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Posts from the Transit Oriented Development Category


Controversial Reef Project Approved via Consent Calendar; Residents Denied Opportunity to Engage Councilmembers

The massive billion-plus-dollar luxury housing and hotel project The Reef has planned for the corner of Washington and Broadway has the potential to anchor a major transformation of Historic South Central Los Angeles. Source: The Reef

The massive billion-plus-dollar luxury housing and hotel project The Reef has planned for the corner of Washington and Broadway has the potential to anchor a major transformation of Historic South Central Los Angeles. Source: The Reef

Putting on Your “Big Boy Pants” v. Putting Together a Good Project

“Let me take a minute to applaud Mr. Price for this incredible project,” First District Councilmember Gil Cedillo said as the Planning and Land-Use Management Committee (PLUM) began deliberations on the fate of the billion-dollar luxury residential and hotel project planned for 1933 S. Broadway in Historic South Central on Tuesday, November 1. “Because this is what real progressive change looks like!” [PLUM audio, agenda can be found here.]

As boos erupted from some in the crowd, Cedillo took aim at the residents who had stepped forward to testify about their fears of being displaced, “This is real! This is not a demand, or a slogan, or a chant,” he said dismissively.

“We can complain about” the fact that “this project doesn’t…cure cancer,” he continued sarcastically, but “five percent affordable [housing] where nothing exists? We’re told [this] is somehow a bad thing. I don’t see it that way.”

By his calculations, he said, The Reef’s $15 million contribution to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) would allow the city to extend affordability covenants on as many as 500 existing units at-risk of being converted to market-rate housing. Together with the City Planning Commission’s recommendation that there be approximately 26 on-site affordable units, he argued, that “represented a 37 percent affordability on this project” and made Ninth District Councilmember Curren Price someone who, “in [his] brilliance, in [his] leadership, in [his] genius,” had managed to “put on his big boy pants.”

This “vision of shared prosperity, not shared poverty” that Price had cobbled together, Cedillo concluded, had established a model process by which a developer and the community could work together to ensure “the rising tide will lift all boats.”

It was a shameful soliloquy of ignorance from a member of a committee tasked with making at least a minimum effort to assess the extent to which the benefits of a proposed project outweighed its potential harms.

It was also unsurprising.

On paper, The Reef sounds like a livability wet dream. The project proposes to transform two surface parking lots near the convergence of two rail lines into 1,444 units (549 of which would be for rent, including 21 live-work lofts), a 208-room hotel, ground floor restaurants activating the sidewalks, a grocery store, pharmacy, gallery, and fitness center in a community that has so few, a public bike hub (with showers) and improvements to the DASH service, an open plaza with gardens and outdoor performance spaces, and micro-enterprise spaces reserved for small businesses and entrepreneurs from the community. In a town where the housing crunch is so dire that the mayor has prioritized seeing 100,000 units permitted by 2021 and regularly sends out press releases tracking his progress on that front – what’s not to love?

Add to all this a Development Agreement (DA) and community benefits package featuring $15 million in contributions to the AHTF, 5 percent on-site affordable units, $3 million to fund health, safety, education, job training, and recreational programming in the community, street trees, a community garden, a local hire agreement, as well as (added in at the PLUM hearing) a community relations ombudsman, quarterly reporting on hiring and procurement to ensure accountability, and the promise the project won’t be flipped without permission from the city and payment of all community benefits first.

Then consider that few developers have been willing to take a chance on investing in South Los Angeles. And that even the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) once thought that the best South L.A. might hope for on those lots was a big box store and a surface parking lot, according to Reef attorney (and, conveniently, co-chair of the effort to revise the city’s outdated zoning code) Edgar Khalatian of Mayer Brown LLP.

If you knew only these things, you, too, might conclude that the councilmember and The Reef had taken a uniquely community-oriented approach to development.

A deeper probe into the way these agreements came together and the extent to which area residents are actually likely to benefit from these concessions, however, elicits a somewhat different set of conclusions.

The thoroughly cynical way in which both the developers and Price leveraged community benefits to play divisive racial and socio-economic politics, downplayed the magnitude, complexity, and urgency of the housing crisis in Historic South Central, and oversold the extent to which city’s affordable housing tools can actually address the needs of those most likely to be impacted by this project is profoundly troubling.

More troubling still is the precedent that such a project sets.

A massive luxury development catering to a well-heeled clientele doesn’t constitute a “win” for housing when it is situated on the edge of a neighborhood that is both one of the poorest in the city and the most overcrowded in the entire country. Nor it is a win when the developer’s “generosity” is not only an overt bid to avoid having onsite affordable housing but it also leaves a community bitter, divided, and more vulnerable than it was before. It is most certainly not a win when the entire reason such a massive project is viable is because of the extent to which decades of disinvestment and disenfranchisement of the community have depressed land values and stripped the community of political power. And it is absolutely not a win when such a project promises to not only change the character and composition of a historically marginalized community forever, but opens the door for other projects to do the same in similarly distressed communities in the name of revitalization.

With a City Council vote on the project hurriedly scheduled for today (Tuesday) (possibly to exempt the project from any conditions proposition JJJ might impose), it is imperative that the councilmembers fully understand what a vote in favor for this project means for the community and why.

With the City Council moving the project to the consent calendar this afternoon [and later approving it, when Paul Koretz arrived]* residents were essentially denied one last opportunity to engage elected officials on what a vote in favor of this project means for the community and why.

Read more…


L.A. Eco-Village Buying Property, Planning New Car-Free Mixed-Use Building

Interested party note: I, Streetsblog Los Angeles Editor Joe Linton, live at L.A. Eco-Village and am an owner in the Urban Soil/Tierra Urban housing co-operative. I don’t have any direct fiscal stake in the new development, but am nonetheless an involved party and very interested in seeing it improve my neighborhood. 

Los Angeles Eco-Village is purchasing its fourth building. The property, at present in escrow and expected to close in early September, is currently home to an auto shop with a very small cafe. LAEV intends to develop the site into a four-story mixed-use building. Eco-Village is seeking livability-minded investors to loan money to help purchase and develop the site.

L.A. Eco-Village is purchasing this site at the corner of First Street and Bimini Place in Koreatown. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

L.A. Eco-Village is purchasing this auto repair site in Koreatown. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.


The new property being purchased is at 3554 West First Street, at the corner of First Street and Bimini Place.

Sketch of development concept for new L.A. Eco-Village mixed-use building. Image via CRSP

Sketch of development concept for new L.A. Eco-Village mixed-use building envisioned for the site. Image via CRSP

The eco-village project is managed by a handful of non-profits which include the Cooperative Resources and Services Project (CRSP), the Beverly Vermont Community Land Trust (BVCLT), and the Urban Soil/Tierra Urbana housing co-op (USTU). CRSP is the organization spearheading the new purchase.  Read more…


Jobs or Housing? Historic South Central Residents Decry Feeling Asked to Choose by Billion Dollar Reef Project

Curren Price turned the town hall over to union representatives and representatives of the Reef after his opening remarks. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Ninth District Councilmember Curren Price (standing center left, brownish jacket) turned the packed-to-the-hilt town hall over to union representatives and representatives of the “creative habitat” known as the Reef after his opening remarks. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

THE NUMBER ONE THING that representatives from the “creative habitat” known as the Reef felt they had learned from engaging the community, Reef attorney Edgar Khalatian of Mayer Brown LLP, told the more than 600 town hall attendees this past May 5, was that Historic South Central was “lacking a sense of place.”

To give the community that sense of place it was lacking, Khalatian continued, the Reef’s developers were looking forward to providing South Central residents with places to go get dinner with the family or to have a cup of coffee. Important amenities like a grocery store, pharmacy, and bank. A bike hub that the community could access. Investment in a new DASH bus route and bike infrastructure on adjacent streets to enhance overall mobility. A plaza area that could host performances and be a place to hang out. An art gallery that would showcase art from local kids because “kids love to see their work” up on walls.

These amenities would “create a sense of place for the people in this room…” he reiterated, “for all of us to belong to.”

Place vs. Place-making
About half the people in that room – members of the South Central-based United Neighbors in Defense Against Displacement (UNIDAD) Coalition and their supporters – collectively shook their heads in dismay and, in some cases, disgust. This was language that danced around their concerns about displacement and the disruption of the networks that comprised the social and economic foundation of their community. It was also language that suggested the Reef would now be the one to define what “community” and “place” meant for the historic neighborhood they were moving into, not the other way around.

Worse still, these words were being spoken to members of a community that might just have the most powerful sense of place of anyone in the city, perhaps with the exception of Watts and Boyle Heights. True, they might be profoundly disappointed with the city’s long-standing neglect of their environs. But they have no shortage of pride in the neighborhood and the ability of its people to elevate culture, family, heritage, and community in the face of great disparity. That pride and the deep and enduring commitment so many in the room had to raising the community up from within is what has made South Central the unique place it is.

In describing the community by the sum of its amenities, or lack thereof, Khalatian and The Reef managed to underscore how disconnected they and the project were from the neighborhood itself.

It wasn’t the smartest way to kick off a nearly three-hour public meeting.

"No nos moverán" translates as "We will not move." The slogan was one of several held up by members of the UNIDAD Coalition who were concerned about the project's potential for displacement. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

“No nos moverán” translates as “We will not move.” The slogan was one of several held up by members of the UNIDAD Coalition who were concerned about the project’s potential for displacement. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

But it was, at least, consistent.

Despite the approximately 100 meetings the Reef says it has held with members of the community, the line of thinking laid out at the town hall appears unchanged from when news of the $1 billion mixed-use project first hit the cyberwaves two years ago.

“SoLA Village [the project’s controversial name at the time] will be about place-making,” Ava Bromberg, head of operations for the Reef, had told the L.A. Times in 2014 about the 1,444 residential units, 208-room hotel, 67,702 square feet of retail/restaurant use, a 29,255 square foot grocery store, 17,507 square foot gallery, and 7,879 square foot fitness center planned for the 1933 S. Broadway site. “With the Reef, we are turning creative space into more of a community and connecting that community to the surrounding neighborhoods.”

South Central was an area not generally “seen” by investors, she had continued, but perceptions about its creative potential could change, much like they had around Chelsea in New York or the now-thriving South of Market tech hub in San Francisco.

Source: Gensler + P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, July 2015 DEIR

Rendering of the project as it would sit at the corner of Broadway and Washington in South Central, Los Angeles. Behind it lies the most overcrowded neighborhood in the country–Historic South Central. Source: Gensler + P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, July 2015 DEIR

To an urbanist or a livability advocate, that approach might sound like it hits all the right notes: increased density via the transformation of surface parking lots, improved walkability and bikeability, transit orientation (the Reef also sits adjacent to a Blue Line station), “place-making,” a rebranding that encapsulates a future vision for the area, space for the creative economy to grow, an underlying goal of community-building – the works. Not to mention the project proposes constructing a significant amount of housing at a time when Los Angeles absolutely cannot build it fast enough.

But to a lower-income black or Latino resident of Historic South Central – a historically disadvantaged community with the distinction of having the most overcrowded housing in the country – that approach and its potential ripple effects present a much more complicated and far less rosy picture. Read more…


South L.A. Celebrates Slate-Z’s Promise Zone Designation; Prepares to Roll up Sleeves and Get to Work

The area of South Los Angeles designated as a Promise Zone encompasses Historic South Central, moves east along important rail and bus corridors to the Crenshaw District. Source: Slate Z

The area of South Los Angeles designated as a Promise Zone encompasses Historic South Central, moves east along important rail and bus corridors to the Crenshaw District. Source: Slate-Z

If at first you don’t succeed in winning the Promise Zone designation from the Obama administration, try, try again.

Wait – scratch that.

If at first you don’t succeed, take the initiative to change the federal government’s understanding of urban poverty. And along the way, commit to laying the foundation for long-term cross-sector collaboration on behalf of your community, regardless of whether you win the grant.

Yes, that’s much better.

And it’s a winning formula, if the announcement that South Los Angeles was named one of five urban Promise Zones yesterday is anything to go by.

The designation is a game-changer with regard to a community’s ability to access federal funding. While it does not come with an outright guarantee of federal money, it makes the process of accessing aid much easier by boosting the competitiveness of grantees’ funding applications. The added preference points given to applications from 2014 Promise Zone awardees Hollywood, East Hollywood, Koreatown, Pico-Union, and Westlake have yielded 42 new grants for a total of $162 million over the past two years. And by feeding into a coalition of cross-sector community-based organizations, educational institutions, and city agencies working together to tackle the root causes of multi-faceted problems, the wisdom goes, the dollars will bounce a little harder within the community and make the social infrastructure a little more sustainable.

A Promise Zone designation also comes with a dedicated federal staffer that will help a grantee navigate the grant funding landscape. Because HUD works in partnership with 17 other agencies on Promise Zone programs, that staffer is essential in making grantees aware of the opportunities for funding that are out there and sorting out which will help the grantee further its goals for the community. Five full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members will also be assigned to the grantee to offer technical assistance and build capacity.

Although it is a federal program, Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Nani Coloretti told the slew of elected officials, educators, and non-profit representatives gathered at Los Angeles Trade Tech (LATTC) for a breakfast celebration of the announcement Monday morning, the Promise Zone program aims to take its cues from communities.

It’s a claim that seems to have been borne out in this latest round of applications.

When members of the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z) collaborative sat down to ask themselves why they had been passed over as a Promise Zone in 2015, they were prepared to believe the problem originated on their end. Many had been bitter about South L.A. being ineligible to participate in the first round of competition for a Promise Zone designation the year before* and, in response, had declared they would aggressively pursue the designation in the second round. They submitted a strong proposal that year, but it still failed to score very highly with HUD. Was the proposal lacking focus? Had they been unable to convince HUD that South L.A. could thrive? Was it that HUD was reluctant to award a second Promise Zone to L.A. – a designation that lasts ten years – so soon after awarding the first?

Nope, the collaborative members were shocked to learn when they came together for a debrief. The fault seemed to lie with the way the federal government conceptualized urban poverty.

South L.A.’s own brand of poverty, marked by overcrowded housing, underemployment, and high rates of homelessness, apparently wasn’t scoring well when held up against expectations modeled on poverty seen in cities like Detroit (where high vacancy rates and high levels of unemployment are the norm). Out of five possible points on the housing section of the application, South L.A. had scored a “1.” The same was true with jobs.

The information galvanized the collaborative. Read more…


Manuel Pastor’s Recommendations for Metro’s 2016 Ballot Measure

Professor Manuel Pastor at yesterday's Move L.A. event. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Professor Manuel Pastor at yesterday’s Move L.A. event. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At Move L.A.’s Transportation Conversation 8 yesterday, USC professor Manuel Pastor had a list of recommendations for Metro as the agency seeks to finalize and pass its anticipated $120 billion November sales tax measure. For many years, Pastor has been an important voice for equity and justice. Adopting his recommendations would go a long way to truly embedding equity in coming decades of Metro expenditures.

Note: Pastor ticked off this list fairly quickly. I took notes and embellished slightly, adding some background. The good ideas here are Pastor’s; any improper embellishment is mine. 

1. Keep Fares Low

Pastor stressed that keeping transit affordable means it can serve those who truly need it. Interconnected with that, low fares are a big factor in minimizing declining ridership. Pastor emphasized that even small hikes, like Metro’s 2014 25-cent increase, can make lasting dents in ridership and can really harm the quality of life of low income riders.

2. Goal of No Net Displacement

Pastor outlined that Metro’s large construction projects can adversely impact the adjacent communities, displacing both residents and businesses. Pastor welcomed Metro’s programs to jointly develop affordable housing and to assist impacted businesses, but these are somewhat limited in scope. These programs are current Metro policies and practices applied only to selected projects. Pastor urged Metro to expand programs, including extending transit-oriented affordable housing assistance beyond just Metro-owned property. He urged Metro to make a robust commitment to prevent displacement in all significant Measure R2 projects.

3. Let All Students Ride for Free

Pastor urged that all students, from elementary to middle to high school through college, should ride Metro transit for free. Free. This is an investment in the education of the next generation. Pastor joked that young people want to spend their time texting anyway, but made the point that making transit available to students will ingrain transit ridership habits during Angelenos’ formative years, paying off in greater sustained levels of ridership as many students grow into transit-riding adults.

Read more…


Re:code L.A. Comes to Boyle Heights Saturday to Talk Updates to Zoning Code

Re:code presentation slide on the need to update the zoning code. Source: City Planning

Re:code presentation slide on the need to update the zoning code. Source: City Planning

Re:code L.A. is holding a forum in Boyle Heights Saturday (TOMORROW) morning from 9 a.m. to noon to talk with the community about the city’s $5 million, five-year effort to update its outdated zoning code.

I know.

That announcement did not set you on fire.

Believe me, I get it.

But you should still think about attending the forum or at least perusing the re:code website.

Here’s why. The zoning code was last fully updated (if that is even the right word) in 1946, when the scattered bits of code that had previously guided development were compiled to create a massive, somewhat unwieldy, and largely insufficient code for a growing suburban-style city.

As you might imagine, 1946 was a very different time in Los Angeles.

Anyone familiar with the history of planning and development in L.A. in the early part of the 20th century knows that policy tools were used both to enforce segregation (see also, here) and, as Occidental College professor Mark Vallianatos wrote in 2013, to create a more “horizontal” Los Angeles as a way

…to avoid some of the perceived ills of dense European and east coast metropolises. Policy makers, planners, voters, industry and real estate interests made choices around land use and infrastructure that enshrined the single family house, the commuter streetcar, and later, the automobile as the building blocks of L.A. Just as London, Manchester, and New York symbolized the scale and challenges of the 19th century industrial city, Los Angeles, with its sprawl and unprecedented car culture, was the “shock city” of the 20th century, a new way of organizing urban land.

Instead of remedying that orientation, since 1946, planners have been adding to the code in such a piecemeal way that the language and codes governing what can or cannot happen on a single property can be both confusing and contradictory.

The situation has gotten so bad that as much as 60% of the city is governed by special overlays and site-specific designations (qualified, tentative, and restricted uses). Meaning, according to re:code Project Manager and senior planner, Tom Rothmann, that 61% of city planning staff are currently dedicated to processing of cases and synthesizing competing regulations in order for development to be able to go through.

60% of city is subject to special overlays and site-specific conditions. (The darker brown areas). Source: City Planning

60% of city is subject to special overlays and site-specific conditions as well as different and sometimes competing sets of regulations. (The darker brown areas). Source: City Planning

Streamlining the code by creating a more flexible and appropriate web-based set of tools will help free up planning personnel to do more actual planning work. It will also make it easier for the end user to know what they can or can’t do with their property before they attempt to undertake that process.

So, the technical reasons for updating the code are more than justified. As is the decision to prioritize the code that will orient Downtown development toward supporting both job and residential growth as its complex set of neighborhoods and land uses continue to evolve.

But questions of how a modernized code will intersect with realities in the surrounding communities in such a way as to foster growth that is more transit-oriented, inclusive, innovative, affordable, healthy, and celebratory of culture and heritage are harder to answer. Read more…

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Tidbits from Urban Land Institute’s Transit-Oriented L.A. Conference

Transit Oriented L.A. 2015 opening keynote session: The Planning Report's David Abel (left) interviews Metro CEO Phil Washington (center) and CA High Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Transit Oriented L.A. 2015 opening keynote session: The Planning Report’s David Abel (left) interviews Metro CEO Phil Washington (center) and CA High Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Thanks to Urban Land Institute Los Angeles (ULI) for hosting its informative Transit Oriented L.A. conference yesterday in Little Tokyo. There were wide-ranging discussions at the standing-room only panels. Here are a few fun factoids gleamed from the day:

> Metro CEO Phil Washington asserted that many of Metro’s occasional critics will be forgotten by history. Washington asked “who remembers Fisher Ames?” Then explained that he was the statesman who argued against the Louisiana Purchase, arguing that $27 million was just too much to pay for about half of the land that now comprises the United States.

> Randall Winston, Acting Executive Director for California’s Strategic Growth Council announced a new technical assistance program designed to make sure that the state’s disadvantaged communities can better take advantage of Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) cap-and-trade funding. Winston highlighted the transit-oriented development (TOD) project at the MacArthur Park Red Line Station in his talk.

> Tunua Thrash-Ntuk, Executive Director of LISC, cautioned against using the term “place-making.” Little Tokyo is already a place. Leimert Park is already a place. Livability improvements may strengthen, improve, and sustain places, but don’t forget communities are already there.

> Attendees got previews of some commendable TOD projects underway in Los Angeles that may not be on SBLA readers’ radar. Two that stood out:
Washington 422, being developed by Meta Housing, is already under construction across from the San Pedro Metro Blue Line Station in South L.A. The mixed-use project, funded through state AHSC monies, includes 55 affordable housing apartments, retail, reduced parking, and adaptive re-use of a portion of the formerly industrial site.
Rolland Curtis Gardens, being developed by Abode Communities, is still in pre-development. Abode worked with T.R.U.S.T. South L.A. to develop this mixed-use project on Exposition just west of the Vermont Expo Line Station. Rolland Curtis Gardens will include 140 affordable units, reduced parking, and is expected to begin construction in 2016.

> County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas announced a new ULI report for improving livability at Leimert Park.

Streetsblog LA was proud to be a media sponsor for the Transit Oriented L.A. conference.


ACT-LA Coalition Calling on L.A. City for Equitable TOD Policies

The Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles rally at Grand Park yesterday. Photo by Laura Raymond ACT-LA

The Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles rally at Grand Park yesterday. Photo by Laura Raymond/ACT-LA

The Alliance for Community Transit-Los Angeles (ACT-LA)  hosted a rally to press for equitable and affordable Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in the city of L.A. The rally took place at Grand Park, directly across the street from City Hall. ACT-LA representatives made visits to Los Angeles City Councilmembers to encourage them to get the ball rolling on enacting new TOD policy.

Formed in 2011, ACT-LA is an alliance of more than 25 non-profit organizations working in the fields of affordable housing, economic development, environment, public health, social justice, and transportation. The full listing of ACT-LA member groups is available online; it includes many organizations Streetsblog readers may be familiar with: East L.A. Community Corporation (ELACC), Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), Little Tokyo Services Center, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Public Counsel, Southeast Asian Community Alliance (SEACA), Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), Pacoima Beautiful, Investing in Place, L.A. County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), and many others.

From the campaign website, ACT-LA’s goal is:

a citywide Transit-Oriented Development policy that:
– Prevents Displacement by ensuring a net gain of truly affordable housing in transit-oriented neighborhoods through enhanced incentives for affordable housing production and strengthened tools for affordable housing preservation;
– Increases Access to Jobs so residents of transit-oriented neighborhoods can live near their work;
– Preserves Community Assets and Culture;
– Promotes Healthy, Green, Walkable, and Bike-Friendly Neighborhoods; and
– Ensures Deep Civic Engagement of transit’s core riders and residents most vulnerable to potential displacement.

It is early in the campaign process, so there is no specific council motion or ordinance proposed.

In the past, there have been a few proposed TOD ordinances floated, but never adopted by the city. Mayor Villaraigosa issued a directive creating a Transit Corridors Cabinet to work on TOD planning and policy, but no broad and lasting policies emerged from it. The Planning Department has received Metro and county grants to do TOD planning along the Blue, Green, and Expo rail lines with little to no results in the way of adopted policies or plans. L.A. faces a housing affordability crisis, but efforts to foster density and affordability are sometimes stifled by various factors, from neighborhood resistance, to outdated plans, to a lack of resources. Meanwhile, Metro CEO Phil Washington has taken steps to align Metro policies and resources to foster development of Transit-Oriented Communities.

Will the stars align for ACT-LA’s campaign for equitable TOD? It will take a smart campaign and plenty of pressure and persistence to change L.A.’s outdated TOD policies. ACT-LA’s broad coalition of effective community groups is just what is needed to make this happen.


October Metro Committee Meeting Updates: Bus Service, TOC, Measure R2

Metro's Transit Service Policy Update is summarized in this presentation [PDF]

Metro’s Transit Service Policy Update lays the groundwork for a frequent bus service network, expected in July 2016. Changes are summarized in this presentation [PDF].

The Metro Board of Directors held its monthly committee meetings this week, in advance of next Thursday’s board meeting. Below are a handful of news bits gleaned from this week’s committee meetings. Final decisions still need to be approved by the full board next week.

Frequent Bus Service Network

Metro’s System Safety, Security and Operations Committee approved a new 81-page “2016 Transit Service Policy” document [PDF]. The changes are summarized in this presentation [PDF]. The document primarily lays the groundwork for implementing the not-yet-well-defined Frequent Bus Network, also known as the Strategic Bus Network Plan (SBNP.) SBLA analyzed the draft network proposal in this earlier article.

There are two main policy changes in the new Transit Service Policy. Both were recommended in Metro’s March 2015 American Public Transportation Association review:

  • Increase Load Factor: Load factor measures how crowded buses are. Currently Metro has a single load factor for all bus service; buses (at least as scheduled/planned at peak) hold 1.3 times their seated capacity. That means that generally 23 percent of riders are expected to stand at peak hours. The agency is adopting a new standard that it characterizes as “wait a long time: get to sit down.” It is a more complex standard that takes into account frequency of service. Peak service load factors increase to 1.4, meaning 29 percent of peak hour riders can expect to stand. This is a somewhat delicate balance to strike. Transit expert Jarrett Walker emphasizes that maintaining a low peak load factor is costly. On the other hand, overcrowded buses can become so full that they pass by waiting riders.
  • Eliminate Bus Stops: Metro reports that, over the past five years, average bus speeds have declined from “12 mph to less than 10.91 mph.” One low cost way to address this is to eliminate stops, especially local bus stops that are close together. See this earlier SBLA article on the benefits of bus stop thinning.

As this earlier SBLA article outlines, many questions remain regarding the SBNP, especially regarding canceling lines that may be picked up by municipal bus operators, including Foothill Transit and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus. The timeline specified in the presentation shows Metro detailing service changes in December, and holding hearings in February 2016, for a planned implementation in July 2016.

Map of planned new North Hollywood to Pasadena freeway bus. Image via Metro.

Map of planned new North Hollywood to Pasadena freeway bus. Image via Metro.

New NoHo-Pasadena Express Bus Line

Metro’s Operations Committee approved $784,000 to fund a new North Hollywood to Pasadena express bus, connecting the Orange and Red Lines with the Gold Line.  The new freeway bus line will be called Line 501. It is expected to begin a 180-day pilot at the same time that the Foothill Gold Line opens in the Spring of 2016. The route roughly parallels LADOT Commuter Express line 549, which operates only on weekday peak hours. Additional details in Metro staff reports.

Read more…

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Metro Board Passes Ridley-Thomas Motions: Loan Fund, College Student Pass

California's Strategic Growth Council has awarded the city of Los Angeles a half-million dollar grant for a study that will make it easier to build infill housing in Transit Priority Areas, similar to this transit-oriented development above the Metro Red Line Wilshire/Vermont Station. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Under a motion passed today, Metro will provide loan support to transit-oriented businesses, such as this ground-floor retail above the Metro Red Line Wilshire/Vermont Station. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At this morning’s Metro Board of Directors meeting, County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas shepherded the passage of two worthwhile motions that advance local livability. The motions are detailed below:

Community College Student Passes

The board unanimously approved a Ridley-Thomas motion that directs Metro’s CEO to report back in 60 days regarding current college TAP programs and the feasibility of piloting a “Universal Community College Student Transit Pass Program.” Benefits of these types of programs include increased transit ridership, reduced driving, and reduced traffic congestion.

It is not clear how student passes would be funded, though the motion includes a number of possible funding options:

In addition to the “opt-in” increase in student registration fees, the costs of such a program could be subsidized by the college, as it will reduce parking demands. In addition, Metro could solicit additional resources through the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee. Later this Fall, the Metro must also provide a proposal to the State of California on how we propose to spend approximately $30 million of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund/Low Carbon Transit Operations Program revenue that is expected to be allocated to the agency through the State’s Cap and Trade Program; a revenue source that is anticipated to grow in the coming years. Given the focus on increasing ridership, this may also be a viable funding source for a Universal Pass program.

Transit-Oriented Housing/Business Loan Fund

As a result of a November, 2014, motion authored by then-Chair L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, as well as the leadership of new CEO Phil Washington, Metro is stepping up its involvement in affordable housing. Among recent developments on this, Metro has upped its targets for affordable housing in joint development projects, and retooled its development policies to allow discounted land prices to incentivize affordability. In March, Metro set aside $10 million ($2 million per year for five years) for a loan fund primarily supporting transit-oriented affordable housing. The way this fund will work is still taking shape.

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