South L.A. Still Fuming Over Metro Leimert Park/Crenshaw Subway Vote

Leimert Park from Mark Ridley-Thomas on Vimeo.

After the Metro Board of Directors voted for Richard Katz’s “compromise” motion on the Leimert Park Village Station over the proposal by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Metro Board Chair Don Knabe commented to the disappointed crowd that remained that they hoped they would see the vote as a step forward for the Leimert Park Station.  Here at Streetsblog, I wrote that the station was “approved,” not having seen the motion until later.

But since the Katz motion only called for the station to be built if funds were available in the original budget, the construction of the station is far from certain.  And the band of politicians and community activists serving the predominantly African American community surrounding the proposed Leimert Park Village Station, don’t view the new motion as a step forward, and are ready to keep fighting.  For his part, Ridley-Thomas is planning a new motion for this month’s Board Meeting, although his staff isn’t ready to announce what that motion is.

Meanwhile, the pages of South Los Angeles publications are screaming invective at Mayor Villaraigosa, who controls enough votes on the Metro Board to swing the issue and could insure construction of a station at this month’s meeting.  Ridley-Thomas, and the crowd that included somewhere between 300-600 South L.A. residents, believed he had the Mayor’s support going in to the May Metro Board Meeting and found the compromise motion to be a disappointment.

Photo: Office of Mark Ridley-Thomas

The Los Angeles Sentinel, after recapping a rally the day before the May Board Meeting and the meeting itself, ends on a chilling note for light rail advocates who are eager to avoid another battle similar to the one over the Expo Line.

Danny J. Bakewell Sr., who has been at the forefront advocating for this project, share the same sentiments as the community – that it’s not over.  He said, “we’ve tried friendly negotiations trying to use our influence, and at this point, we’ve come up short with nothing.  I’m will be calling a community meeting in Leimert Park to rally the residents of Baldwin Hils, View Park, Windsor Hills to voice our concerns, loud and clear – either we get an underground train, or there’ll be no train.”

While The Wave Newspapers merely asked whether Villaraigosa intentionally killed Ridley-Thomas’ station motion, the strongest article was written by Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., and managing director of the Urban Issues Forum at the Electronic Urban Report.  Samad blatantly accuses Villaraigosa of a soft-racism by refusing to “bet on black,” and wonders if the Mayor ever planned (or still plans)to support the station.

Given Ridley-Thomas’ performance on King Hospital and the Expo Line, and his role in making Measure R happen that benefited all communities, he should’ve been given an opportunity to find the $500 million on Leimert Park and Park Mesa (or at least Leimert Park Village component) for his own community, and Villaraigosa should have been leading the way in that conversation to pull his four votes. Park Mesa lost by the margin that Villaraigosa controlled. He fronted us off again. Then he sent a press release out claiming he supported the project. Yeah, in theory, not in funding.

Similar stories can be found at Our Weekly which recaps the meeting and lays blame at the feet of Villaraigosa and Katz.  (“Mr. Katz was charged by Mayor Villaraigosa with planting the bomb that would blow up plans for the frequently ignored or delayed black community.”) and City Watch which where local advocates respond to light rail advocates (“Characterizing the motion by County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to underground the one-mile portion of the Crenshaw-LAX Line in Park Mesa Heights and return the Leimert Park Village station to the light rail project that failed at the May 26th Metro board meeting, as “pork barrel spending” is astonishing to say the least.”)

One thing is for certain, the communities of South Los Angeles aren’t done fighting for a Leimert Park Station, and are prepared to play hardball to get it.

  • Dan W.

    I really hope a Leimert Park station can be worked out.

  • Sam Taylor

     All this is fairly amazing. Almost like being from a different planet. Crenshaw is SuperWide and the train can go on the surface. An at-grade station just north of Vernon will work. But what about the missing Manchester Station? That is a big mistake.

  • If Ridley-Thomas is so for this project, why doesn’t he introduce a motion to tax local businesses to cover the overage? Easy.

  • Anonymous

    Instead of asking for $250 million out of other projects for a section of subway with basically no merit, these Crenshaw communities should consider asking for $25 million for an extra-special street redesign of the surface portion to make the at-grade option the best it can be.

    Brick crosswalks, street trees, trees along the tracks, ornamental lighting, great street furniture: All of these are probably on the table at a much more reasonable price, and they’d enhance the neighborhood in a big way.

  • Marcotico

    Well if there was any concern of Streetsblog getting boring this takes care of that.  There’s something about the linkage between class, race, and transit, that really gets regular comment makers going.  Unfortunately Dana Gabbard and Damien Goodmon, don’t duke it out as often as they used to.  That was my weekly soap opera!

  • Anonymous

    I think most of us want the station…but the grade separation, which MRT is pushing side-by-side, is not reasonable for where the train line will be traveling.

  • All of South Los Angeles is not fuming.  Having grown up there, I can say the people of South L.A. are no more single-minded than any other region.  Some people are unhappy.  Oh well, deal with it.  The Metro Board, responsible for transit *throughout the county* (not just Park Mesa Heights), has spoken.

    MRT, if you want these enhancements so badly, then come up with the money for them.  Show me the money.  Don’t simply spout vague ideas about stealing funds from other projects.  (Anyway, that idea is a non-starter.)  Let’s see some action, not just words.  In other words, put up or shut up.

    But, if you choose to stall and continue to goldplate the “Crenshaw-LAX Transit Corridor”, remember that you do so at your community’s peril.  Keep in mind, it’s not too late for this project to be implemented as BRT (if the cost of LRT becomes too great).

  • WKC

    I realize since I’ve seen Joel comment on virtually every single blog about this topic that he is very passionate in his dislike of the community’s request, so he may be a little biased and set in his opinion.  But for the rest, I wonder if anyone has questioned whether the project is really “gold platted” or not?

    What aspect of the current design is actually better than the standard Metro design?  The underground sections are underground because of narrow rights-of-way. 

    Now ask, what aspects of Metro’s standard design are not in the project?  Stations have been removed at Leimert Park Village and at Westchester, meaning for a 8.5 mile line there are only 6 stations.

    The only part of the design that could be considered gold platted is the portion around LAX, where a tunnel is being built because of the FAA requirements, and the LAX isn’t paying for the difference in cost.

    Expo Phase 2 is 6.6 miles and has a budget of $1.6B = $242 million/mile.  And consider that except for about 1 1/2 mile on Colorado Blvd in Santa Monica that’s all on an abandoned right-of-way.

    Crenshaw-LAX is 8.5 miles and currently budgeted at $1.7B = $200 million/mile.  And for 3 of the miles it operates in the middle of a complex roadway on Crenshaw Blvd.

    So if this project were really “gold platted” wouldn’t the numbers be reversed? 

    If the project were the same cost per mile as Expo Phase 2 its budget would be $2.1B, which is likely enough to build the Westchester station, Park Mesa tunnel and Leimert Park Village station.  So the evidence doesn’t point to the additions = gold platting the project, but rather bringing the project to parity.

  • WKC

    Actually as Gabbard pointed out in another post, it wouldn’t exactly be just south* of Vernon.  It would be south of 48th.  About 0.4 mile from the center of Leimert Park Village.  A distance that in some parts of the Metro system has 2 stations.

  • WKC

    How does that even make any sense?  Adding an EXTRA tax on struggling South LA small businesses to improve a rail line they already pay taxes to pay for?

    This isn’t Beverly Hills, Century City or Bunker Hill, but South LA.  Businesses need more public investment to survive, and overcome decades of a lack of private and public investment.  They don’t have a surplus of cash.

  • Jerard Wright

    The budget is $1.5B for a larger maintenance facility as well as more vehicles that will be utilized when Expo opens as this will be a well utilized corridor. 

    Actually $2.1 B would not pay for a Park Mesa subway as that would bring the project budget to $2.3 B so by your own argument, this project would still be over budget for gold platting items. If we’re really talking about parity.

    As for the votes and all the nonsense that the Mayor broke his promise and that he’s against South LA is farther from the truth. If my math is correct there are 13 members on the Metro Board meaning there’s an opportunity for 13 votes on any decision.  So MRT had 3 confirmed YES votes and the mayor had his “block” of 4 votes, that would leave 6 other votes that MRT need to convince in his argument in his motion. Why is Mayor Villaraigosa being used as a scapegoat for Ridley Thomas’ inability and his frank antogonism of other board members by presenting the motion in the manner and method that he did.

    The Mayor’s block voted “NO” that still leaves 6 other votes! The community need to place the blame for where it truly belongs, to the author of the motion’s inability to effectively build consensus around the argument. His inability to follow the rules of “fiscal prudence” that he always wants the other members of the Metro Board to follow but feels appropriate to not follow himself.

    “When there’s a willl, there’s a way” is what MRT stated many times at the meeting and I believe he needs to lead the example and find the means to bring the needed betterments to the community. 

  • @WKC:twitter You get my point exactly – there is no money for it so this is a moot issue. NO ONE has a surplus of cash now and MRT trying to spend more tax dollars on something that isn’t needed is insane. It’s a recession.