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Road to Redemption for LA’s Mayor: Support the ‘People’s Motion’

CRENSHAW/LAX REPORT - At the May 26th MTA Board meeting LA Mayor and current MTA Chair Antonio Villaraigosa led the charge against adding additional resources to the Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail Line for the purpose of returning the Leimert Park Village station to the project and undergrounding the line on Crenshaw Blvd from 48th to 59th Streets in Park Mesa Heights.

He was the only elected official of South LA against the action championed by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.  The Mayor’s “No” vote, along with the “No” votes of his three appointees to the MTA board, was the reason the effort failed 3-10.

Recognizing the need to at least appear to respond to the over 600 South Los Angeles stakeholders who flooded MTA’s chambers that day, the board adopted a weakened motion that says the Leimert Park Village station would be built but only if it could be done within the existing project budget.  

Mayoral appointee and former Assembly Member Richard Katz authored the motion, which is heavily predicated on construction bids in this competitive economic environment coming in much lower than projected.

The Katz motion is far from ideal or acceptable to the South LA community, especially since prior to the meeting, multiple potential funding sources far exceeding the amount necessary were identified.  

Why leave in limbo a destination station serving the center of African-American culture for the region when definitive action could have been taken to guarantee it by appropriating the funding?  

But the Katz motion does keep the Leimert Park Village station alive, if only in critical care.

Such life was not afforded the Park Mesa Heights tunnel.  The MTA board action on May 26th and their actions in approving the project’s final design on September 22nd shut the door on the Park Mesa Heights tunnel.  That door must be reopened.

There are two major requirements when building an MTA project of this size: 1) the environmental impact of the design has to be studied; and 2) it has to be funded.

While the environmental impact of a Leimert Park Village station has been studied as an “option” to the Crenshaw-LAX project, the Park Mesa Heights tunnel has not.  This means that even if resources are identified in the future, the tunnel still never could be built.  This predicament is part of the reason our organization, Crenshaw Subway Coalition, filed a lawsuit against MTA challenging the approval of the project.  

During the board’s discussion of the issue on May 26th, the Mayor stated that he believed the Leimert Park Village station would be built because construction bids have typically been coming in 25-30% under budget.  

With the economy in its current state, competitiveness for these massive public works contracts has increased.  If the bids really do come in 30% under budget that is nearly enough to fund both the Park Mesa Heights tunnel and the Leimert Park Village station.

So why not at the very least place the Park Mesa Heights tunnel in the same position at the Leimert Park Village station?

The People’s Motion seeks to do that.

Authored by the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, the People’s Motion is a proposed resolution for the MTA Board that:

a) Requires the staff to immediately begin the process of studying the environmental impact of a Park Mesa Heights tunnel as an “option” to the project and;

b) Requests contractors bid on a Crenshaw-LAX project design with both the Leimert Park Village station and the tunnel.  

One would hope the Mayor would at the very least support the People’s Motion, especially since during the May 26th MTA board meeting discussion he said he would support undergrounding the line for the 11 blocks in Park Mesa Heights if it could be done within budget:

“[I]f we could [build the Park Mesa Heights tunnel] within the amount of money here given that we’re looking at maybe 25 – 30% lower bids over the last few years, although I’m not supportive of it as a public policy decision, not every decision we make is based on public policy. So Mr. Ridley-Thomas, to direct my comments to you for a moment, if you would accept that as an amendment, hopefully friendly, I would be willing to get behind it.”

Listen to the Mayor yourself at www.CrenshawSubway.org.

He made that affirmative statement, yet on May 26th and since the Mayor has done nothing to put the Park Mesa Heights tunnel in a position to become a reality.

Was it just double-talk?  

Hopefully, Mayor Villaraigosa will see the People’s Motion as an opportunity to display the type of leadership on this issue that so many in South LA and beyond hoped for when they rallied behind him in 2005 and stayed with him in difficult times.

(Damien Goodmon is the chair of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, co-chair of the neighborhood council that serves Leimert Park and an occasional contributor to CityWatch. He can be reached at  [email protected] ) –cw

Tags: Mayor Villaraigosa, Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail Line, Park Mesa Heights, tunnel, Leimert Park, Mark Ridley-Thomas

Vol 9 Issue 90
Pub: Nov 11, 2011