2009 Wrap-Up: With FEIR In-Hand, Expo Phase II Seems Ready to Roll, But Is It?

12_21_09_LUCE.jpgRendering of proposed Bergamont Station in Santa Monica. Photo:Santa Monica via Friends 4 Expo

(This is the first in a four part series following up on stories that have run through the year but aren’t yet finished.)

Just because the word "Final" appears in the document name doesn’t mean that the battle over the routing and crossings for the Expo Line have ended.  While the Final Environmental Impact Report predictably contained good news for supporters of getting the light rail line completed quickly, even the most enthusiastic supporters know that there are still opponents of the project that still have some arrows left in their quiver.

Karen Leonard, the co-chair of Light Rail for Cheviot, writes, "I’m very glad that the Expo Authority took neighborhood comments seriously and discussed the grade separation possibilities at Overland and Westwood at length and in detail.  Since LADOT now concurs with Expo that these
crossings should be at-grade, given the mitigations proposed, one hopes that NIMBYs in several homeowners’ associations do not succeed in funding litigation and delaying the line significantly."

While Leonard is choosing her words carefully, she’s referring to the coalition of affluent Westside neighborhoods that have rallied together under the banner of Neighbors for Smart Rail.  Friends 4 Expo member "Gokhan" takes a less-nuanced approach to defining NfSR’s position in the Streetsblog comments section:

NFSR comes next. Terri Tippit, the veteran Westside neighborhood
politician, Head of the West of Westwood Homeowners’ Association and at
times the President of the Westside Neighborhood Council, is the
President of Neighbors for Smart Rail (NFSR). Collen Mason Heller of
the Cheviot Hills Homeowners’ Association is the Vice President of
NFSR. Her husband Larry Heller is the attorney for NFSR. NFSR has been
collecting a lot of money in order to launch a lawsuit within 30 days
of the certification by the board of the Expo Authority of the final
environmental-impact report on the first Thursday of January. (editor’s note, the date for approval has been moved to February 4)

Officially, the position of Neighbors for Smart Rail is not that the line shouldn’t be built, but that the line needs to have safe (i.e. not at-grade) crossings near Westside schools as it rolls by.  Legal actions against the Expo Construction Authority in South L.A. have forced the agency to add additional pedestrian amenities near Dorsey High School.  However, thus far Neighbors for Smart Rail is playing it close to the chest.  The group is not quoted in any of the press accounts of the FEIR release and emails requesting comment for this article have not been returned.  I’m sure there will be a lot more on this story in the coming year.

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