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.

The lowdown on shopping carts and strollers on Metro buses

It’s not often enforced, and most riders probably don’t know about it, but it’s a Metro rule to fold up your carts and strollers on buses, trains, and subways when they’re crowded.image

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority, which operates buses, subways, and light-rail trains maintains a customer code of conduct governing customer safety on its vehicles. Its most recent update, from June 2011 ( states, “During crowded conditions or peak hours, remove children from strollers and materials from carts, and collapse, or wait for the next Metro vehicle that has room for the cart or stroller. This provision does not apply to wheelchairs or other mobility devices for persons with disabilities.”

The rule is enforced by drivers, conductors, or any other authorized Metro representative, at their discretion.

Mark Littman, Metro Deputy Executive Officer for Public Relations, said that bus drivers could call in Metro Transit Police should a patron refuse to comply with an order to empty and fold a cart or stroller. Littman also said that sheriff’s deputies at rail stations do actively monitor folding carts during peak hours. He emphasized that there is no outright ban on carts or strollers. Patrons can also wait for the a less-crowded bus if they don’t want to empty their carriers, he said.

imageFor those living in South LA and wondering how to get their groceries home without violating the rule, one grocery store in the area offers a shuttle for shoppers: The Ralph’s at Vermont and Adams has shuttle-vans that will take customers home within a five-mile radius of the store if they have purchased at least $25 worth of groceries. Customers can sit under a canopy while waiting for a van. The store operates the service from 9:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily and is the only Ralph’s in the area to offer shuttle service.

Op Ed - MTA Vote: Is Our City Stuck on Stupid?

By Blair H. Taylor

This week the MTA of Los Angeles voted 8 to 1 to award $1Billion in transportation funds to purchase new light rail cars to a Japanese company, Kinkisharyo International LLC. To be fair, there was no opportunity to really “buy American” since all three companies in final consideration were foreign. However, there were some enormous gaps in what the three vendors would do for Los Angeles and our desperately underserved regions.

All three companies are roughly the same in terms of technical competency and expertise, with marginal differences. All have successfully delivered projects of this magnitude in the United States over the past few decades. But only one, Siemens, offered a commitment to local and domestic jobs and a further commitment to localized training with Los Angeles-based facilities and partners. The Siemens proposal would have brought hundreds of more jobs to South Los Angeles than the plan by the next best competitor. However, the MTA decided it would rather ship those jobs over to Japan.

There is something happening at the MTA requiring critical attention. Enormous financial decisions are being made with scant regard to the impact on the neediest populations of the city.

At the MTA Board meeting, one woman brought police criminal tape and actually attempted to cordon-off the area where the MTA Board was seated, claiming it was a “crime scene.” Candidly, she had a very good point. As a result of the MTA decision, 500 good, and living-wage jobs – jobs paid for by the taxpayers of this region – are now going to go overseas, because the MTA totally undervalued domestic job creation as part of the bid evaluation process. And in that devaluation, the MTA devalued us all. Make no mistake, the impact and implications of the MTA vote will be staggering in the years ahead.

It is unfathomable how anyone, save a resident of Tokyo, could ship 500 jobs overseas when this country is still in the midst of the worst economic malaise since the Great Depression. The jobs would have been based in South LA, an area where unemployment rates for young African American males exceeds 35 percent and where African American and Latino households lost more than 50 percent of their net worth during the recession.

The 500 positions would not have gone to nameless and faceless people but to qualified residents we know who have been seeking gainful employment for months, some for over a year. 500 families may now unnecessarily lose homes or be unable to send children to college for lack of a steady income. And significantly, they will be unable to spend the earned money in their neighborhoods to stimulate business growth. The lost multiplier effect of their local wages could have sustained businesses, created more jobs, and launched new entrepreneurs in a way that would have increased their own direct expenditures by 10 to20 fold.

For far too long, South Los Angeles has been excluded economically and at times systemically and this is not the first time the MTA has shown a callous disregard for South Los Angeles. The recent decision to run the Crenshaw line at street level right past Crenshaw and View Park High Schools and an earlier decision to run the Expo line (also at grade) right past Dorsey High, must be contrasted with the current discussions as to whether 50, 60 or 70 feet below ground is sufficient clearance to run a train UNDER Beverly Hills High School.. Such exclusion has caused significant tangible economic disparities.

But come on now! It is simply unconscionable for the leaders overseeing the largest expenditure of public sector taxpayer dollars to ever potentially hit South Los Angeles, to knowingly send 500 high quality jobs and resources to Japan in this economic environment.

Blair H. Taylor is the President and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League

New Expo line to finally open to public

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, MTA board member Richard Katz and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky were on board the Expo line’s preview ride with the media.

The mayor hopped on the Expo line this morning to take a preview ride on the new light-rail train scheduled to open to the public on Saturday, April 28. The public will get a chance to try it out for free during that first weekend.

In the first phase of the line, which cost $932 million, there will be passenger service from downtown’s 7th Street Metro Center station to La Cienega/Jefferson, with an extension into Culver City to be completed by this summer. The line features a total of 12 stations with two shared by the Metro Blue Line in downtown L.A.

The second phase, which will lengthen the line 6.6 miles with seven stations and provide service to Santa Monica, is expected to be a reality by 2015.

“Everything we expand is just going to keep connecting us all over the region,” said mayor Antonio Villaraigosa during the train ride. “I remember when we had the red cars. It’s back, everybody!”

Villaraigosa referred to the PCC Streetcar service inaugurated on March 22, 1937 and which was completely eliminated by 1963. It has taken 50 years for the South LA area to see another “trolley” on its streets.

The old PCC “red cars” connected the city with the valley.

“This is a milestone. One that we’ve waited for a long time,” said L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who was on board during the preview ride along with the mayor and Art Leahy, the CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Construction on the line began in 2006. The opening date has been postponed multiple times due to technical problems uncovered during the testing phase.

“Safety is the number one priority,” said the MTA’s Leahy. “During the next month, we’re going to continue making sure all systems work and that every supervisor and every operator has been properly trained for when we have customers on board.”

The ride from downtown L.A. to La Cienega is about 30 minutes, with the train running at 55 miles per hour. The trains will run approximately every 12 minutes, stopping at each station for 20 seconds.

Carolyn Kelly is one of the train operators of the new Expo Line.

The frequency of the trains will increase depending on the ridership. Leahy points out that when the Blue Line opened, it only had about 10,000 riders a day. Now, it carries about 80,000 people on a daily basis.

Carolyn Kelly, from Compton, is one of the line’s operators. A 22-year MTA veteran, she has been participating on the testing phase.

“We’ve been testing in the morning, afternoon and evening – at all hours for a year to make sure everything is safe,” she explained. “There are many safety mechanisms in the train that prevent us from going over the speed limit in the different areas of the line.”

For example, as the train nears the Farmdale station, it cannot run at a speed higher than 10 miles per hour, because there’s a school – Dorsey High School – just feet away from the station. If the operator were to exceed the 10 mph speed limit, a warning beep will sound off. If it’s ignored, the train automatically shuts down.

MTA will operate the Expo Line seven days a week from 5 am to 12:30AM. The fare for a one-way ticket will be $1.50.

You can check out video of today’s ride here:
Video courtesy MTA


The benefits of bringing light rail stations to South LA

LACMTA CEO Art Leahy (Courtesy of Transit Talent)

Congress member Maxine Waters wrote a letter urging Arthur Leahy, CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), to seek funds for the construction of light rail stations in South Los Angeles.

The proposed light rail construction is in Leimert Park and Westchester on the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor.

The funds for the light rail stations would come from a TIGER grant – a competitive nationwide grant program that creates jobs by supporting investments in transportation infrastructure.

Waters hopes to gain Leahy’s support in amending the transportation bill, H.R. 7, which would add one billion dollars in TIGER funds over the next two years in addition to constructing the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor in Leimert Park and Westchester.

In her letter, Waters states, “The Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor will improve air quality, relieve traffic congestion, and expand access to work, education, shopping, and entertainment opportunities throughout Los Angeles County.”

Leahy, who used to be a bus driver in South L.A., stated that he “do[esn’t] think there are negatives” to constructing the light rail system. He is confident, “When people ride [this] line, they’re going to love it.”

What other areas in South L.A. could possibly benefit from a light rail system?

imageSouth L.A. resident Pam Licavoli shared her opinion:

“A light rail system that would go down Crenshaw would be nice, but it would head north and south bound from Wilshire, all the way to [Pacific Coast Highway],” Licavoli wrote. “That would help tremendously for those who have jobs way out there.”

Leahy agreed that the new light rail system will provide “more access to job sites” and “more flexibility as to where [South L.A. residents] live and where they work.”

Licavoli further suggested, “Another area [a new light rail system] would help would be on Imperial, East and West bound way out past Kaiser, as that would help the elders and able them a chance to get to and from their doctor’s appointments.”

Leahy predicts that this new Leimert Park/Westchester line would be the “busiest light rail line in the country.” He imagines that this line would rival the popularity of even the Blue Line and Pasadena’s Gold Line.

“LACMTA is revolutionizing Los Angeles,” Leahy said. “You can do things today that were inconceivable 20 years ago.”

OpEd: Crenshaw Subway Coalition Heads to Court Over LA Mayor’s Betrayal

By Damien Goodmon
Chair, Crenshaw Subway Coalition

On October 21st, our coalition of Crenshaw corridor residents, merchants and stakeholder groups marched into court to file a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County MTA for violating the laws of the state of California when they approved the faulty Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail environmental document at their September 22nd board meeting. Our 200-paragraph lawsuit specifies how the currently proposed MTA plan, which lacks a Leimert Park Village station and features a destructive, disruptive and dangerous street-level segment on Crenshaw Blvd from 48th to 59th Street, violates our state’s civil rights act and eleven major provisions of our state’s environmental law.

The full lawsuit can be read here.

Citizens suing their own government is a bold and daunting undertaking. But the Antonio Villaraigosa-led MTA board has left us with no other alternative.

For four long years the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and Fix Expo Campaign have been clear: we want the Crenshaw-LAX rail line, we just want it built right. In 2007, we began singing, eventually creating a chorus that was reflected in the over 600 citizens who flooded the MTA headquarters in May of this year to request that line be built with a station at Leimert Park Village and underground for the last mile still proposed at street-level on Crenshaw Blvd. Every major South L.A. community, clergy, labor and business group stands united in their request that the train not impose on fragile Crenshaw Blvd the safety hazards, traffic congestion and other environmental disruptions that accompanies street-level rail.

imageSimultaneously, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition has been advocating for the project to be adequately funded to make such happen. Yet, at every turn we’ve been met with forceful opposition from the MTA staff and the board – most prominently Mayor Villaraigosa.

The MTA response is always, “There’s no money.” While Villaraigosa and the rest of the Westside politicians who control the MTA board have a blank check mindset for the Wilshire subway extension, which the Mayor considers a personal legacy project, we on Crenshaw have been met with a tight-belt mentality. Even after receiving a $546 million federal loan for the Crenshaw-LAX Line, MTA decision-makers stated there still was no money for a Leimert Park Village station or tunnel from 48th to 59th – that the loan would be used to help build other projects more quickly, not improve Crenshaw-LAX!

These types of discrepancies and actions are nothing new to those of us in South L.A. The historic disinvestment and lack of return of our tax dollars is as old as the call made by those who perpetrate and benefit from these policies that we “shouldn’t bring race into the discussion.”

We should, so they say, ignore that Crenshaw is the only remaining corridor with a significant concentration of black-owned businesses in all of the Western United States and 5-6 long years of street-level construction from 48th to 59th Streets, coupled with the long-term environmental changes, will lead to its destruction.

We should, so they say, not consider this yet another ugly chapter in the history of transportation decisions that have harmed many communities, but undoubtedly have disproportionately harmed communities of color.

There are many causes for the current Crenshaw-LAX predicament. Among them is that many on the MTA board, think that Crenshaw Blvd is and always will be a ghetto. They see no harm in taking half the businesses’ parking spaces (308 in total from 48th to 59th), and cutting down the mature median trees to replace them with industrial utility lines and prison-like fences. They see no consequence in closing off streets, eliminating left-turns, getting rid of the frontage roads and pushing the toxic fumes of vehicles 18-feet closer to the day care centers and schools that line the alignment.

“Its just Crenshaw after all,” is their attitude.

imageWhat they don’t recognize is the decades-long work the community has done to position Crenshaw for its rebirth in spite of constant political and bureaucratic challenges and neglect. Residents and business owners came together to push for and pass a specific plan for the Crenshaw corridor that prohibits uses like liquor stores and motels, and guides future development in a direction similar to Downtown Culver City.

What they don’t respect is the dozens of community visioning processes, feasibility studies, and resident-led programs that have incrementally sought to transform Crenshaw’s Hyde Park into a community of choice, and Leimert Park Village into an even more thriving cultural center.

They don’t view Crenshaw Blvd’s unique cultural and ethnic character and it’s positioning in the middle of an international triangle of commerce (LAX, Hollywood and Downtown L.A.) as an asset that can be leveraged for both local and regional economic prosperity.

They definitely don’t envision Crenshaw Blvd the same way decision-makers viewed West Hollywood’s Santa Monica Blvd 15 years ago. Today MTA studies state that the only possible rail option for Santa Monica Blvd is an underground alignment. Ripping out trees and landscaping to widen the street’s roadway, or taking away half the businesses’ parking spaces to fit street-level rail or elevated rail columns on a median once used by trains are not an option on Santa Monica Blvd. Underground all the way is what they say at MTA when it comes to Santa Monica Blvd!

So while we have been forced to go to court like environmental groups and civil rights leaders before us to protect, preserve and enhance Crenshaw’s future, we recognize this is just another in a long unfortunate series of decisions, where the hopes and dreams of a community of color positioned for a revival are being stymied by politicians who benefit more from spending our tax dollars elsewhere, rather than adequately investing in our backyard.

The Crenshaw Subway Coalition will be hosting a community meeting on Monday, November 7 from 6-8 pm at the DWP Crenshaw Office (4030 Crenshaw Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90008) to discuss their lawsuit and reveal the most intriguing aspect of their strategy to achieve a Leimert Park Village station and tunnel from 48th to 59th Street.

Crenshaw Subway Coalition calls for emergency meeting; preparing to sue MTA



Crenshaw Subway Coalition Community Meeting

Today Monday, July 18 6:30 – 8:30 PM
US Bank Community Room on Crenshaw/Slauson
5760 Crenshaw Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90016

MTA is Trying to Speed Up the Game Clock stopwatch(Forgive the incredibly short notice, but we are in part responding to MTA’s unprecedented attempt to vote to approve the project 7 weeks sooner than legally permissible.)

Attendees of our June 30th meeting were first informed of two elements of our multi-faceted strategy to win the battle with MTA for an underground Leimert Park Village station and subway on Crenshaw Blvd:

1. Holding our elected officials from Congress down to City Council and the Mayor accountable for delivering more of our tax dollars to the Crenshaw-LAW project to fund the Leimert Park Village station and subway in Park Mesa Heights

2. Suing Metro in court for violating environmental and civil rights laws

At tonight’s community meeting we will further explain the legal basis for a lawsuit, in particular the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that MTA is violating.

The importance of tonight’s meeting increased a few days ago when it was revealed that MTA is attempting to “speed up the game clock” and approve the project at their August 4 board meeting as opposed to their September 22 board meeting. (After MTA approves the project, the window of opportunity to file a CEQA lawsuit is JUST 30 DAYS.)

In our review of every other transit study of similar nature over the past decade, MTA provided a 30 day public review period and multiple community meetings after the final project document was released to provide citizens an opportunity to, at the very least, go on the record to express their concerns.  There are even federal requirements for a 30 day public review period.  And yet as of this morning, just 17 days from August 4, MTA still has not released the final project document for review.  They haven’t even given it to the elected officials or fellow public agencies!

This is just the latest greatest display of disrespect of our community and egregious violation by MTA and partially why we believe that a legal challenge is key to our victory.  It will make MTA more likely to concede the Leimert Park Village station and Park Mesa Heights tunnel.  As was clear in the lead up to the May 26th MTA board vote.  MTA has the money to build the project the way the community desires, they just currently lack the will.  Simply, MTA’s draft document is legally flawed, the basis for Metro staff, Mayor Villaraigosa and wanna-be Mayor Zev Yaroslavsky’s opposition to the Leimert Park Village station and Park Mesa Heights tunnel is flawed, and if MTA had conducted a proper environmental study both designs would be in the project.

There will be more to come after tonight’s meeting, but for now, please hear our urgent appeal for generous donations so that we can fund a legal challenge.  Lawyers are interested, but because this type of law is a true specialty – there will be costs.

The leaders of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and Fix Expo Campaign have adopted as a policy to only ask the community for financial support when we need it – and now is that time.

As has become clear both in our fight with MTA on the Expo Line crossing at Dorsey High School and in other project fights with MTA by other communities, the agency/board does not begin taking communities seriously until lawyers get involved.

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 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