South LA opposition to Measure J

By Emmanuel Martinez and Melissa Runnels

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News

Members of the Bus Riders’ Union, Beverly Hills Unified School District, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and other groups held a small rally Tuesday at the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson to protest Measure J.

image />The measure, which is on the November ballot, would extend the half-cent county sales tax until 2069 and generate $90 million for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). Sun-Young Yang, of the Bus Riders’ Union, sees Measure J as a $90 million imposition that won’t improve the bus system she depends on: “MTA has actually no plans to expand bus service and in fact they plan to raise fares and cut bus service.”

Yang also believes MTA has already failed to deliver on promises regarding the recent light-rail expansion. “The rail lines that they have built out so far did not deliver half of the ridership that they promised. When you have $1 billion per-mile price tag, that means we should get ridership that we see in Seoul, Korea, and other metropolises that have not a thousand riders, but millions of riders,” she said.

The rail expansion is a touchy subject for Damien Goodmon of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition. Goodmon says MTA simply cannot be trusted. “ This is not an agency that plans well. This is not an agency that responds well to community concerns.”

imageFile photo: Damien Goodmon

Measure J would extend Measure R—a similar measure passed in 2008. Goodmon believes MTA’s record since then speaks for itself. “We passed Measure R just four years ago and in that period of time, they have ignored the concerns of a cross section of community groups, from the Boyle Heights to Baldwin Hills to Crenshaw to the Bus Riders’ Union,” he said.

However, it’s difficult to ignore the success of Measure R. MTA completed the extension of the Orange Line in three years and also started two light-rail projects.

If Measure J is approved, the 15 projects already in the works won’t necessarily get stuck in neutral. The tax extension could jumpstart work on projects like the Subway to the Sea, more soundwall construction, and improvements to the 5, the 405, and the 110 freeways.

The measure needs a two-thirds super-majority to pass. Current polling shows 67 percent in favor, 27 against—which means approval isn’t guaranteed. With about three weeks before the election, the tide could shift either way.

Expo Line critic Damien Goodmon sounds off

More than 700 Dorsey High School students have to cross the Expo Line train tracks at the intersection of Farmdale and Exposition in South L.A every day — a major concern of local residents.

Standing at the intersection this Monday afternoon, Damien Goodmon of the Citizen’s Campaign to Fix the Expo Line, Damien Newton of Los Angeles Streetsblog and Molly Gray of Intersections South L.A. watched the students cross in a mostly orderly fashion. The system of bells, lights and gates kept the students separate from the train when it slow-rolled into and out of the station.

As Metro prepares its weekend-long Expo party, reporters are highlighting the efforts of transit advocates to push the line forward for the last quarter of a century. Absent from the accolades is Goodmon, who has as much to do with the look of the Expo Line, especially at stations and crossings in South L.A. Where Fix Expo regularly lambasted elected officials, Metro, the Expo Construction Authority and anyone else that they felt dismissed their concerns about safety.

Goodmon isn’t looking for accolades — he doesn’t believe his work is done.

When asked about the station, and whether he was happy with it, Goodmon gave a complicated answer, “Absolutely not. But it’s hard not to claim victory when you see what they were going to do at this intersection and others … I want to believe the kids are safer than they would have been. Safe would have been grade separating it.”

Goodmon and Newton talked for almost an hour on Monday, but here are the highlights.

Crucial vote on Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail Line

On Thursday, May 26, 2011 the MTA board is scheduled to meet and vote on several motions by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas regarding the Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail Line.

The South Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Joint Committee requested an engineering memo that was released today (May 25). To read the report, “Synopsis of Findings for the Review of Documents Related to the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor, Park Mesa Heights Area,” written by Southstar Enginering and Consulting Firm, click here

Below is a news release from the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line & Crenshaw Line Subway Coalition

At Thursday morning’s MTA meeting, the board members will vote on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to underground the entirety of the Crenshaw Blvd portion of the Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail Line and return the Leimert Park Village station to the project. In addition to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, Supervisor Mike Antonovich openly supports the motion, and a third board member has expressed their support privately. With 7 votes needed for passage, all eyes are on L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who controls 4 votes on the 13-member MTA Board. The $1.7 billion light rail line is scheduled to begin construction in 2012.

“The Mayor has an important decision to make and it’s about his legacy,” said Jackie Ryan, past president of the Leimert Park Village Merchants Association. “Does he want to be forever known as the Mayor who voted to put the nail in the coffin of the last African-American business corridor in Los Angeles, or the Mayor who provided for Crenshaw the greatest economic revitalization opportunity ever.”

2 of the 3 miles of the line that travels on Crenshaw Blvd is to be built underground. But “the final mile” in Park Mesa Heights from 48th to 59th Street is currently designed at street-level right next to View Park Prep School and a block away from Crenshaw H.S.

MTA’s street-level plan in Park Mesa Heights would also have severe impacts to future development and current businesses, the majority of which are African-American operated. The street-level plan would require: the removal of nearly half the parking on Crenshaw Blvd, the prohibition of left turns at streets like 54th, trains to cross every 2 ½ minutes across busy intersections like Slauson Avenue, which is currently operating at the worst possible level of congestion (LOS F), and 4-5 long years of disruptive street-level construction. During street-level construction on 3rd Street on the recently completed Gold Line Eastside Extension 90% of the businesses were put in the red, and multiple businesses were forced to close their doors.

“The Mayor needs to get on board and bring his block of votes with him,” said Damien Goodmon, Chair of Crenshaw Subway Coalition. “It is what we as a community group have been requesting and organizing towards for 4 years. Every other politician who represents South L.A. has stepped up in full support of the Ridley-Thomas motion.”

“South L.A.’s political versions of the Hatfields and the McCoys are united on this issue,” said Winnifred Jackson of the Hyde Park Organization Partnership for Empowerment (HOPE), a community-based group in the Hyde Park community that would be impacted by the street-level plan. “It’s a level of political unity not seen in generations. If Antonio Villaraigosa turns his back on us now, when the money has been identified, and as a consequence MTA builds their business-killing street-level plan through Park Mesa Heights, he can look forward to his name being mentioned right next to other despised officials like former LAPD Chief William Parker. We won’t ever forget it.”

A report released last Thursday by the MTA staff identified $2 billion dollars in resources that can be used to fund the Ridley-Thomas motion without compromising the delivery of any Measure R project. The cost of the changes to the Crenshaw-LAX Line project are projected between $339-400 million.

“We’ve been door knocking, phone banking, holding community meetings, getting petitions signed and writing letters,” said Goodmon. “We’ll be at Thursday’s board meeting by the hundreds to support the Ridley-Thomas motion. We applaud the Supervisor for stepping up to the plate to represent the Crenshaw community’s interest and the interest of transit users throughout the region who value safe and fast rail transportation. Mayor Villaraigosa needs to do the same.”

The Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line (Fix Expo Campaign) is a collaboration between over a dozen South LA community groups, neighborhood councils and homeowners association, civil rights leaders and rail safety advocates.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ motion is near the top of the MTA board agenda on Thursday, May 26th – MTA Headquarters (1 Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012). The text of the full motion can be viewed online at:

Community activist Damien Goodmon on the Expo Line

Community leader of the Citizen’s Campaign to Fix the Expo, Damien Goodmon, shares his community work and what it means for South Los Angeles.

Additional Information: Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line