Motion Seeks to Ease Tensions Over 710 Expansion by Focusing on Displacement Elimination, Community Enhancements

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Photo by Brian Addison.

After concerns were expressed about everything from further marginalizing West Long Beach to a lack of support for the staff recommendation to move forward with option 5C in the proposed 710 Freeway expansion project, Metro Board Member and Supervisor Hilda Solis—backed by fellow board member and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia—has drafted a motion that will put the expansion on hold while focusing on the community projects attached to the massive infrastructure proposal.

Solis’s proposal has three basic tenets, each of which is surprisingly bold:

  • The project should initially hone in on non-expansion related improvements needed: upgrades to interchanges and freeway crossings, as well as “bike/pedestrian bridges over the LA River, a zero emissions truck program, new and enhanced transit service, and the ability to increase park space for neighboring communities.”
  • After the completion of these improvements, a requirement to have Metro staff return to the Board for approval (or possible disapproval) of the expansion, using “the most current State and local evaluation measures at that time.”
  • Require Metro staff to seek further analysis on the potential displacement of residents, if not “outright eliminate, residential, business, and sensitive land use displacements that would result from this project.”

In terms of the first tenet, getting some sort of recognition on the record that moving forward with an expansion off the get go is not necessarily good is important; overwhelming evidence points to the fact that creating more roads creates more traffic, a phenomenon known as induced demand. (In this piece criticizing the 405 expansion in Orange County, I provide a plethora of links to articles and research proving this.) Additionally, it is recognizing what many advocates have been saying all along: the improvements society actually needs can be done without an expansion.

Additionally, despite the fact that Solis still claims a No Build alternative would “provide none of the air quality, mobility, or safety benefits associated with the Project,” this motion actually shows how not expanding the freeway can still result in a plethora of benefits. Even the long-disconnected Cesar Chavez Park in DTLB will now be accessible.

The second tenet is crucial. By delaying the actual expansion and focusing on infrastructure needs, time will pass and research will grow—allowing advocates to further strengthen arguments against the project, while possibly convincing the Board that an expansion is Bad News Bears. Additionally, “the most current State and local standards” will likely be very different a few years down the line, even furthering the possibility that the project could be completely different than what is being proposed.

According to Metro, between 85 and 90 percent of the proposed project is within the current footprint of the 710 but, as noted, the other portion is subject to eminent domain. Within that section, authorities will have to seize 109 homes and 158 businesses, causing the displacement of 436 people—and that’s where the third tenet comes in. The fact that we’re even considering a project that directly displaces hundreds of folks during a housing crisis is one thing; the fact that we’re doing it for a freeway expansion in 2018 is beyond baffling and disrespectful to the folks who have invested in a place no one else had a desire to do so.

In other words: a giant step forward with a very-much needed pause. Onward and upward.

  • Nancy Johnson

    I was doing some research into how absurdly slow rail projects are in the U.S. and it brought me to this article (link below) talking about rail expansion in China. They managed to add 232 miles of subway in 5 years. The most interesting thing was the part at the end where they talk about the effect of all of the new rail on cars.

    The last article here on Streetsblog LA about this freeway expansion called it a 1950s solution. But when you look at studies of modern day expansion of rail in urban areas like Beijing, what they found was that it actually increased car ownership. The subway system resulted in a population increase and economic development which stimulated car ownership. So the 21st century model of induced demand is that more public transportation induces population grown which induces more cars.

    This modern-day study based on actual results is, of course, a different result than the “induced demand” model from the 1950’s (prior to the interstate freeway system, before cars were the status quo and when urban populations were not nearly as large) that found the increase in roads versus public transportation caused people to choose cars over public transit. The 1950’s model of induced demand is not applicable to Los Angeles due to the size of the population and that the roads are already beyond capacity. So it would appear that the best policy is to develop public transportation and to continue to expand the car infrastructure.

  • Richard

    China doesn’t build that much faster than the US. Those 232 miles of subway opened within 5 years of one another, but they were all under construction for much longer.

    China also doens’t announce it’s planning or engineering. Rather the first time the public hears about a new line is when ground is broken. If any environmental reviews or planning documents are created and debated before hand, they are not included in the timeline.

    They also build everything at once. Instead of like LA, with the purple Line(not a particularly long line) being broken up into 3 segments, themselves an extension of the earlier Red line, they build they whole thing at once. This is possible because they are financing the entire project with debt, often unsecured. Compare this to the Purple line Phase II which just broke ground, 10 full years after the plan to build and fund it was approved by voters and Phase III still uncertain.

  • Richard

    “The subway system resulted in a population increase and economic development which stimulated car ownership.”

    That’s a pretty big jump. Correlation does not imply causation. Many Chinese cities still do not have any subways and yet have gotten fantastically large. Others grew equally large with fairly few lines.

  • Jerard Wright

    Wait a minute if I am reading the actual motion in item 5.2, this moves forward with the project through the final environmental phase and if those displacements (some of whom) come in the form of erecting bike bridges to link communities to the LA River Bike path as part of this package…because of right of way impacts. BTW the only way to complete the Early Action projects is to move through the environmental phase without delaying the process, which Solis and Garcia wisely accomplish.

    Crenshaw/LAX corridor had a number of business displacements and relocation to place the subway boxes when community activist swore up and down that putting it underground would create any, but that is not the case. These happen because we live in a dense urban environment. Construction of key transit projects around the world have some form of displacement impacts because of the same right of way constraints of trying to construct massive transportation infrastructure in the form of either a subway station or light rail on a railroad in a dense environment those impacts occur but the owners of said properties are always legally compensated based on fair market value.

    If this was a totalitarian nation and those business or residents were displaced, truly displaced they wouldn’t receive a dime.

  • Nancy Johnson

    Apparently that is what this study found. Although a correction to my comment, the study was done on Guangzhou, not Beijing.

  • Ryan James

    Induced demand is not a 1950’s concept. Induced demand was only conceptualized after suburbanization and interstates had prolifically spread across the nation (which began after WWII), resulting in longer day-to-day distances of travel and subsequent demand for road space as single use driving became the norm for the growing suburbanite middle class. As freeways wreaked havoc within the original city, dividing communities in two and demolishing poor and black communities to clear way for ever larger road systems, it wasn’t until decades worth ‘rush hour’ traffic jams clogging the freeway system that the concept of induced demand was borne.

    Induced demand is the phenomenon that as road supply increases, so does its utilization, resulting in a similar status that the increase was originally meant to resolve. In Layman’s terms, the more lanes you add, the more traffic you add.

    Considering that communities are already divided by the freeway and those that have managed to persist near the freeway will should now be demolished to achieve an ephemeral solution, not to mention the definite need for an increase for active transportation infrastructure, why should we pursue this the expansion as the optimal solution? Let’s not forget cities are made for people. And the more investment that goes into non-automotive amenities the livable the city becomes. It is no wonder that property values increase next to rail lines. It is not a coincidence that property values increase next to parks. It is not a miracle that more people walk and ride their bike when they feel safe. Freeways provide for none of these things. In fact, they work in the opposite direction not only by their physical presence, but by the shear cost to implement, robbing the city residents of other, nicer, more livable solutions.


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