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Posts from the Crenshaw Corridor Category


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…


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…


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…


Denver’s East Corridor Rail Line: Colorado’s Airport Train to Leave Crenshaw-to-Near-LAX Project in its Prairie Dust

All images from Denver airport line reconstruction from the Denver RTD via Roger Rudick

All images from Denver airport line reconstruction from the Denver RTD via Roger Rudick

(Everyone remembers Roger Rudick, right? Good. – DN)

A half-mile from the front entrance of Denver International Airport, two prairie dogs popped up from their dusty burrows. They saw concrete ties, rails, and construction equipment for the East Corridor Rail Line, a commuter train project that will provide a one-seat ride from Denver’s Union Station directly into the airport. “We’re building a basic, meat-and-potatoes rail line—with 15 minute headways so people get from the airport to downtown fast,” explained Kevin Flynn, a spokesman for Denver RTD. “The train will use standard equipment. It’ll include level-boarding platforms to minimize station dwell time.

The multi-billion project is part of Denver’s “FasTracks” initiative, a sales tax imposed by voters in 2004. It is similar to Los Angeles’s 2008 “Measure R.” But unlike Measure R, FasTracks is entirely for public transportation expansion. All told, Denver, which has roughly one-fifth the population of Los Angeles, will build 122 miles of new train line. Los Angeles is building about 90 miles of new track.

Trains will take about 30 minutes from downtown Denver to the airport, with seven stops, at speeds near 80 mph—25 mph faster than Light Rail. Because the line will use standard, mainline equipment, there’s nothing to stop a future direct-to-the-airport Boulder service, or even a ski-train, from sharing the airport station, although Flynn said “we’re not currently planning that.” Read more…


The Leimert Station, While Welcome, Brings Uncertainty to The World Stage

Members of the community speak on behalf of The World Stage as Ade Brown (board president) and poet Conney Williams (on stage) look on. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

I looked at my watch and groaned inwardly.

It was now 8:20 p.m.

Although my spirit felt educated, nourished, and warmly embraced, my stomach was starting to shout unflattering obscenities and I could no longer ignore the loud complaints of my brain about the pile of work awaiting me at home.

I hugged artist, filmmaker, historian, and KAOS Network founder Ben Caldwell good-bye, bid adieu to another writer, got on my bike, and started the long pedal up Leimert Park Blvd. towards home.

How does this always happen to me here? 

I had gotten to The World Stage, a non-profit arts, education, and performance gallery on Degnan Blvd. in Leimert Park, at a little after four in the afternoon for their press conference and somehow ended up staying, chatting with, learning from, and trading stories with young poets, powerful female writers, veteran artists, and elder musicians for the next four hours.

That’s Leimert Park in a nutshell.

And, that’s what makes it special: there are few places in L.A. that are so welcoming, so rich in history and culture, and so inspiring all at once.

Which is exactly what the supporters of The World Stage had gathered to say earlier that afternoon. For so many aspiring or accomplished poets, writers, artists, and musicians from within the community and around the city, it represents “not a space, but a spirit,” and one they desperately want to see preserved.

At the moment, however, those who manage the space are concerned that it could be lost.

Within weeks of the May announcement that there would be a station at Leimert Park, Our Weekly reported that the buildings housing the World Stage and several other businesses along Degnan had been bought. Folks began receiving three-day “pay or quit” notices or hearing that their leases would not be renewed shortly thereafter, but were unable to figure out who the new owners were. While the property that houses The World Stage is managed by Clint Lukens Realty, the owners have yet to respond to requests for a meeting from the Board of Directors, and the realtors have apparently offered little information about who the new owners are. Read more…


Hope on the Horizon?: The Crenshaw Line and the Question of Jobs

The Crenshaw/LAX Line office on Crenshaw Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

At the Ready-to-Work rally on Saturday organized by the Black Worker Center, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas reassured the crowd of job hopefuls gathered in Leimert Park that the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) Metro had adopted in 2012 would ensure a portion of the jobs for the Crenshaw Line would go to the disadvantaged.

Said the L.A. Times:

“This is economic justice in real time,” said Ridley-Thomas, who serves on Metro’s board and was one of the most forceful proponents of the agreement. He promised to closely monitor hiring and received a round of applause after announcing that if mandates weren’t met he would look to “penalize” contractors or “declare them in breach of contract.”

The problem is, it isn’t clear that the disadvantaged hires — or any of the hires, for that matter — will be from L.A.

The agreement 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. A percentage of those workers would be disadvantaged (those living within economically depressed zip codes or having at least two barriers to entry to the workforce) or apprentices. Projects that have a federally-funded component must dedicate 40% of work hours to workers from disadvantaged circumstances, but must also draw from a national pool.

Therein lies the rub.

The fact that nearly $546 million of the funding for the Crenshaw Line is from a federal loan means that the search for hires must be national.

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 is still a challenge. Read more…


Does the Crenshaw Subway Coalition Have Enough Juice to Alter Metro’s Crenshaw Plans Again?

The dark yellow line marks the Crenshaw Light Rail route.

Yesterday, the Metro Board of Directors awarded the nearly $1.3 billion construction contract for the Crenshaw Line to Walsh/Shea Corridors Construction.

While the decision was unanimous on the dais, it was not a popular one in the room. Dozens of speakers spoke out asking the Board to not award a contract to anyone who would not tunnel for the Crenshaw Line through an 11-block segment between 48th and 59th streets through Park Mesa Heights. Some of those speakers were as young as seven years old, and testified that they worried that the train line would kill them.

The tag line for the Crenshaw Subway Coalition is “it’s not over until it’s under,” the same one used by the Citizens Campaign to Fix the Expo Line. The Expo Line Phase I literally has more bells and whistles and a station at Dorsey High School because of Fix Expo. But the Expo Line isn’t “under.” For all practical purposes, the Citizen’s Campaign is “over.”

So, with environmental documents, a contractor, and funding all in-hand, is the battle for Crenshaw “over?”

Not yet.

For one thing, the Campaign still has a lawsuit pending over the environmental documents. It is possible, although given Metro’s winning streak against these sorts of suits it is unlikely, that a judge could rule with the Coalition and force a new environmental review.

The Dodgers would love to go one for two these days.

It’s also possible that when Damien Goodmon, the leader of the coalition, finally gets his hands on construction bids submitted to Metro that include the “Park Mesa Tunnel” that a public outcry will compel Metro’s Board to put the brakes on the project. Goodmon has filed multiple public records requests to the transit agency demanding their release to no avail. Metro has all-but-admitted they exist. However, a new environmental impact report would be needed to construct the tunnel and they want to build it today.

And just days before the vote, a new argument against the Crenshaw Subway arose. An op/ed in the Morningside Park Chronicle, a weekly newspaper in Inglewood, charges that Metro plans to build a 30 foot wall sectioning off North Inglewood from the rest of the city.

The Board is set to approve a 30-foot high, 1/4-mile long concrete wall that will isolate north Inglewood from the rest of the city. This design change was not a part the EIR process and was never disclosed to the public. Metro’s position is that adding this wall is a minor change and will not impact the community in any way.

However, assuming that the lawsuit is not successful  there are two reasons why a publicity campaign may not have the same impact as the ones that brought about the Leimert Park Station for Crenshaw and the Dorsey High Station for Expo. Read more…


Major Blowback from City Council Members Over Leimert Park Funding Plan

Sometimes when things sound too good to be true... Image: Fix Expo

A new Metro Board report released to the public on Monday details where Metro found the $120 million needed to build the Leimert Park Station for the Crenshaw Line, and many people aren’t happy. In fact, Los Angeles City Council Members Paul Koretz and Bill Rosendahl are so unhappy, they introduced a motion yesterday that could force a new showdown over the oddly controversial light rail station. (The full motion is available on our Sribd account and available after the jump.)

The staff report recommends funding the station by moving Measure R funds from the Metro Call for Projects ($62 million), LAX airport connector ($48 million) and Wilshire Bus Only Lanes ($10 million) to pay for the station. The Call for Projects has traditionally been a place where “traffic reduction” projects including local bicycle and pedestrian projects are funded, as well as some less useful projects such as left-hand turn lane widening and other stealth capacity enhancements.

According to City Council staff, the report hit like a lightning bolt. They were never given a heads up from Metro that projects inside their districts could lose a large portion of their Measure R funds.

“I was totally blindsided by this, and we discovered this proposal not by a phone call from Metro but rather by reading the staff report,” writes Bill Rosendahl, the Council Member representing the LAX airport area and a portion of the Wilshire Bus Only Lane Corridor.

“The City of Los Angeles and Metro are here to serve the public and the public is not being served when a unilateral decision is made to deobligate $118 million in City of LA projects without so much as a phone call.  It’s my hope that Metro will step up and open a dialogue with my office and the rest of my Council colleagues so we can reach an agreeable solution.”

Last month, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas announced that funding had been “found” to build a train station in Leimert Park as part of the soon-to-be-constructed Crenshaw Line. The community and many transit advocates rejoiced. Two years earlier, the dream of a Leimert Park Station seemed denied when the Metro Board of Directors surprisingly passed a budget for the project that did not include the station.

For many transit and community advocates, the report raises new questions about whether the new station is worth the trade-off. The harshest condemnation of the report comes from someone who might, at first, seem an unlikely source.

“The Crenshaw Subway Coalition does not support the staff’s proposed financial plan,” writes Damien Goodmon, the executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition. “It has become clear over the past few weeks that Art Leahy and staff have made several illogical and indefensible decisions that have gotten the project to this point, and the financial plan is just the latest. We do not think our friends in the South Bay or Wilshire bus riders should be forced to compensate for the professional incompetence of Art Leahy and his staff.”

But not every transit advocate agrees. Read more…


Yes Virginia, there will be a Leimert Park station on the upcoming Crenshaw/LAX Line

It’s time to declare victory in the battle for a Leimert Park Metro station.

In an exceptionally fast-moving turn of events — by government standards, anyway — the Metro Board has voted today to fully fund what had been considered optional Crenshaw/LAX Line stations at Leimert Park and Hindry Ave.

The move comes just one day after the L.A. City Council voted to spend a total of $55 million in future Measure R fund for the two stations.

While the final battle rushed to a swift conclusion, the fight for a Leimert Park station has gone on since at least 2010, when Metro staffers originally rejected the idea of an underground station as too expensive, while offering too little benefit at an estimated $131 million.

That was followed by a second request for a Leimert Park stop from County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, which received a conditional approval — it would be built only if the entire 8.5 mile project, including the station, could be built out within the original $1.7 billion budget.

Yet that decision ignored the importance of Leimert Park, not just to the local community, but to the city at large. The area is the historic cultural heart of the city’s African American community, one of the largest black middle class communities in the U.S. And an area so vibrant that Wikipedia quotes filmmaker John Singleton as calling it “the black Greenwich Village.”

Not to mention one that could, and should, be a draw for day trippers and tourists from Southern California and around the world. But only if they have what they consider a safe, convenient way to get there.

Before this week, that didn’t look likely. Read more…

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Breaking news — Metro board votes to fully fund Leimert Park, Hindry stations on Crenshaw Line

Steve Hymon of the Source reports that the Metro Board has just voted 10 -1 to fully fund what had been considered optional Crenshaw/LAX Line stations Leimert Park and Hindry Ave.

The move comes just one day after the L.A. City Council voted to spend a total of $55 million in future Measure R fund for the two stations.

More details to follow.