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Posts from the "Crenshaw Corridor" Category

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Leimert Park People St. Plaza Set for Soft Opening at December CicLAvia

Detail of People St. Plaza plan and the Sankhofa symbol -- one of many designs that stakeholders hope to use to fill the polka dots that will grace the plaza. Plaza design: Kendall Planning + Design

The People St. Plaza plan for 43rd Pl in Leimert Park and the Sankofa symbol — one of many designs that stakeholders hope to use to fill the polka dots that will grace the plaza. The Metro station for the Crenshaw Line will be just a few hundred feet away. Plaza design: Kendall Planning + Design (click to enlarge)

On my way to a meeting of the Leimert Park Village stakeholders at the Vision Theater a few weeks ago, I poked my head into the art space known as the KAOS Network looking for founder and artist Ben Caldwell.

I found him huddled around a table with Sherri Franklin, the founder of Urban Design Center, and Alison Kendall, Principal Architect at Kendall Planning + Design (both of whom worked on the project pro-bono), finalizing the designs for Leimert Park’s People St. plaza project to be implemented at 43rd Pl. between Leimert Park Bl. and Degnan.

As Kendall and Franklin discussed the color scheme and the type and placement of street furniture and foliage around the perimeter, Caldwell scrolled through images of symbols that they hoped to use to fill in the polka dots that would grace the plaza. It was coming down to the wire, Kendall said, as she flipped through the pages of the plan. They needed to get their design specifications in to LADOT for approval so that the plaza would be ready in time for a soft opening at CicLAvia on December 7.

Watching them go back and forth over which elements would fit within LADOT’s standard kit offerings provided a hint of the effort it had taken to pull the proposal together.

Stakeholders had first needed to find a “community partner” (in this case, the Institute for Maximum Human Potential) who could provide insurance for the plaza, aid with the design, and take responsibility for the financing, maintenance, and programming around the project. Then they needed to gather signatures and letters of support, pull together a budget and list of potential plaza-centric activities, and design the space in a way that felt organic to the community but fit within the standard options that LADOT was offering (see more about the development of the project and the Thought Leadership Team here).

While they had embraced the idea of putting together a People St. project, they had been adamant that they wanted it to reflect the character and culture of the community. It also had to fit into their “20/20 Vision” — the longer-term strategy for the future named, in part, for the year the Leimert Park station of the Crenshaw Line is expected to open. Read more…

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Motion to Move Forward on Rail-to-River Bikeway Project up for Vote Thursday

The tracks at Crenshaw, looking east. Sahra Sulaiman/StreetsblogLA

The ROW which would form part of the Western Segment of the proposed Rail-to-River bikeway. Photo taken at Crenshaw, looking east. Sahra Sulaiman/StreetsblogLA

In a motion before the Metro Executive Management Committee last Thursday morning, County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas cited the successful “transformation of unused or abandoned rail right-of-ways into pedestrian access and bicycle routes” around the country and here in L.A. as support for his call that the Board direct Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy to move forward on the recommendations found in the 212-page feasibility study on the proposed Rail-to-River Bikeway.

Sited along an 8.3 mile section of the Harbor Subdivision Transit Corridor right-of-way (ROW), the project would connect the Crenshaw/LAX rail line to multiple bus lines (including the Silver Line), the Blue Line, the river, Huntington Park, Maywood, and/or Vernon via a bike and pedestrian path anchored along Slauson Ave.

Screenshot of proposed bikeway corridor. Phase 1 (at left) represents section that Metro could move on immediately. Phase 2 would proceed more slowly, as Metro would need to negotiate with BNSF to purchase the ROW.

The proposed bikeway corridor. Phase 1 (at left) represents the section of the corridor that Metro could move on planning for immediately. Phase 2 (at right) would proceed more slowly, as Metro would need to determine which routes were most appropriate and negotiate with BNSF to purchase a section of the ROW. (Source: Feasibility Study)

The active transportation corridor (ATC) project, first proposed by Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor and Metro Board Member Gloria Molina in 2012, has the potential to effect a significant transformation in a deeply blighted and long-neglected section of South L.A.

So, it was not surprising to see Ridley-Thomas ask that, when the full Board meets this Thursday, October 23, at 9 a.m., it approve his motion directing Leahy to identify and seek funds from Measure R, Cap and Trade, and other sources to facilitate the environmental, design, and outreach efforts recommended by the Feasibility Report.

Even though Ridley-Thomas’ strong support for the project was expected, the motion to move it forward still made me sit up a little straighter.

When I attended the two public meetings held on the corridor project, representatives from both Metro and Alta Planning + Design (consultants on the project) were firm in their suggestions that we not get our hopes up too high. There was no funding attached to the project, they said, and they were only looking at questions of feasibility. These were also the reasons, I was told, for the limited outreach and engagement of the neighbors that live along the corridor.

Not to mention that including the community might have brought other problems with it. Read more…

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Construction Updates, the Naming of Stations, and More at Tonight’s Meeting on the Crenshaw Line

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 10.53.06 AMThe Crenshaw Leadership Council (CLC) will be holding their quarterly meeting on the progress of the Crenshaw/LAX line tonight from 6 – 8 p.m. at Dulan’s on Crenshaw (4859 Crenshaw Boulevard).

The meeting will provide updates from the work of the small groups, or PODs (Project Oriented Discussions), the CLC supports — Small Business Resources, Economic Development, Transit-Oriented Development, and Safety.

You will also have the opportunity to learn about Metro’s station naming policy and offer feedback on the station names currently under consideration. Should the stations be named after a neighborhood? A landmark structure? A historic figure? A living one (don’t laugh — Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky might just get their own stops)? Drop by the meeting to offer your thoughts and get some soul food while you’re at it.

Finally, the meeting will provide updates on construction, including the upcoming 2-week closure at Crenshaw Bl. and Rodeo Rd. Read more…

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Metro Round-Up: LAX, Open Streets, New Reps on Technical Committee

Concept rendering for new LAX rail station. Green Line and Crenshaw Line light rail  run at grade, below future "automated people mover." Image via Metro staff report

Concept rendering for new LAX rail station at 96th Street and Aviation Bo. Green Line and Crenshaw Line light rail run at grade (visible in the middle right), below future “automated people mover” (visible in the upper right). Image via Metro staff report [PDF]

At yesterday’s Metro Board Meeting, directors approved a handful of initiatives that have great implications for the future livability of the Los Angeles Region. Here is the re-cap:

Technical Committee Adds Pedestrian and Bike Representatives

The Metro Board approved adding two new active transportation representatives to the agency’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). In addition to new TAC members representing bicycle and pedestrian transportation experts, the motion [pdf] approved yesterday also added a non-voting public health representative.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) and Safe Routes to School National Partnership have pushed for long-overdue Metro TAC expansion. The TAC includes a representative from the Automobile Association of America, but no one advocating for active transportation. Earlier this year, Streetsblog previewed TAC expansion. Since that earlier article, the somewhat half-hearted proposal was strengthened by a March 2014 motion from Metro boardmember Mike Bonin.

Here’s what the LACBC’s Eric Bruins had to say about yesterday’s Metro board action:

It’s about time for Metro to embrace multi-modalism throughout the culture of the agency, including their advisory committees. This committee is involved in the nuts-and-bolts of decision-making at Metro, so it’s important to have people at the table constantly viewing agency actions through a lens of how they impact walking, biking, and public health throughout the county.

Open Streets Events Expanding Throughout L.A. County

SBLA covered the expansion of CicLAvia-type open streets events when Metro staff recommendations were circulated about a month ago. As LongBeachize previewed, representatives from the city of Long Beach attended the Metro Board meeting, expressing their concerns over Metro’s selection criteria. Metro awarded funding to only one event to each applicant city before funding any additional events hosted by the same city. Proportionally, this puts the cities of Los Angeles (population 4,000,000) and Long Beach (population 500,000) on equal footing with Lawndale (population 34,000) and Culver City (population 40,000). (Population figures here.)

Though Metro board member John Fasana expressed that Metro should “re-tool” in future open streets funding cycles, the board approved the staff recommendations unchanged. Lots more ciclovías coming to lots of neighborhoods over the next couple years!

Rail Connection with LAX Approved

Despite boardmember Mike Bonin expressing some concerns (including very low ridership projections, a focus of this L.A. Weekly article) at last week’s Metro Programming Committee meeting, yesterday’s LAX approval went very smoothly. The Metro board approved a preferred alternative for connecting rail to LAX. It’s a new rail station, located at 96th Street and Aviation Boulevard, where LAX-bound riders can board an Automated-People-Mover (APM). Depending on operations decisions, still to be determined, the new station will serve the existing Metro Green Line, Metro Crenshaw Line (under construction) and possibly even Expo Line trains via Crenshaw. (Editor’s note: this would be way in the future – there are no current plans to connect Expo and Crenshaw tracks.) Both Mayor Garcetti and Bonin stated that they expect the 96th Street Station to be more than just a transfer point, but indeed a full-featured world-class gateway to Los Angeles.

With the LAX connection conceptually decided, there’s still lots of environmental studies, design and operation decisions, finalization of features that will be designed/built by LAX itself, and about a decade of construction before the riders can experience it.  Read more…

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And So It Begins: Crenshaw Sees Major Street Closure and Reconfiguration Starting Friday Night

A boy walks past the staging area for the Crenshaw Line at Crenshaw and Exposition. Recently erected sound barriers can be seen along Exposition. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

A boy walks past the staging area for the Crenshaw Line at Crenshaw and Exposition. Recently-erected sound barriers can be seen along Exposition. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Taking shelter from the hot mid-day sun bearing down on Crenshaw Blvd., I struck up a conversation with a security guard that had worked in the area for a number of years.

As we surveyed the evolving stretch of the boulevard sprawled out before us, we talked about the pending Friday night closure of the boulevard between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Stocker St. for reconfiguration, the new “District Square” development slated for the site at Rodeo and Crenshaw, and the fact that Crenshaw Square, a massive structure hosting a number of local businesses just south of the District Square site, was for sale.

The guard said he had high hopes that the changes would be positive and help people get to know the area. He wanted them to see what he saw, which was that “this is a nice neighborhood with nice people.”

No one is really sure what kind of transformation the new rail line will bring when it finally opens in 2019. But, they do know that they will have to navigate their way around a lot of construction in the meanwhile.

Much noise has already been made about the impact the removal of 150 trees will have on the community.

Trees come down along Crenshaw Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Trees come down along Crenshaw Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

But, this weekend, in particular, promises to be a bit chaotic, as Metro undertakes its first major (but very temporary) street closure. Read more…

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Plaza 2.0: When People St. Plaza Projects are More Than Just Plaza Projects

The future site of Leimert's proposed plaza. 43rd Pl., runs in front of the KAOS Network artspace (on the corner), the Vision Theater (under renovation) and, to the left of the ficus tree, Mark Bradford's film/art/community space (under construction). Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The future site of Leimert’s proposed plaza, 43rd Place, runs in front of the KAOS Network art space (on the corner), the Vision Theater (under renovation) and, to the left of the ficus tree, Mark Bradford’s film/art/community space (under construction). Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The request that I sign the petition for Leimert Park Village’s People St. plaza application that landed in my inbox the other day made me smile.

Of all the places in the city I can think of, 43rd Place is probably the most appropriate place for a plaza project and the most likely to be able to replicate some of what makes a space a plaza.

For one, the wide and quiet street, running alongside a sizable park space that already plays the role of public square and anchor of the monthly artwalk, will serve as the welcome mat for several important community arts spaces and galleries (see more about that here, here, and here).

As such, it has the potential to serve as a special-occasion spillover space for those venues, doubling as a temporary performance space, outdoor gallery space, or fitness space (capoeira, zumba, yoga, etc.), or play host other creative endeavors.

Mask festival procession in honor of the ancestors in Leimert Park. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Mask festival procession in honor of the ancestors in Leimert Park. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Second, the variety of programming an arts-heavy community offers can draw multiple generations of families. Events including the art walk already have a family-reunion sort of feel to them, as it is. More space to test out interactive street furniture, jump rope, or just play can enhance those events and keep the plaza active in between formal happenings.

Third, located within spitting distance of Crenshaw Blvd. — a newly designated “Great Street” — and the coming Metro stop, it will likely serve as an important rest and/or contemplative spot for those exploring the neighborhood.

For these reasons and more, community members have voiced a strong desire to see the creation of a permanent installation that celebrates the area’s cultural and architectural/art deco heritage while also reflecting their hopes for its future as a creative district.

The Sankofa Passage along Degnan St. is adorned with the names of important African-American artists. Their names are surrounded by symbols used to brand slaves. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The Sankofa Passage along Degnan St. is adorned with the names of important African-American artists. Their names are surrounded by symbols used to brand slaves (and a Sankofa in each corner). Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

It is an approach that puts them slightly at odds with the People St. framework, which offers year-long renewable permits for communities looking to install plazas, parklets, or bike corrals in their neighborhoods, and has a limited menu of standardized design options intended to make the permitting and implementation processes easier. While the program supports the eventual conversion of the installations into permanent fixtures, the initial project itself must be designed as if temporary (i.e. no permanent furniture or public art).

Cognizant of the limits of the program, but still thinking longer-term, the stakeholders appear ready to find the resources to fill in the gaps between what the city can offer and what they need to adequately showcase their community.

They’ve done this sort of thing before.

In late 2007, a five-year effort came to fruition in the form of the Sankofa Passage along Degnan Blvd. (running perpendicular to 43rd Pl.).

The block-length walk is embedded with the names of important African-American artists, stamped with folk art animals, and graced by terracotta African-style planters. The Sankofa birds — Akan (Ghana) symbols signifying the importance of carrying wisdom from your past with you as you move forward — and the slave brands emblazoned around the names of the artists effectively remind you of where you are and who walked before you. Read more…

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Editorial: Why Raise Fares When Metro’s Building Even More Free Parking?

Foothill Gold Line's Azusa-Alameda Station not-so-innovative site plan - 200 more parking spaces coming on line next year. Source: Gold Line Construction Authority website

Foothill Gold Line’s Azusa-Alameda Station site plan means 200 more surface parking spaces due to open in 2015. Source: Gold Line Construction Authority website

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an editorial asking Why Raise Metro Fares While Giving Away Metro Parking? At the time, I totaled parking for Metro’s BRT and rail lines at 19,450 parking spaces. Despite Metro’s plan to increase transit fares, the agency has no plan to increase parking charges. Metro gives more than 9 out of 10 spaces away for free. I did a conservative estimate of Metro’s parking revenue potential to be at least $3.5 million per year.

Turns out that it gets worse. Or better, depending on your point of view.

Metro’s building lots and lots of lots.

There are 2,435 more Metro parking spaces under construction. When the Gold Line Foothill extension opens in 2015, Metro will break the 20,000 mark with 1,525 new parking spaces. Also in 2015, Expo phase 2 will add 580 new parking spaces. In 2019, the Crenshaw Line will add 330 new parking spaces.

Metro’s overall total rail/BRT parking spaces will climb to 21,885. Using the same very conservative assumptions, I estimate that, with the additional spaces, Metro’s parking revenue potential will be at least $4.3 million per year.

After the earlier article, via Twitter and via the Source, Metro responded with the “doesn’t go far enough” argument:

Of course, $3.5 million doesn’t cover the projected budget shortfalls that Metro is projecting and using to justify the fare increases (the shortfalls begin at $36 million in FY 2016 and then rise).

I’ve always found this sort of assertion to be disingenuous. It’s sort of like being in a boat that’s leaking in five places, and refusing to fix one hole, because it doesn’t fix all of them at once.

Read more…

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So, Ground Has Officially Been Broken for the Crenshaw Line. What Does That Mean for People in the Area?

Families along Martin Luther King Blvd. celebrate at the King Day parade last year. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

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…

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Dear Santa, Please Bring Us an Active Transportation Corridor Along Slauson. But Don’t Forget the Community in the Process.

The Slauson corridor that runs through South L.A. is not as empty as we imagine. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

The Slauson corridor that runs through South L.A. is nowhere near as empty as people passing through might imagine. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

If you’ve ever driven or ridden the bus along Slauson Ave., you are familiar with how much of a wasteland the corridor appears to be.

Flanked by industry or warehouses on either side for much of its trajectory, and running parallel to defunct and unkempt railroad tracks that are liberally adorned with debris, graffiti, and enormous mud puddles when it rains, it doesn’t seem like the most human-friendly place.

And, if you’ve ever felt reckless enough to ride the street on your bike, you would probably attest to that observation. There is no shoulder, traffic moves fast, regardless of the time of day, and on the north side (along the tracks), the road can be rough on your tires and quite dark at night.

Empty and desolate as it may appear to be, however, Slauson actually slashes its way through a series of neighborhoods that are chock full of families. You just don’t see much evidence of them thanks to the 30,000+ cars, buses, and trucks that rumble through there daily, lack of mid-block crossings and other pedestrian infrastructure, poor lighting, graffiti, and general filthiness of the corridor. The unhealthy and unsafe conditions serve as yet one more strike against community cohesiveness by discouraging residents from being out and about in their neighborhoods.

The bike and pedestrian paths would run along the Harbor Subdivision tracks, starting just north of Vernon, at Washington, heading south parallel to Santa Fe, heading west at Slauson, and taking a turn southward near Western. It would end at the Crenshaw Line stop at Florence. (map taken from 2008 Harbor Division study)

The bike and pedestrian paths would run along the Harbor Subdivision tracks (in black), starting at Washington, heading south parallel to Santa Fe, turning west at Slauson, and taking a turn southward near Western. They would end at the Crenshaw Line stop at Florence (map taken from 2008 Harbor Subivision study).

So, it is incredibly exciting to know that plans are slowly moving forward on the proposal of County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Gloria Molina to convert the 8.3 mile corridor between Huntington Park and Crenshaw into an active transportation corridor.

Not just because transforming the right-of-way along the tracks into bike and pedestrian paths would make passage safer for the thousands of people who want to connect to transit in the area (i.e. the Vermont/Slauson stops see more than 3700 boardings per day).

But because, if built with the surrounding community in mind, it could be a tremendous boon to those who must traverse the corridor on a regular basis and who have few safe and welcoming recreational spaces available to them.

With those aspirations in mind, I attended the first public briefing announcing Metro’s feasibility study for the project last Thursday.

I came away with somewhat mixed feelings. Read more…

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Can a Re-Purposed Pay Phone Stave Off Gentrification in Leimert Park?

Artist Rudy Rude speaks about the design of the Leimert Phone Company’s prototype at the launch in Leimert Park on Saturday. Ben Caldwell, founder of the KAOS Network, stands to the right of the phone. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Gesturing towards the re-purposed pay phone prototype, KAOS Network founder Ben Caldwell said he looked at the Leimert Phone Company project as a way to exact “a handshake between 20th century objects and 21st century objects.”

Just because we were living in an era of rapid change, he continued, there was no need to throw the babies out with the bathwater or cut all ties to what came before.

It was an apt metaphor for where Leimert Park finds itself at this moment.

The area has undergone significant changes in recent years, some of which have been hastened by the speculation (and, finally, confirmation) that the area would host a train station along the new Crenshaw Line.

While the station will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood, many fear that gentrification, rising rents, and developers will push out the very people and culture the station was intended to showcase. You can already find a number of empty storefronts around the plaza in buildings that were recently purchased by developers and important cultural and artistic hubs like The World Stage are struggling to scrape together funds and support so they can stay where they are.

All of which is what makes the Leimert Phone Company project — a unique collaboration between USC, the KAOS Network, and artists from Leimert Park — so timely.

When I first connected Caldwell with Professor François Bar of USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab at a get-to-know-you meeting at USC last year, it was in the hopes of setting up a collaborative spoken word bike- or walking-tour-cum-mapping project of Leimert Park. I knew that Caldwell, an artist and filmmaker with a love for history and a unique ability to bridge past and present, had long been interested in recording the stories of the area. Meanwhile, Bar and his team had only recently concluded a community-based assets-mapping project in Watts. While the final output — a colorful map — hadn’t necessarily led people to see their neighborhood in a new light, as the team had hoped, I found the community-specific map to be an incredibly useful tool for starting conversations about people’s longer-term aspirations for their communities or inviting them to participate in community bike rides.

I figured that, together, Caldwell and Bar might be able to create something along the lines of a digital map populated with artists’ interpretations or recollections of particular locations and tours that could be built around site-based performances. Such a project, I hoped, would help capture the essential culture and history of the place in the voices of those who lived it, while giving outsiders the context they needed to explore and appreciate the neighborhood.

Clearly, I wasn’t thinking big enough. Read more…