Hawthorne residents caught off guard by Metro project

imageA proposed new Metro rail yard has raised concern among Hawthorne residents, who say they were not sufficiently notified about the site. They fear the site may bring health risks to the surrounding residential communities.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority will discuss the matter Tuesday at a public meeting.

The long-planned light rail will connect the existing Green and Expo Metro lines, but the project comes with some baggage. The new rail will need a maintenance facility to service the trains that are expected to serve up to 21,300 riders per day. Since approval of the $1.4 billion project in 2008, Metro has surveyed dozens of possible locations along the 8.5-mile route from Exposition Boulevard to Los Angeles International Airport for the facility’s home, and they have narrowed it down to four possible sites.

There’s just one catch: one of the candidates was a last-minute add.

The proposed Hawthorne location sits near Marine Avenue on a stretch of Aviation Boulevard with an eclectic mix of industrial steel and glass from Northrop Grumman buildings interspersed with grassy athletic fields, the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center and residential areas such as Fusion Center, a gated community of about 500 residents that already borders a Metro maintenance yard.

If selected for the new yard, the existing facility, known as Division 22, would expand from 3.5 to 15 acres to accommodate an additional 60 train cars for painting, cleaning and other services.

“The proposed maintenance facility expansion proposes no use of residential property, only industrial land,” said Roderick Diaz, project manager for the light rail and maintenance facility location survey.
“The types of uses at the maintenance facility would not be significantly different than the uses at the existing Division 22 maintenance facility in Hawthorne.”

The Aviation Boulevard site, however, was not identified in the initial public meetings held by Metro, which discussed the three other proposed locations in Inglewood, Los Angeles and Redondo Beach.

The Division 22 expansion was formally added to the list in November, and the Fusion Homeowners Association maintains that it did not receive a formal notice from Metro about the selection.

Metro released an environmental impact report to several community organizations to inform them about potential noise pollution, traffic and environmental hazards, but Fusion Center was not included in the distribution list.

“Expanding this maintenance yard that’s right next door to our community—literally right on the other side of the wall—is going to lower our property values and reduce the standard of living. It would probably reduce everyone’s home value by five percent,” estimated Steven Johnson, the president of the Fusion Homeowners Association, who cited traffic and noise pollution as major disturbances to the community. “The notice about the MTA’s open house meeting for public comment only came to us less than two weeks ago.”

Fusion board members also expressed concern about the possibility of an increase in electromagnetic radiation, an impact that is not regulated by the State of California, and thus, not included in Metro’s environmental impact report.

In 2007, Southern California Edison conducted a test for electromagnetic radiation at Fusion Center after residents expressed concern that the existing maintenance yard might be producing unhealthy levels of the contaminant. Using standards set by the National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements, readings were normal across the community, except on the northern side that faces the yard. The council recommends a safe reading of 0.9 milligauss; the northern side produced readings of 3.8 milligauss.

“It’s conflicting for me because I really support light rail,” said Bonnie Shrewsbury, a Fusion homeowner who was one of the residents who received a notice from Metro in December and attended a public meeting regarding the project. “But I don’t want them expanding the yard next to us. I hope nobody takes this as we don’t support the Metro. We’d just like them to have their yard somewhere else.”

The Hawthorne location is the only one of the four under consideration that would abut a residential community. The proposed facility will cover a minimum of 15 acres, provide 272 new jobs and create several new buildings, including a paint and body shop.

“It’s important that the city leaders listen to the residents and look out for increasing their quality of life,” said Hawthorne City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem Alex Vargas. He visited Fusion Center in January at the request of residents who wanted Hawthorne council members to see for themselves how close the facility would sit in relation to the community.

“There are alternate locations where Metro can locate these yards without surrounding residences,” he said.

In mid-February, the Hawthorne City Council passed a resolution to formally oppose the maintenance facility, which will be discussed at Tuesday’s Metro’s meeting.

“The resolution will be considered with other comments received during the public comment period,” Diaz said. Metro expects to complete the locations survey by the end of April. In May, the Metro Board of Directors will select a location for the facility.

Tuesday’s meeting will be held at 6661 Imperial Hwy from 6-8 p.m. Public comments during the meeting will be limited to two minutes per person, and a follow-up public meeting will be held on March 31. The deadline for comments to be considered by Metro is April 11 by 5 p.m.

Photo credit: Lisa Rau


  1. Robert Cannon says:

    Wow! That’s really interesting. I’ve been seeing the light rail lines going up around that part of town when I go get my dry cleaning; it certainly sounds like a predicament for the residents. I can’t wait to hear what happens!

  2. Yes, we have objections all over. Site D22N will only add 3.5 acres, not expand 3.5 acres to 15. Looking at the limited expansion at this site must be done to verify that this is too small of an area to do much good, since it will hold only 9 more light-rail vehicles. I think this has to be studied to answer question why not just expand this existing yard.

    The writer of this article must presents true facts, there were TWO locations added, not ONE.

    How many other facts are wrong? It is interesting with NO notice that almost all speakers at the meeting were opposed to Site D22N expansion.

    To see info about this project, go to Metro.Net/Crenshaw website.

  3. Why do you call electromagnetic radiation a “contaminant”? Electromagnetic radiation could mean a variety of different things – sunlight is electromagnetic radiation, as are X-rays, microwaves, cell phone and radio signals, and many other things. X-rays are clearly dangerous; sunlight is clearly safe. Is there any information available about what sort of electromagnetic radiation is being produced at the site? Or are neighbors just making something totally benign sound scary and scientific in order to turn people against a useful project for the community?

  4. Joseph E says:

    “Or are neighbors just making something totally benign sound scary and scientific in order to turn people against a useful project for the community?”

    Yep, it’s pretty much benign. Electric trains produce magnetic waves, and some radio waves. Basically the same stuff that give us cell phone signals, Wifi, TV, etc.

    As far as “light industry” goes, a light rail maintenance facility is about as good as it gets. It is cleaner than a car repair shop (no gas or diesel involved), and much better than a even a natural gas bus depot.

    Everyone wants to say “Not in my back yard”, but the trains have to be parked and repaired somewhere.

  5. Those Metro guys sure are sneaky. Using a rail storage yard to become a somewhat bigger rail storage yard! Who could have seen that coming?

    (PS. The yard was there first, if zillow.com is to be believed.)

  6. Dewey Copeland says:

    If the electromagnetic radiation was nothing to be concerned with, it would have been mentioned in the EIR. Because the State doesn’t regulate EMR is no reason to not to bring it up in the EIR. If the yard would have been a threat to the Bald Eagle, which is a Federal issue not a State issue, it would have been mentioned. Normally these MTA rail maintenance yards are located in industrial areas away from residential neighborhoods. The MTA EIR was a fraud. The MTA is a fraud and can’t be trusted. Building a light rail system that less than 1/10 of 1 % of the people will ever use is a waste of the tax payers money.

Speak Your Mind