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.

  • Brilliant. Let’s hide the bike path from public view, making cyclists sitting ducks for every criminal looking for an easy score. Not to mention discouraging safety-conscious riders, particularly women, from using the path at all.

    Nice to see there are still people trying to design failure into every new bike project.

  • Why do they want a quarter-mile wall? What possible purpose does it serve?

  • Davistrain

    Privacy screens?  Sheesh!  Ever ride the Chicago elevated lines?  You can see what second-floor residents next to the tracks are watching on TV.   When I was growing up in Monrovia all we had between our home and the Pacific Electric line was a rickety wire fence.  And traffic on that line included a daily freight train and box motors as well as heavy interurban cars on worn-out tracks.  Is the “westside” the whining capital of the world?

  • Anonymous

    You bought a house next to train tracks. You should move or shut up.

  • LA Lee

    How about having EXPO, METRO or some agency give or provide low cost loans to the residents who want more privacy so that they can build higher screens on their own walls to their yards?  There is some nice open space surrounding the tracks in the WLA area and it would be a shame to break it up with high screens.  That creates more of a barrier/barricade feeling than in necessary and will diminish the long-term beauty of plantings along the tracks… no one will be able to see them–residents or riders!  What a shame.  The folks near the tracks need some reasonable mitigations but having high screens atop the EXPO walls has too many negative consequences on others — bicyclists, pedestrians, train riders, and even the residents themselves if only they would stop to think about the beauty of having open space near their homes. 

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