Eric Garcetti at the Empowerment Congress Forum on January 19
Earlier this morning, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, the umbrella organization for South L.A. groups fighting for grade separated light rail from 48th to 59th Streets for the future Crenshaw Line, released grades for both leading candidates for Mayor of Los Angeles. Both candidates scored an “A-” for their support for adding a Leimert Park Station, but Wendy Greuel scored a “B+” for her support for grade separating the entire line while Eric Garcetti scored only a “C.”
Damien Goodmon, the executive director for the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, explains why the grades on the tunnel are more important than the grades for the station.
“…the MTA board is currently scheduled to decide the fate of the Leimert Park station at theirJune 27 meeting, which is before the next Mayor takes office, so their positions on the station may be moot. The more revealing question regarding the candidate’s willingness to put their political capital on the line for the Crenshaw community is where do they stand on the 11-block Crenshaw tunnel,” said Goodmon. . “Both appear committed to making the Leimert Park station happen if it doesn’t in June, but there are key differences in Greuel and Garcetti’s written positions on the Crenshaw Blvd tunnel.”
In May of 2011, the Metro Board of Directors voted to approve the environmental documents for the Crenshaw Line which included grade separated light rail except for the 11 blocks between 48th and 59th. The Board also watered down an amendment authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the Crenshaw community, that would have required a station to be built at Leimert Park. The approved motion cleared the station environmentally, but didn’t require the construction to be part of the bids from companies.
In other words, if a contractor could build the station inside a budget designed not to build the station, it could be built. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared a victory. Journalists (myself included) were confused because a written copy of the amendment wasn’t available. The nearly 600 Crenshaw residents were not. They booed.
Wendy Greuel two days earlier.
Currently, the Metro Board is scheduled to approve a construction contract at their June 27 meeting, but has not released the details of said contract to the public. With the Mayor’s race decided next week, and the new term of office beginning July 1, the timing of the release and meeting just happen to relieve pressure on the candidates to make a decision.
Isn’t it funny how things work out that way?
As for the report card, the Coalition’s leaders felt that what Councilman Garcetti says in public and what he’s willing to commit to in writing are too different things.
Garcetti has said in multiple community forums that he “supports undergrounding the line,” but when the Coalition requested he put his verbal statements in writing the candidate added several conditions that he did not include in his previous statements at forums. You can read the letters from both candidates Garcetti and Greuel at this link, but here are the most relevant paragraphs. Note that both letters are signed by the candidates.
I have always supported under-grounding the line from 48th Street to 59th Street, and just as I have regarding the Leimert Park station, I have advocated for this throughout my campaign and as a longtime policy priority of my Council office. Under-grounding, however, is unfortunately not part of the current EIR. I will continue to advocate for under-grounding the line, and if elected will immediately confer with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and carefully assess new options to see how we can achieve this goal without delaying Line construction or impacting the completion of the Leimert Park station.
Greuel made a list of what she would do to support the Coalition:
1. Make the revitalization of Crenshaw a top priority of my administration by dedicating the financial and human resources critical to long term planning and community economic development to the corridor;
2. Champion the effort to ensure that the Crenshaw LAX Line project includes a station at Leimert Park Village and an underground tunnel along Crenshaw Boulevard from 48th Street to 59th Street;3. As soon as possible upon taking office as Mayor, direct staff to review the design options in the EIR/S as well as funding opportunities for undergrounding portions of the Crenshaw/LAX line, including the section of Crenshaw Blvd between 48th and 59th streets;
4. Work in consultation with the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and other stakeholders to ensure that South Los Angeles’ voices are represented on the Metro Board;
5. Demand that construction of the rail line minimize inconveniences to existing businesses and residents;
6. Include complete street elements in the implementation of the rail line in the community for a holistic approach to revitalization, including pedestrian and bicycle enhancements and streetscaping; and
7. Maintain an open dialogue and meet regularly with the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.
“As we clearly articulated, this is solely an issue of political will – nothing else,” said Goodmon.
As the election nears, both caucasian candidates are trying to reach out to the African American and Latino communities in an attempt to increase their bases of support. In this case, candidates sat down separately with 20 of the leaders and advisors of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition. The group included former elected officials, former candidates, economic development professionals, transit development professionals, business leaders, civil rights leaders and activists. There were supporters of both campaigns and those not publicly committed.
Whether these grades impact the final race is hard to say, but even without making an endorsement it’s clear which candidate the Crenshaw Subway Coalition feels has their issues closest to heart. And if the June 27 Metro Board vote is delayed, how the candidates and their appointees vote in July will give an early signal of how seriously the new mayor takes his/her promises on transit and transportation.