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.
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.