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Posts from the "Crenshaw Corridor" Category

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…