Is Solair Really Transit Oriented Development?

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Yesterday, Metro officials and executives from KOAR Development celebrated the "topping off" of the foundation for the Solair real estate project located just North of the Wilshire/Western Purple Line Station. Solair is part of Metro’s joint development program which "seeks to provide the most appropriate private and/or public sector development on Metro-owned property at, and adjacent to, transit stations and corridors." Metro claims the project will reduce auto dependency by allowing greater access to transit for residents at the 186-untit complex and shoppers.

But does Solair qualify as "Transit Oriented Development?" In today’s advertisement article in the Times, the writer finds space for one paragraph questioning how transit oriented Solair really is.

Critics, however, have questioned whether building housing near transportation lines gets motorists out of their cars. For example, the subway under the Solair does not make the link to the Westside, a key L.A. destination.

The Times doesn’t make the space to examine whether or not the unnamed critics have a point, and quickly moves on to a discussion of the Subway to the Sea. However, there is plenty of material to debunk or justify the critics’ claim. For example, the Times could have pointed out that there is a lot more transit access for residents of Solair than just the Purple Line. There are these things called "buses" which run at-grade along both Wilshire and Western. The transit center is a stop for two Metro local lines, the Wilshire Rapid line and a DASH route.

Of course, maybe the Times assumes that people paying at least $800,000 for a condominium aren’t likely bus riders.

The issue of cost for these units raises another question. Will future Solair residents, who will most likely be upper-class homeowners, take advantage of the transit options available? After all, it seems to be an unwritten rule in Los Angeles that the wealthy don’t take transit, and certainly wouldn’t be caught dead on a bus.

KOAR Development is betting that they, and future shoppers in the 40,000 square foot of retail, will not be transit riders. Every residential unit will come with two deeded parking spaces in the parking garage, to say nothing of guest parking. There is also parking set aside for the retail center. According to Reconnecting America, a California based transportation and development think tank, the average amount of parking at a residential development considered TOD is 1.41 spaces per unit in California.

By having this much parking on-site, KOAR Development undermines Metro’s claim that Solair is "transit oriented." Despite its location near transit and the relative walkability of Koreatown, residents are being encouraged to drive more than they are encouraged to take transit; after all they will be paying for two parking spaces when they buy their unit. People shopping at the retail center are also being encouraged to drive, as plentiful parking will make taking the automobile attractive to those wishing to shop at Solair.

It’s probably too late to do anything about the parking plans at Solair since the project is already under construction and residents have already bought units and parking spaces.  Hopefully future T.O.D. projects on built on Metro owned land will be more transit, and less parking, oriented.

Photo: Damien Newton

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