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Posts from the "Crenshaw Corridor" Category

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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.

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Funding for Leimert Park and Westchester stations on Crenshaw Line to be discussed in special City Council session on Wednesday

Evidently, Mayor Villaraigosa is putting his Measure R money where his mouth is.

Last Friday, the Los Angeles Sentinel reported that Villaraigosa had made a strong commitment to building a Leimert Park station on the upcoming Crenshaw Line — something that has long been demanded by local rail advocates and civic leaders, including County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

To many — myself included — the idea of a train line bypassing one of L.A.’s most vibrant and historic neighborhoods in the heart of South L.A. made no more sense than it would to bypass Pasadena or Century City.

Or LAX, for that matter, in a classic error the Crenshaw Line is being built to rectify, as least in part.

Now the city has reportedly identified $40 million in Measure R funds that could be used to build a Leimert Park station, as well as another $15 million for a station in Westchester.

As Curbed LA pointed out yesterday, the original concept for a Leimert Park station called for an underground design at a cost of over $130 million; the new $40 million price tag suggests that some major design changes are in the works. Or possibly, that they’ve found a contractor who is willing to build it for that price.

The matter will be taken up in a special session of the L.A. City Council at City Hall on Wednesday, beginning immediately after the regular session is concluded. Hopefully, we’ll learn more then.

Full details in this report from the City Administrative Officer on issuing Measure R bonds for the two stations.

MEASURE R BOND ISSUANCE- LEIMERT PARK AND WESTCHESTER RAIL STATIONS

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Crenshaw Subway Coalition Report Card Rates Greuel Higher Than Garcetti

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. Read more…

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Battle Over Crenshaw Line Gets National Nod from New York Times

At the press conference announcing the half billion dollar loan for the Crenshaw Line, Antonio Villaraigosa was surrounded with a multi-ethnic team of elected officials and union members. In today's piece in the New York Times, the battle over the Crenshaw line route and stations sets him against the interests of black South Los Angeles.

It was a rainy day on October 20, 2010, much like today. Days before her most recent re-election, Senator Barbara Boxer was in town, with USDOT officials in tow, to announce a $543 million no interest loan to expediate construction of the Crenshaw Line. At this point, it was all but official that the Crenshaw Line would be a light rail line. A parade of public officials that included Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Congress Woman Jane Harman and Boxer herself all took to the podium to praise each other and the Crenshaw Line.

Standing by one entrance to the park was Damien Goodmon, wearing a coat with a “Crenshaw Subway” sticker on, talking to whatever official had an ear to bend about his concerns. He shared a laugh with me that the location of the press conference was ironic, because the park we were standing in, the one that had been cleaned for the first time “in years” by city staff the night before, was not one that was going to get its own stop. We were standing in Leimert Park.

In May of 2011, the Metro Board of Directors made the route of the Crenshaw Line official. A light rail was selected, not a busway. But the hundreds of South L.A. residents in the audience left disappointed. The proposed station at the corner of Vernon and Crenshaw, the one that would serve Leimert Park, was listed as “optional.” Also, the rail light rail line would run at-grade down a portion of Crenshaw’s business district.

Today, the battle over the routing of the Crenshaw Line is as hot as ever. Today’s New York Times takes a look at the ongoing battle between black political leaders and the Crenshaw Community against Metro and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Ian Lovett’s article places the struggle over Crenshaw into a larger historical context of the struggles of South Los Angeles against transportation development that divides the community going back generations. After lamenting that Crenshaw was supposed to be different, Lovett talks to business owners who fear the line will be a step back, not forward.

“I appreciated that the article put our battle for the future of Crenshaw in a historical context,” writes Goodmon. “There is an unfortunate history of transportation projects devastating communities, particularly local black communities. It is what led to the federal environmental justice laws and the protected status of minority and low-income communities. Just within our coalition there are people who were displaced by freeway construction, and had their communities cut in half with the Blue and Expo lines. MTA has always had a choice to either return a little bit more of our tax dollars to make these projects the true asset and catalyst they can be for our community and region, or continue that ugly history. Unfortunately, they’ve chosen the latter.”

The Crenshaw Subway Coalition has had an eventful month. In addition to their apparently successful efforts to defeat the Measure J transit tax extension, they’ve also filed their opening brief in a lawsuit against the Federal Transit Administration and Metro at a time that is both crucial for the campaign and possibly for Villaraigosa personally.

“I like our trajectory as we head into possibly the most formative 6 months our our effort thus far,” concludes Goodmon. Read more…

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Crenshaw Subway Coalition Sees Opening in FTA Approval of Crenshaw Environmental Documents

As the second trickled away on the 2011 work year, the Federal Transit Administration issued its Record of Decision approving the environmental documents for the Crenshaw Light Rail Line.  The approval allows Metro to go forward with preliminary acquisitions and work needed to construct the line. It also makes the project able to receive federal funds, although most of the project is paid for with funds from the Measure R sales tax.

While both Metro Staff and staff for Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas have hailed the FTA’s decision as a “milestone,” one would expect the Crenshaw Subway Coalition (CSC) which is suing the project under environmental justice concerns to have an opposite reaction.

Instead, CSC President Damien Goodmon sees an opportunity for Metro and CSC to work together even as the community group’s lawsuit against the line moves forward.

While the FTA’s decision wasn’t popular with proponents of a grade-separated rail line, instead of railing against the decision, a decision that could be overturned by a federal judge, opens an opportunity for Metro to begin studying the proposed “subway option” for Crenshaw where the twelve blocks.

Now that Metro has its Record of Decision, it can continue on its current track while beginning a second track to integrate the tunnel Goodmon argues.  Assuming the tunnel is cleared, it would allow contractors to include the tunnel in construction bids, an option they currently have for “optional stations” in Westchester and Leimert Park.

“At the end of the day, it cost Expo Construction Authority more to fight us than it would have to put an overpass or underpass at Farmdale,” said Goodmon referencing his past battles over the Expo Line.  ”Metro shouldn’t repeat that mistake.”

Read more…

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Another Optional Station “Approved” by the Metro Board for Crenshaw Line

(Note: If you’re not familiar with the history of the Westchester Station, check out this City Watch article by Westchester Neighborhood Council Member Denny Schneider)

Click on the image to go to a pdf map of the Crenshaw Line. The half white arrow on the bottom left points to the optional station in Westchester

Let’s start with the basics.

The budget for construction of the Crenshaw Light Rail Line is $1.7 billion which will connect the Expo Line to the Green Line and eventually LAX.  The budget includes at least six stations.  Thanks to a new resolution passed by the Metro Board of Directors,the total number of “approved” stations has ballooned to eight, but the total funding still only guarantees six.

A coalition of community activists, Westside City Councilman Bill Rosendahl and County Supervisor Don Knabe scored a victory yesterday, when the Metro Board of Directors unanimously passed a motion “approving” a station in Westschester for the Crenshaw Light Rail line.  The Westchester station would be the farthest west station in the Crenshaw Corridor.

“I am thrilled to see that a Manchester/Aviation station will be included in the construction bids,” commented Rosendahl, who hosted an online petition to the Metro Board asking for the Westchester Station’s inclusion.  ”Hats off to Supervisor Knabe for his leadership and the Westchester community for their support.”

But for station supporters, the victory could ultimately be a hollow one.  Westchester residents were stunned to learn earlier this year that funding for the station was not included in Metro’s final project alternative and scrambeled to get the station included again.  Yesterday’s vote makes it possible for the station to be built, but doesn’t guarantee it.  While the resolution authorizes the station, it doesn’t require it.  Contractors bidding on construction can include the station in their bids, it wouldn certainly make for a stronger bid, but adding the Westchester Station isn’t a requirement to submit a bid. Read more…

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Crenshaw Subway Files Suit Against “MTA” Over Crenshaw Enviro. Docs

Csc v Mta Bs134507

Last week, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition filed suit against Metro alleging that the agency, referred to as MTA in court filings, alleging the agency violated civil rights and environmental laws in approving an at-grade route for the subway through Crenshaw Boulevard’s main retail district.

There are many complaints against Metro in the lawsuit, including, but not limited to:

  • Metro failed to comply with the information disclosure provisions of CEQA and failed to adequately analyze project environmental impacts
  • The environmental documents only examine the air quality impacts of construction, not the running, of the line
  • Metro failed to require all feasible mitigation and failed to consider an adequate range of alternatives.
  • Metro ignored community calls for  grade separation of the rail line that would have reduced the local impact
  • As designed, the project has a discriminatory impact on the African-American population in the project area.

As a “Thank You” for their efforts to speed up the federal review process of the Crenshaw Line, the FTA was named a “party in interest” to the lawsuit.  This doesn’t mean the FTA is being sued, but rather that as an agency that still needs to take action on the environmental documents under consideration for federal review, the agency has a unique and important interest in the project. Read more…

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FTA Chooses Crenshaw Line for Federal Fast Track, Will It Lead to Faster Start Date?

Will an expedited pre-construction process lead to a Leimert Park Station, more lawsuits, or moving up construction by a couple of months? Image: Crenshaw Subway Coalition

Yesterday, the White House announced that the Crenshaw Light Rail Line is one of fourteen projects nationwide selected to be part of an expedited federal review so that construction could proceed more quickly.  This announcement was met with praise from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Senator Barbara Boxer and County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.  Ridley-Thomas even went so far as to ponder whether accelerating construction could lead to enough funds becoming available to construct the Leimert Park Station that has been environmentally cleared but not funded.

Here’s the official announcement:

Crenshaw/LAX, California

The Crenshaw/LAX project will extend the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (LA Metro) existing Green Line light rail nearer to the Los Angeles International Airport and connect it to the Expo Line light rail.  The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is providing additional targeted technical assistance to shorten the approval time for this project by several months. In addition FTA and LA Metro will pilot FTA’s new streamlined risk assessment approach for major transit projects to ensure risks and associated mitigation measures are identified and addressed promptly.

“I am so pleased that the Obama administration has taken these steps to fast track the Crenshaw/LAX project, so that local communities will have access to improved transit service even sooner than expected,” said Boxer through a press statement.  ”The Crenshaw/LAX Project will provide many much-needed jobs in the construction industry, which has been hard hit in these tough economic times.”

The first question on everyone’s mind is, “how much time can actually be saved by this new process?”   Read more…

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Fearless Prediction: Lawsuits Coming on Crenshaw Line

The Crenshaw Subway Coalition has two major issues with the Crenshaw Line as it's current planned: the lack of a Leimert Park Station and a need for grade separation along Crenshaw Blvd. But their legal testimony focused almost soley on the grade-separation. Foreshadowing?

The Source had barely published its story highlighting the Metro Board’s decision to approve the environmental certification of a Crenshaw Light Rail line that may or may not have a Leimert Park Station and definately runs at-grade through the Crenshaw communities’ top retail corridor when I caught up to Damien Goodmon, the head of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition. His reaction was concise and clear, “The Metro board has had its say, now it is time for the community to have its say through the courts.”

And just like that, the countdown for a lawsuit on the Crenshaw line began.

The Crenshaw line would be 8.5-mile light rail project that will run along and under Crenshaw Boulevard, Florence Avenue and Aviation Boulevard. The line will connect the Expo and Green Lines and will pass through South L.A. and Inglewood. The budget for the project is over $1.7 billion, almost all of which is coming from the 2008 Measure R sales tax. It is scheduled to open in 2018.

The Crenshaw Subway Coalition worked closely with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to try and get the light rail grade separated for twelve blocks through Crenshaw’s downtown business district and a station to serve the Leimert Park Community earlier this year.  The Coalition was completely rebuffed on the first front, and got a strange “we’ll build the station if we can afford it” answer on the station.  However, there was not a unified front between the Coalition and Ridley-Thomas yesterday.  While Goodmon was threatening legal action against the EIR, Ridley-Thomas was waxing poetic about the struggle to bring world class transit to South L.A.

From The Source:

“This is a historic moment,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board member Mark Ridley-Thomas. “For 25 years, community leaders have worked to make a high-quality light rail line a reality. This was the dream of Julian Dixon, of Diane Watson, of Mayor Tom Bradley and many, many others. Today’s vote means we’re ready to start right away — not 15 years from now as originally was slated to happen…”

Meanwhile, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition is working with Raymond Johnson Esq.  The principal at Johnson & Sedlack, Johnson has a reputation as an accomplished environmental lawyer who doesn’t shy away from fighting the goliaths of the world whether the defendent was WalMart or local governments such as Orange County or and the San Bernadino Water District.

Read more…