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Posts from the "Damien Goodmon" Category

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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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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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Closing Argument: Damien Goodmon Talks Expo Safety at Farmdale Station

As part of a collaboration with Intersections, South L.A. I had a chance to speak with Damien Goodmon, the head of the Citizen’s Campaign to Fix the Expo Line.  While I jokingly refer to Goodmon as “my evil twin,” a reference to both some people getting us confused and his no-holds barred style of advocacy; I’ve come to respect him for relentlessly pushing his causes even though I don’t agree with him all the time. Of course, I’ve never been on the receiving end of one of his attacks.

On Monday, we were joined by Intersections’ film maker Molly Gray and we chatted about the campaign, lessons learned, the Crenshaw Suhway, and what are the next steps for the Citizens’ Campaign.  At one point (not included on the film) he stresses that it’s the Citizen’s Campaign to FIX the Expo Line, not defeat it.  In their view, there are still crossings that need to be improved before they can rest.

When asked about Farmdale Station, Ground Zero for the battle over grade crossings and safety, and whether he was happy with it, Goodmon gave a complicated answer, “Absolutely not. But it’s hard not to claim victory when you see what they were going to do at this intersection and others … I want to believe the kids are safer than they would have been. Safe would have been grade separating it.”

Intersections posted the video as well, feel free to join the conversation there as well.

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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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Ridley-Thomas, South L.A., Gearing Up for Fight Over…Light Rail Yards?

At first, it looked like a pretty innocuous motion on a Metro Board Planning and Programming Committee Agenda.  Item #19, passed quickly and unanimously by the committee, shuffles $170 million in funds dedicated towards Red Line expansion, partially from Measure R, to cover the “unmet costs” to complete the rail yards for Expo Phase II light rail cars.  (Note: As was pointed out in the comments section, the staff report says that the Southwest yard is for Green/Crenshaw Line cars, not Expo cars.)

Metro CEO Art Leahy, along with Mayor Villaraigosa and Supervisor Yaroslavsky, have been the target of South L.A. residents after they helped defeat a motion to fund a Leimert Park Station. Photo via Metro

At first glance, it’s a yawner of an agenda item.  Placed into a larger context, it’s a call to transit war.  And Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas and South L.A. community activists, activists who are apparently “lawyering-up,” are readying for battle.

Back at the May Metro Board Meeting, appointees of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa modified a resolution by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to move some funds that were dedicated towards other projects, including the Red Line expansion, to fund a station at Leimert Park and to complete the grade-separation of the Crenshaw Line.  The grade-separation was controversial, but the Leimert Park Station appeared headed towards passage until a replacement motion was put forward by former Assemblyman and Mayoral Appointee to the Metro Board Richard Katz.  The Katz motion called for the construction of the station, but only if it could be done within the confines of the existing $1.7 billion budget for the light rail line, a $1.7 billion that did not assume construction of the station.

The argument against the Ridley-Thomas motion was that it would create a bad precedence to move funds from one Measure R project to another.  South L.A. politicians and advocates were livid at what they felt was second-class treatment by the Board.   That resentment has simmered for almost two months, and this motion has only inflamed their ire.

Ridley-Thomas has written a strongly worded letter to Metro CEO Art Leahy (read it yourself, exclusively here at Streetsblog) asking this very question and Damien Goodmon, Chair of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and star of an article in today’s L.A. Times, is basically threatening the 30/10 aka America Fast Forward program if this proposal moves forward.

Ridley-Thomas writes: Read more…