Martin Luther King Jr. was invoked by US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx at the groundbreaking for the Crenshaw Line yesterday. (Photo from 2013 King Day Parade) Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
To say change is afoot in the Crenshaw/Leimert area might be the understatement of the year.
And, depending on who you ask, you might get very different perspectives on what kind of change you’re looking at.
For the elected officials and transit advocates who happily tossed ceremonial shovelfuls of dirt to mark the official groundbreaking of the $2 billion Crenshaw/(but-not-quite-to)LAX Line yesterday, that change is overwhelmingly positive. Officials spoke of the growth in jobs, investment in infrastructure, facilitating mobility for the underserved, easing congestion, and generating long-overdue economic opportunities for and investment in South L.A.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx even cited Martin Luther King Jr., saying the new line had the potential to free people from an “exile in their own land” by bringing jobs to the area and allowing people to work closer to home. With more time and income on their hands, they could invest more time in themselves, their families, and their communities. This “ladder of opportunity,” he continued, could give them the shot they needed to help them help themselves achieve the American Dream. (Feel free to visit The Source for full coverage of the event and to get your round-up of photos of people tossing ceremonial dirt).
That sentiment was one of the things Damien Goodmon and other supporters of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, who staged a protest nearby, took issue with. They are concerned that the above-ground portion of the rail line — between 48th and 59th — will do “irreparable harm” to the already struggling black-owned business district along Crenshaw.
And, they want the American Dream that Foxx was speaking of to materialize much sooner rather than later, in the form of more construction jobs on the line for members of the community.
Metro seems disinclined to entertain the demand to put the line completely underground (although a lawsuit on the subject is pending), and the jobs issue is one that they are still working out.
The Project Labor Agreement Metro signed two years ago requires that a sizable percentage of workers on any job be hired from within specific pools of “targeted workers.” For locally-funded projects, a minimum of 40% of project hours would have to be worked by local community residents. But, since nearly $546 million of the funding for the Crenshaw Line is from a federal loan, the search for hires must be national. So, while the conditions that 40% of work hours go to disadvantaged workers (those living within economically depressed zip codes or having at least two barriers to entry to the workforce) or apprentices apply to much of South L.A., the workers must be drawn from a national pool.
And while, thus far, Metro has been diligent in monitoring the extent to which contractors have been (mostly) compliant with hiring requirements, ensuring that jobs go to targeted workers (or even getting meetings with representatives of contractors Walsh-Shea, according to the Young Black Contractors) is still a challenge (see previous story on question of jobs here).
What the wider community thinks about with regard to the new line, however, seems to fall somewhere in between and be punctuated both by a lot of questions and some guarded optimism. Read more…