Neighborhood council to take action on Reef Project report

The South Central Neighborhood Council and community members discussed possible courses of action on the Reef Project Environmental Impact Report on Tuesday, October 20, 2015.

The South Central Neighborhood Council and community members discussed possible courses of action on the Reef Project Environmental Impact Report on Tuesday, October 20, 2015. | Rachel Cohrs, Intersections South L.A.

With the deadline for public comment on more than 800 pages of documentation on the proposed Reef Project development approaching, the South Central Neighborhood Council said it needs more time to sort through the information.

“The language is hard to understand, and it’s just too much,” said council member Martha Sanchez. “I want to be able to understand what I’m reading. . .I want to have time for an expert who knows more to explain what this means to community members.”

The Reef Project is a $1.2 billion development of high-rise condos, commercial space, and a hotel to be erected in South LA. The project has received some pushback from community residents.

A rendering of the proposed $1.2 billion Reef Project development. | Courtesy of Gensler and PATTERNS

A rendering of the proposed $1.2 billion Reef Project development. | Courtesy of Gensler and PATTERNS

The paperwork under review is the Environmental Impact Report that describes the different community impacts the project could have on nearby residents. The Los Angeles Department of City Planning’s summary of the report describes that the Reef Project’s largest disruptions will affect local aesthetics, air quality, noise, traffic and transportation.

The report, released Sept. 17, is available solely in English, and is only available by either visiting the Department of City Planning office, visiting one of four library locations, or paying $7.50 for a copy on CD.

“Looking at this neighborhood, for [the document] only to be provided in English is absurd. We have lots of monolinguistic Spanish-speaking people around here. It’s hard enough for the average person to understand, not to mention if they don’t speak the language,” council member John Parker said.

The South Central Neighborhood Council has authorized a committee to submit a public comment before the Nov. 2 deadline. The statement will be based on community input the council has gathered since its town hall meeting last month. The exact content has yet to be determined.

A visual map of the location of the Reef Project south of downtown Los Angeles. | Courtesy of Gensler and PATTERNS

A visual map of the location of the Reef Project south of downtown Los Angeles. | Courtesy of Gensler and PATTERNS

The council also plans to submit a request to the city to extend the deadline, but the prospects of success look grim after another organization’s request was denied.

Reef Project representative Will Cipes said that although the official deadline for comment may pass on the report, the developers will still be open to community insight regarding a community benefits package attached to the project.

According to Cipes, however, the community benefits package with the city isn’t quite concrete.

“We have talked about the broad concept of an agreement [on a benefits package] but we have not talked specifics,” Cipes said.

Cipes estimated that the official city council vote on the development will likely be at least six months away.

The Environmental Impact Report didn’t measure how much potential displacement the existence of market-rate apartments could cause in the surrounding area. Preliminary analysis conducted by SAJE, a local nonprofit advocating for tenant rights and affordable housing, identified 4,445 individuals within a two-mile radius of the Reef Project who could be at “very high” or “high” risk for financial strain and/or displacement if the development is built.

To educate community members and provide a place for residents to voice concerns about the project, the South Central Neighborhood Council is organizing a community forum on gentrification Wednesday, Oct. 28 at Santee Education Complex at 6 p.m.

“We want to do something that is really going to benefit people,” South Central Neighborhood Council President Jose Reyes said. “We don’t want to do something just to say we did something.”

South LA loses trees in Crenshaw/LAX Metro line construction

Construction for the new metro rail line on Crenshaw blvd.

Construction for the new metro rail line on Crenshaw blvd.

The new 8.5 mile Crenshaw/LAX light rail line could change the look of South L.A. by bringing an influx of businesses and pedestrian traffic. It could change the South L.A. landscape in another way, too: By cutting down about 100 trees along a two mile stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard between Exposition and 48th street to make room for the train.

Romell Pace, a local who sells shirts at the corner of Crenshaw and Slauson Boulevards, said the trees need to stay.

“Once the trees are removed… it’s going to be slow on business,” he said. “I believe that the trees should stay there because they are landmarks.” [Read more…]

Bus Riders Union superhero El Pasajero protests proposed fare increase

Subway and bus rides could soon cost significantly more, if Metro carries out its new budget proposals.

Under one plan, the $1.50 base fare would rise to $1.75 in September, and increase to $2 by 2017 and $2.25 by 2021. An alternative plan would lift the fare at peak hours to $2.25 in September, and $2.75 in 2017 with fares reaching as high as $3.25 in 2021. Visit Metro’s website to see other fare increase proposals.

According to the Los Angeles Bus Riders Union, the increases will have dramatic consequences for L.A.’s low-income communities.

Metro has reported that its riders earn an average income of $16, 250 — just one third of the average across the county.

Last week, we witnessed one particularly creative way of protesting the potential rise in public transportation fares on a street in South L.A. … click play to watch.

Can a transit line transform South Los Angeles?

imageBy Anita Little

In the opening scene of the film Crash, one of the characters laments on how there is “no sense of touch” in Los Angeles. “In L.A. nobody touches you, we’re always behind this metal and this glass.”

The prevalence of driving in Los Angeles is one of its most identifying characteristics. Everyone here drives and in order to survive in the City of Angels, you need wheels to be your wings.

However, some low-income and minority segments of Los Angeles do not own cars. For decades, this has denied them access to goods and employment in other parts of the city. City planners and urban advocates have pushed for the development of more viable mass transit in Los Angeles and with the building of the Crenshaw Light Rail, disenfranchised communities are now on the verge of greater mobility and, perhaps, an enhanced quality of life.

Read more…

Metro begins tests for Expo Line, a controversial topic in South Los Angeles

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News story:


On Monday, Metro began testing its Expo Line tracks. A high-rail truck pulled an empty light-rail train to test side clearance and overhead.

image “This is just a slow walking speed type test,” said Jim Jasmin, Metro’s start-up manager. “When we get to an object, if it looks iffy, we’ll stop. We’ll move up slowly until we get to it and then check the measurements and go on.”

Jasmin and other safety officials wearing bright yellow vests with orange reflectors followed alongside the train.

“It’s a very long process,” Jasmin said. “It’s going to be a couple of days before we get this all done just in this short, start up section of the line.”

There are 10 new stations included in Phase 1. The stops include the University of Southern California, Exposition and Crenshaw, Farmdale and Culver City. The estimated travel time between downtown and Culver City will be 30 minutes, according to Metro officials.

But the Expo Line construction came with controversy. South Los Angeles community members and activists expressed concern over unsafe railroad crossings in low-income and minority neighborhoods, especially at the Farmdale station near Dorsey High School.

Damien Goodmon, coordinator of the Fix Expo citizens’ campaign, called for every intersection of the Expo Line to have a grade-separated crossing.

“We needed to do this for a variety of reasons,” Goodmon said. “There was injustice and injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere. Dr King. And two, we had to establish that you can’t just assume that since you’re coming through a black and brown community that you’ll be able to build any kind of way.”

The California Public Utilities Commission Board voted in 2010 to support a plan that called for safety improvements. The improvements included station platforms and speed restrictions.

But the Federal Transit Administration’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating whether or not Metro complied with the Civil Rights Act. Title 6 states that any program receiving federal funding cannot discriminate in any way.

“And so that is one long fought for victory you can say,” Goodmon said. “From that standpoint, getting them to look at that project and maybe imposing sanctions upon Metro for violations, we would hope would lead to corrective actions that will prevent this type of disparity in future projects.”

The $862 million Expo light rail line is entirely funded by Metro. Metro has not yet set an official date for the start of passenger service. But they hope to be done with most of Phase 1 by November 15, 2011. Completion all the way to Culver City might not happen until early next year, according to Metro.

Metro public meeting hears an outpouring of complaints

imageThe good news for South Bay residents is that the Metro light rail is expanding. The bad news is that the new line, which will connect Exposition Boulevard to LAX Airport, comes with some extra baggage.

More than 80 residents and business representatives congregated at the Flight Path Museum Tuesday for a meeting held by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority that invited public comment about four proposed locations for a new maintenance yard. The year will support a new light rail that will connect the existing Expo and Green Metro lines.

Of the 25 speakers, 19 were residents of Fusion Center, a housing development in Hawthorne. Many expressed concern that the proposed location near their community—an expansion of the existing Division 22 Metro maintenance yard—was added late in the selection process without proper notification to the surrounding community.

“We had started an environmental analysis of some sites, and for various reasons, those sites proved to be problematic,” said Roderick Diaz, Metro project manager.

Diaz pointed out the comparative ease of expanding operations at an existing yard as opposed to building one from scratch. “With environmental analysis, we are always focused on evaluating different alternatives.”

In response to complaints that the plans for the proposed Metro site near Fusion Center were not sufficiently communicated to residents, Diaz said that Metro purchased commercial mailing lists to reach all residents and businesses within a half mile of each site and that perhaps these lists were not updated or accurate when they were sold.

Aside from notification problems, Fusion residents were not quiet about the wide range of reasons they oppose the yard near their community. One by one, speakers approached the microphone to voice health concerns, risks to property values and noise pollution from a facility that would sit 50 feet from Fusion homes.

The proposed yard will cover a minimum of 15 acres to accommodate a train storage facility, several new buildings and a paint and body shop to service a minimum of 60 train cars.

Air contamination was one of the factors included in Metro’s environmental impact report. Contaminants such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide are predicted to be higher if a maintenance facility is built, but the report does not claim to draw direct health implications from the results. For example, the study reported that carbon monoxide emissions would not exceed the standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality standards, resulting in a “less-than-significant” projected impact at any of the four sites.

“A lot of the impact that we’re concerned about is really hard to quantify,” said Joel Reeves, a Fusion homeowner and realtor with Shorewood Realtors. “My concern as a real estate professional is that when industrial goes in next to a residential area … the feel is not welcoming, not family-oriented. At Fusion, we’re trying to create that family atmosphere.”

The six non-Fusion speakers included residents and professionals from Redondo Beach, Westchester and Inglewood. Some urged Metro to more strongly consider the location along Arbor Vitae Street between Airport and Aviation boulevards instead of their communities because it would be the least intrusive to residential areas.

Other groups expressed concerns with land use and property sales. Rob Antrobius, vice president of AMB Property Corporation in Redondo Beach, stated that his company would not be willing to sell their land to Metro for the maintenance facility if the location at Marine and Redondo Beach boulevards is selected.

“Typically, what happens is that if we decide that we want to purchase a site, more than 90-something percent of the cases, we do an appraisal, an offer is made and there’s a sale based on that offer,” Diaz said. “In the other percent of the cases, we might explore the possibility of eminent domain.”

“We try to avoid that as much as possible,” he said.

Diaz and Metro representatives told residents that over the next few weeks, they will take the public comments about the proposed facility locations into consideration when presenting final evaluation results to the Metro Board of Directors this spring for their decision.

The next meeting for public comment will be held March 31 at Inglewood City Hall from 6 to 8 p.m., and the deadline for public input is April 11 at 5 p.m.

Read more coverage of the maintenance yard debate:
Hawthorne residents caught off guard by Metro project

Photo credit: Lisa Rau

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

Inglewood expands free trolley service

imageInglewood residents were relieved on Monday when the city’s free trolley service added an additional seven daily stops throughout the city. This expansion follows a year-long protest by city residents to keep the service from being eliminated by budget cuts.

The I-Line Trolley Route was approved for termination one year ago, due to required expense cuts. Since Sept. 2009 residents of Inglewood have petitioned to both continue the service and add new stops at shopping areas.

“This new trolley route took a lot of work to bring about,” said Mavis Pilar, Inglewood resident and frequent user of the I-Line transportation service. “Last year the city wanted to remove it altogether, but they don’t realize the number of people in this city that get around by this free transportation.”

The current annual cost of the program is $107,000, according to the city’s Finance Department. About $65,000 of the expense is covered by grant funds, said Sabrina Barnes, the Parks, Recreation and Community Services director.

Six stops were eliminated from the old route because “no one used them,” said Inglewood City Councilman Eloy Morales, Jr. in an interview. “Now, I hope we can continue to offset the costs and encourage as much ridership as possible.”

After city staff conducted surveys, studied proposed routes and received recommendations from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), City transportation and GIS engineers, the City Council approved the continuation of the I-Line Trolley Route, according to Sabrina Barnes, The Inglewood City Council approved the motion to keep and expand the shuttle on Aug. 10.

The route’s new configuration takes approximately one hour. It includes seven new stops, including one in the business district on Century and Crenshaw, and on Pincay Drive to accommodate Carlton Square and Briarwood. Other stops include Prairie and Hardy, Century and Doty, Century and Club, Century and Village, Crenshaw and Hardy, and 90th and West Carlton.

“We basically let them know that they need to cut funds from other places, and not from our daily lives and our paychecks. Because without that service, a lot of us would be stranded. How do they think we get to work?” Pilar said.

“I am glad that we did the surveys,” said Morales. “They showed that I-Trolley really works.”

The I-Line Trolley Shoppers Shuttle Service began in 1986, providing free transportation for all ages on a fixed route that connected shopping areas, public service agencies, the Inglewood Senior Center, five senior housing complexes, and connection points to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bus service. Since its beginning the length of the route has been modified five times in response to citizen petitions.

The Service is funded by City Proposition C funds and Proposition A Incentive grants from the MTA. These funds are purposed for parks, recreation and community services, senior transportation, contract services and general transportation.

Since the I-Line is granted by the MTA, the association’s staff has been involved in setting up data collection and reporting systems to evaluate the new route. They have also worked with the Public Works Department in acquiring and installing new signs, and producing road work needed to accommodate the new stops.

A statement released by the Inglewood Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department estimated a cost of $1,500 for new signs. This is the only major additional expense created by the new I-Line Trolley Service route.

Free Trolley service operates Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to noon, and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Each loop begins and ends at the Inglewood Senior Center, located at Vincent Park, 330 Centinela Avenue. Signs displaying the number to the trolley dispatch office are posted at the stops to offer easy access to information on the trolley’s location.

Free MTA trips for Los Angeles students

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a new policy today that would allow students in Los Angeles County to ride MTA transit for free during the day.

“Schools throughout Los Angeles County are struggling with severe budget challenges, and cutting field trip transportation means less opportunity for students to take advantage of museums, programs, and events outside of school buildings,” Mayor Villaraigosa said, as quoted in a press release. “This is especially true for low income students whose families do not have the resources for alternative transportation.”

According to a press release from the Mayor’s office, the MTA “will not suffer an increase in operating costs because service is already running.” No revenue would be lost because “students would not otherwise be riding transit during school hours without this policy.”

Funding transportation for school field trips has been a constant impediment, say some L.A. teachers, especially during budget cuts.

“Our students are missing out on educational experiences because we have no funds to bus them on field trips. Access to Metro rail and buses will open a world of opportunities for learning beyond the classroom,” said Santee teacher Trebor Jacquez, as quoted in the press release.

According to Villaraigosa, MTA buses and trains have unused capacity during school hours, making free transit for students a “win-win” policy for the MTA.

The proposal will be put to the MTA Board at its meeting on Dec. 9, with plans to implement the system by the end of January 2011.

Proposition 22 chooses local projects over statewide programs


By: Chris Foy

Listen to the audio story:


Read the audio script:

If Proposition 22 passes, tax revenue decisions would be in the hands of city and county officials. Right now, the state government can choose where fuel and property tax revenue goes. This revenue usually supports schools and other social services in the form of state-issued bonds. But Proposition 22 would stop the state from using tax revenues to pay for bonds. Because of fiscal problems, many local budgets are in the red.

Proposition 22 would fund new and exiting highways, roads, transit systems and redevelopment projects with money from the general fund, instead of gasoline tax revenue. Supporters say transportation and other incomplete projects would finally be guaranteed funding. Mountain View Councilman Mike Kasperzak is one of the local officials who supports Proposition 22. In an online video advertisement, he said he does not want local tax dollars leaving his community.

Kasperzak: Why should the state be able to come and steal our money to balance their budget? I can’t go to my neighbor’s house and rob his piggy bank to pay my bills. It’s the same thing.

Proposition 22 would take an estimated $1 billion from the general fund to pay toward transportation debt and redevelopment projects. That is out of nearly $6 billion a year from fuel tax revenue alone. The legislative analyst’s office breakdown on Proposition 22 says by putting the burden on general fund, the state will have less money in turn to spend on everything else.

Opponents of Proposition 22 say this means over $400 million would be drained from public schools each year if the initiative passes. Elaine Manley of the Cupertino-Sunnyvale League of Women Voters said in a video analysis that prop 22 would increase pressure on the general fund.

Manley: The proponents, cities and local public safety officials want local government budgets to be under less strain and feel that transportation issues have taken a back seat for too long. The opponents, teachers and statewide public safety officials feel the general fund is in such a crisis that this loss of flexibility will have dire results for those social services funded from the general fund, and that redevelopment agencies should not be favored over those social services.

Proposition 22 brings up an argument over California’s only pot of money. The debate is over what is more important: state programs or local projects.