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.

  • Dan W.

    Does the FEIR state that the “optional” Leimert Park and and Westchester stations may be built later as infill stations?

  • Ronrueda

    AHHH too much. So this group is claiming that the light rail down crenshaw boulevard will divide the community and hamper the “pedestrian friendly environment “they worked so hard to place. Yet at the same time their lamenting the lost of turning movement on the street and some street parking for cars.

  • Odd ending to the environmental certification process.  Kumbaya, it is done.  I am glad the project is moving forward, but the way this was passed smells funny.   I would really like to see both stations (Vernon and Manchester) built.  Why was the certification motion so unclear about the status of these stations?

  • I think any complaints about at-grade rail are ridiculous at this point.  The line will be underground from it’s northern terminus (at Expo) all the way down to 48th Street.  At this point, it will be at-grade on Crenshaw for only one mile, through Park Mesa where the boulevard is at its widest.

    The missing stations should be a bigger concern.  The short street-running segment is really a non-issue.

  • Anonymous

    If I was a business, I would welcome increased traffic. Heck, Santa Monica specifically requested the Expo line run at-grade because it promotes ridership and fits better with the environment.

  • Anonymous

    A lawsuit may come, but will it really be effective. Metro performed all the requirements as mandated by CEQA and did additional studies for the Mesa Heights subway section last year. If they do bring up a lawsuit, will they really win? Plus, they don’t have the financial backing like NSFR and the neighborhoods they serve.

  • Jerard Wright

    So the game plan is to do what Boston has done with their transit projects, and that’s make changes politically via lawsuits.

  • Jerard Wright

    “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.”Th
     
    How funny an argument if this had been built as an underground rail line with a station at nearby Crenshaw/Saluson, wouldn’t these same remarks be taking place? I think they would be.  In addition wouldn’t you have a stronger case to PROVE that this will occur once the line is built.

  • Jerard Wright

    Replying to myself here’s an article about the Second Avenue Subway where businesses are hurting there along the mostly bored tunnel alignment. I don’t think this would help their coalition’s argument;
     
    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-09-22/new-york-mta-completes-two-mile-tunnel-for-second-avenue-subway.html
     
    “…Merchants in the construction zone have struggled with reduced sidewalk space, dirt and noise, and a dearth of parking. State lawmakers representing the area have attempted unsuccessfully to pass legislation providing tax abatements or grant money.
    Business has plummeted by as much as 30 percent at Star Cleaners on Second Avenue near 69th Street since the work began, said Sally Kim, who’s run the dry-cleaning shop since 2003.
    “We cannot make enough to pay bills — I don’t know what I can do,” Kim said in an interview yesterday. “I couldn’t sleep yesterday. So much worry.”

  • Dagmar

    The Crenshaw Line will never be built. The money allocated for it is really for other projects, and the Crenshaw Line is a “placeholder” for the funds; they will be moved elsewhere before the project ever breaks ground.

  • LAofAnaheim

    Proof or just using haresay to anger a whole community (i.e. Tea Party speak)?

  • Darrell

    Speaking of “unsupported conclusions” in Raymond W. Johnson’s letter, I see:

    * “The passage of frequent trains will prevent pedestrian movement from one side of Crenshaw Boulevard to the other” — huh??

    * “will become a barren set of railroad tracks that will cause visual blight” — Apparently he never looked at Expo from USC to Gramercy.

    * “At grade intersections have resulted in unacceptable levels of fatalities in train/vehicle accidents.” — That would be ZERO on the Gold Line in 8 years of operation.

    * “Would this at grade section down the center of Downtown Crenshaw be constructed down the center of Rodel Drive in Beverly Hills?” — It sure is in Santa Monica.

    But I suppose Mr. Johnson hasn’t experienced much light rail as Consulting City Planner in Lenexa, Kansas.

  • LAofAnaheim

    Haha…these allegations will be simply thrown out. All are easily combatible. This wouldn’t even be a challenge for Metro. They’re just going off of emotions and not facts, which in the end, is what is the rule of law and will prevail in the court. I could worry less about any potential harmful lawsuits for the Crenshaw Line. The area they are protesting can easily support at-grade configuration and is nowhere near comparable to the Wilshire corridor.

  • The dude abides

    Who in the hell provides a resume/CV with a letter to metro? Further baffling is with all that experience you would think he could craft some thoughtful talking points instead of the crap he wrote. Just goes to show that anyone can be paid to state a false position with no merit if the price is right.

  • Andres D.

    Seriously Dagmar… don’t waste our time with nonsense…

  • Donk

    Fine, then don’t build it.  This project is a waste of money anyway, it was only a political gift to Yvonee Braithwait Burke.  We can spend the $1.7B much more efficiently elsewhere.  How about a 405 line instead?

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