TRANSPORTATION POLITICS - A few great things are happening in the City and County of Los Angeles with respect to transportation,
yet the City of LA is still risking the specter of throwing it all away and turning off a generation of pro-transit advocates because of their pro-overdevelopment and anti-mobility policies.
The compromise of Councilmembers Bernard Parks, Bill Rosendahl and Eric Garcetti to come up with a leading, precedent-setting $55 million motion of the City to come up with local Measure R funds to fully fund a Westchester station, and to partially fund a Leimert Park station, for the future Crenshaw/LAX light rail line, can't be praised enough.
It was tough and visionary, and some will suggest that the money was too much or not enough, but it showed LA leadership at its best.
Metro came up with another $80 million, and the promise of financial reserves in case of cost overruns and change orders, for a fully-underground light rail station at Leimert Park that is truly located in Leimert Park. There is little to no chance that there will ever be another $200-400 million for a Park Mesa tunnel to completely underground the line on Crenshaw Avenue because no Metro engineer or planner has ever supported that.
While Metro guidelines for underground grade separation don't allow for a Park Mesa tunnel they do, however, allow for underground tunneling of the line to either the Wilshire Subway in the north, or to LAX in the south, should the planning, consensus and funding be available to do just that--and if/when we do establish these necessary measures, we'll see a north-south light rail line from the South Bay to the Wilshire corridor with > 100,000 riders/day.
And the County is doing its part, having meetings and discussions in the San Gabriel Valley and the Southeast Cities to extend the MetroRail network to the eastern half of the county while the Expo Line, Wilshire Subway, Crenshaw/LAX and Downtown Connector teams work to extend it to the western half and Downtown.
Unfortunately, the City of Los Angeles does things that would never be done in other cities like West Hollywood, Culver City or Santa Monica.
In particular, while it's meritorious that the Expo Line is now being properly viewed as a transit corridor, and an opportunity to create Transit-Oriented Development, the efforts of the Planning Department to promote a policy for this corridor. The LATPN appears to be more politically motivated than an exercise in proper Planning that respects impacts on local and regional environment, infrastructure, mobility and quality of life.
The most recent exercise in Planning behaving more like a Politburo than a proper and professional civil service is its politically-driven effort to promote a nebulous and likely toxic Casden Sepulveda development that would result in exposure of children and seniors to freeway fumes at a location currently (and appropriately) zoned for industrial use.
Unfortunately, Mr. Casden and his team of developers are as adept at election contributions, money laundering and political payoffs as they are clueless about what the hell transit-oriented development is, and how it should be created.
With one favorable vote (Reyes) and one neutral vote (Englander) and one no-show (Huizar), the City Council PLUM Committee has sent the Casden Sepulveda joke-of-a-project to the full Council (currently scheduled for June 12th).
One favorable vote and it goes to the Council...nice.
This project, so huge and car-oriented and inappropriate for this transit-adjacent location, zipped through Planning and the CPC in a manner that will virtually kill Westside desire for road and rail improvements and expansions in Los Angeles. It's corrupt, involves violating environmental, CEQA and Brown Act laws that should appall anyone, and (along with the Hollywood Millennium Project) is iconic of what is wrong with the way our City does business.
Outgoing City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and his deputies, Jane Usher and William Carter, have recommended this Casden/Sepulveda travesty go back to Planning, and transit-friendly incoming City Attorney Mike Feuer needs to follow suit.
It's illegal, stinks of a lack of transit planning, proper urban planning, and obeying the law with respect to Community Plans.
Otherwise praiseworthy, but in the City of L.A. it's downright frightening, because the engineers and law-respecting Building/Safety professionals will be under the thumb of new uber-czar Michael LoGrande of Planning.
Every time the residents and Neighborhood Councils raise an issue to the new combined department about infrastructure overutilization, environmental impacts and sustainability it'll be the same response: nothing to see here, move along, etc.
So kiss any future Measure J's or road repair bond measures good-bye if this goes through, unless of course you think you can do these measures without Westside and other regional support. Other developers will follow Casden's lead (with all the electioneering/money laundering and influence he has done for many years) if this illegal travesty goes through, and Planning will turn the City into a Wild, Wild West of laissez faire development.
Leadership is tough, and it's hoped that Eric Garcetti will be much more credible, available, and reasonable than his predecessor. New commissioners and department heads will have to be in place that allow Neighborhood Councils and Downtown to work as a team, rather than at constant loggerheads.
But if the City of Los Angeles is to succeed in its quest to create a first-rate 21st Century metropolis, it has to know when to move forward with bold ideas...as well as when to throttle back dangerous (if not corrupt) practices than alienate and infuriate the electorate who has to pay for all this.
(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at Alpern@MarVista.org He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)
Vol 11 Issue 44
Pub: May 31, 2013