Fearless Prediction: Lawsuits Coming on Crenshaw Line

The Crenshaw Subway Coalition has two major issues with the Crenshaw Line as it's current planned: the lack of a Leimert Park Station and a need for grade separation along Crenshaw Blvd. But their legal testimony focused almost soley on the grade-separation. Foreshadowing?

The Source had barely published its story highlighting the Metro Board’s decision to approve the environmental certification of a Crenshaw Light Rail line that may or may not have a Leimert Park Station and definately runs at-grade through the Crenshaw communities’ top retail corridor when I caught up to Damien Goodmon, the head of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition. His reaction was concise and clear, “The Metro board has had its say, now it is time for the community to have its say through the courts.”

And just like that, the countdown for a lawsuit on the Crenshaw line began.

The Crenshaw line would be 8.5-mile light rail project that will run along and under Crenshaw Boulevard, Florence Avenue and Aviation Boulevard. The line will connect the Expo and Green Lines and will pass through South L.A. and Inglewood. The budget for the project is over $1.7 billion, almost all of which is coming from the 2008 Measure R sales tax. It is scheduled to open in 2018.

The Crenshaw Subway Coalition worked closely with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to try and get the light rail grade separated for twelve blocks through Crenshaw’s downtown business district and a station to serve the Leimert Park Community earlier this year.  The Coalition was completely rebuffed on the first front, and got a strange “we’ll build the station if we can afford it” answer on the station.  However, there was not a unified front between the Coalition and Ridley-Thomas yesterday.  While Goodmon was threatening legal action against the EIR, Ridley-Thomas was waxing poetic about the struggle to bring world class transit to South L.A.

From The Source:

“This is a historic moment,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board member Mark Ridley-Thomas. “For 25 years, community leaders have worked to make a high-quality light rail line a reality. This was the dream of Julian Dixon, of Diane Watson, of Mayor Tom Bradley and many, many others. Today’s vote means we’re ready to start right away — not 15 years from now as originally was slated to happen…”

Meanwhile, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition is working with Raymond Johnson Esq.  The principal at Johnson & Sedlack, Johnson has a reputation as an accomplished environmental lawyer who doesn’t shy away from fighting the goliaths of the world whether the defendent was WalMart or local governments such as Orange County or and the San Bernadino Water District.

Johnson submitted testimony on behalf of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition that outlined a litany of complaints with the light rail project in Crenshaw’s business district.  The complaints include charges that the line would destroy a pedestrian environment, bankrupt businesses creating a downward spiral for the entire community, create visual blight, increase traffic, ruin parking and would “shift the cost of providing a public good to the residents and businesses of what is an economically depressed and minority neighborhood that is perceived to be without power or influence.”

Johnson’s full letter can be read here.

Neither Johnson nor Goodmon has tipped their hand to what their legal strategy will be going against Metro, but one thing’s for sure. The certification of the EIR is not the Crenshaw Line’s last stop before heading to construction.