However, I just received word that Metro will delay the vote on the documents until their September 22nd meeting or later.  Plans to vote on Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ motion on the community benefits package remain on the table for next month’s early board meeting.

Residents near the Crenshaw Corridor came out in force to try and get a station at Leimert Park and a subway for the entire route. We

Regardless of the timing of the vote on the final plan for the light rail line, the emergency letter that has been widely distributed to community groups, Metro staff, and Metro Board staff shines light into the planning of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition’s strategy.

An email signed by former City Council Candidate Forescee Hogan-Rowles (viewable here, although Hogan-Rowles signature is missing) is asking community members to come to a meeting tonight to discuss the plans to potentially approve the Crenshaw Line this month and that members should bring a checkbook so the Coalition can afford the legal help it would need to mount a challenge to the plan arguing that the agency is in violation of state environmental laws, specifically the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

In the community letter, Crenshaw Subway Coalition doesn’t spell out the specifics of their challenge, but they do believe that a flawed environmental study has led to the exclusion of a below-grade alternative between 48th and 59th streets and the station for Leimert Park.

Simply, MTA’s draft document is legally flawed, the basis for Metro staff, Mayor Villaraigosa and wanna-be Mayor Zev Yaroslavsky’s opposition to the Leimert Park Village station and Park Mesa Heights tunnel is flawed, and if MTA had conducted a proper environmental study both designs would be in the project.

Nobody was willing to comment on a potential lawsuit, although Supevisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ office did promise to fight for the best project for the community through Board action.  “Until the tunneling machine arrives, it’s a work in process,” commented staff for the Supervisor, tacitly arguing that EIR certification isn’t the last word in the process.

But that isn’t enough for the Crenshaw Subway Coalition which sees a lawsuit as strengthening their negotiating hand,

As has become clear both in our fight with MTA on the Expo Line crossing at Dorsey High School and in other project fights with MTA by other communities, the agency/board does not begin taking communities seriously until lawyers get involved.

With the final vote on the environmental documents not happening for over two months, there’s a lot that can happen between now and the filing of a lawsuit.  The only thing that is for certain is that the Crenshaw Subway Coalition is getting ready, and the experience with Expo and the Farmdale Station shows that they aren’t bluffing.

  • Ink

    If they sue, the project could ultimately be cancelled.  It has low ridership compared to the cost already being spent on it, minimal regional benefits compared to other projects, and would otherwise have been a non-starter if it weren’t for political interference.  Metro can’t afford to put it underground when it clearly doesn’t need it and they also can’t afford another pointless CEQA lawsuit that drags on for years, so the project will likely get put on hold indefinitely.

  • Ink

    If they sue, the project could ultimately be cancelled.  It has low ridership compared to the cost already being spent on it, minimal regional benefits compared to other projects, and would otherwise have been a non-starter if it weren’t for political interference.  Metro can’t afford to put it underground when it clearly doesn’t need it and they also can’t afford another pointless CEQA lawsuit that drags on for years, so the project will likely get put on hold indefinitely.

  • Anonymous

    CEQA lawsuits are costly, but they’re not even a drop in the bucket when you’re talking about a billion dollar project. Writing an ironclad EIR and having a team of lawyers is just the cost of doing business in California, unforunately.

    Unless they actually lose the CEQA lawsuit (which is pretty unlikely) it won’t lead to any sort of cancellation of the project. Since construction isn’t even scheduled to start anytime soon, it might not even delay the project.

  • What don’t they understand about “there’s not enough money”?

  • Ink

    They may not incur a high monetary cost (relatively), but they do horrible things for Metro’s reputation.  That’s the most significant cost.

  • Manuel Araujo

    build it right or don’t build it at all. 

  • Edward

    Its not right that money should be dirveted from other MTA rail projects beacuse of politics. The route was designed to fill the needs based on projected ridership and population density. This project has already received special attention from the Obama administration, while other parts of LA county are still being ignored…

  • Isn’t every project by the MTA being sued by some community group or another (Beverly Hills, Monrovia, etc.) ? It is no wonder that projects move at the exact speed of a glacier.  Wasted money, wasted time = politics as usual.

  • Well since the money just isn’t there to build it “right” as you put it, and since we’re not going to cannibalize other rail projects as that wouldn’t be fair, I guess you’d rather we didn’t build it at all then?

    Never heard the expression “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” eh?

  • Anonymous

    Metro just billed NSFR the $43K of expenses they incurred for the lawsuit on the FEIR, which the judge tossed out 3 months ago. So the money can be recovered..unless they lose. Metro is not dumb, they know how to do an EIR; they’ve been doing plenty of these FOREVER. As long as you reasonably respond to any impacts on construction and services, then you’re fine.

    Using your statement that the project could be cancelled because it would be sued has no evidence. Then, every single Metro rail project would have never happened. Gold Line to Pasadena was sued (NOBLAG), Orange Line had a lawsuit, Expo Line/Dorsey, etc… Don’t worry, the project will happen because in reality, there isn’t a reasonable cause that Metro has violated CEQA. Damien is just using talking points. You think Metro is dumb enough not to do a 30 day review? Not when you’re in control of the 2nd largest transit agency in the nation.

  • Ink

    I don’t think Metro is “dumb” and I don’t think that a lawsuit could kill every project, just this one.  This particular line doesn’t seem to have enough benefits to make it worth the media-relations nightmare another CEQA lawsuit would bring.  The issue is already racially charged because of people who see salt and pepper shakers and decry the blatant discrimination.  The media is already leaning in favor of the neighborhood and totally ignoring the facts.  It’s a sh*tstorm waiting to happen and if I were heading up Metro I’d be getting ready to just kill the whole thing or turn it into a BRT.

    I also wish that for once Metro would play hardball and simply pull such an unworthy project off the table instead of trying to cater to the ill-informed masses and self-serving politicians.  That tunnel is wholly unnecessary and if the neighborhood insists on it I’d rather see the project cancelled.  Those funds could be put to much better uses on other corridors.

    I suppose I’m partially just jealous.  I’d love for this kind of transit investment in my neighborhood and they’re turning their noses up at it.  In all likelihood, yes it will get built and 20 years from now they will be using it every day and they’ll have completely forgotten how vehemently they opposed it.  Doesn’t mean I enjoy listening to them whine in the here and now.

  • Ink

    I don’t think Metro is “dumb” and I don’t think that a lawsuit could kill every project, just this one.  This particular line doesn’t seem to have enough benefits to make it worth the media-relations nightmare another CEQA lawsuit would bring.  The issue is already racially charged because of people who see salt and pepper shakers and decry the blatant discrimination.  The media is already leaning in favor of the neighborhood and totally ignoring the facts.  It’s a sh*tstorm waiting to happen and if I were heading up Metro I’d be getting ready to just kill the whole thing or turn it into a BRT.

    I also wish that for once Metro would play hardball and simply pull such an unworthy project off the table instead of trying to cater to the ill-informed masses and self-serving politicians.  That tunnel is wholly unnecessary and if the neighborhood insists on it I’d rather see the project cancelled.  Those funds could be put to much better uses on other corridors.

    I suppose I’m partially just jealous.  I’d love for this kind of transit investment in my neighborhood and they’re turning their noses up at it.  In all likelihood, yes it will get built and 20 years from now they will be using it every day and they’ll have completely forgotten how vehemently they opposed it.  Doesn’t mean I enjoy listening to them whine in the here and now.

  • Revebleu

    Let’s not forget that 30 years from now these light rail lines will be maxed out just like our freeways are today.  We need to build with the future in mind and as population grows.

  • Dan W.

    Metro is already considering how this line will be extended south to Long Beach and/or San Pedro and north to Hollywood via West Hollywood.

    Delays sadly happen, but they won’t cancel the project.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Metro Board Preview: Route 2 Terminus, Villaraigosa’s Ten Year Plan, Gates for the Gold Line and the Crenshaw Corridor DEIR

|
Coming soon to the Eastside. Photo:ntbraymer/Flickr This Thursday the Metro Board meets for the last time in 2009 in a special meeting this Thursday at 9:30 A.M. in Metro’s Headquarters next to Union Station.  As normal, there’s a full agenda, with plenty of controversial and interesting items on the agenda.  Some old friends, such as […]