Privacy Screens? Newest Attempt to Snare Expo Gains Key Ally

For months, the idea of “privacy screens” has been bandied about at meetings of the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors but few took the idea that anyone would place large screens on top of the soundwalls adjacent to the line seriously.  However, at last week’s meeting of the Expo Board of Directors, Board Member and newly-minted L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson seemed to take the idea very seriously.

Plan B? Photo: Home Depot, Canada

“I want to get it done,” Wesson argued.  While staff ultimately agreed to comply, they raised questions about whether they would need to raise the screens for the entire route and where funding would come from.

“These screens can be placed on top of the soundwalls to address concerns about privacy issues for homes immediately adjacent to the ROW,” explains Construction Authority spokesperson Gabriela Collins.  ”These are not included as part of the baseline project and are not required by the environmental document.  We have done some preliminary design work to ascertain the cost and whether or not the screens could be added to the soundwalls, but have no designs at this time.”

Even with Wesson’s backing, there are two reasons that the addition of these soundwalls is a long shot.

The first is politics.  With the handoff of Phase I of the Expo Line from the Construction Authority who built the line to Metro who will run the line, it would take a vote of both the Expo Board and the Metro Board to approve such a project.

Even with enough votes rounded up to pass the proposal, there is still no money to pay for these “privacy screens” and there’s no obvious third party that would be interested in providing such funds.

The other reason that the screens are a long shot is that even if the political will and funding were available, adding the screens doesn’t make a lot of sense.

A recent video of Phase I that appears on The Source makes it look nigh impossible to see anything that would be considered a violation of privacy over the existing soundwalls.  If the concern is that the “privacy shields” would reduce the train noises for residents, the accompanying bells and whistles that would come with the reduced visibility would most likely cause more noise than the train would ever produce.

But while privacy screens for the rail line are a long shot, a walled-off bike path in Santa Monica for Phase II of the Expo Line is looking like a surer bet.

On Monday the Air Resources Board heard a request from the Lantana Center and Media Campus to build a 1,370 foot wall right alongside the proposed bike path that will parallel the Expo tracks in Santa Monica.  This would mean that for a full quarter mile, bicyclists would be trapped between trains and a 12-foot sound wall.