On Monday, Crenshaw Subway Coalition, the community coalition that on October 21st filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County MTA for failing to appropriately plan the $1.749 billion Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail Line, held a standing-room only meeting of 150 residents, merchants, property owners, parents and stakeholders in the Crenshaw community to discuss how they intend to “Win the Battle for Crenshaw” over the largest public works project in the history of South Los Angeles. Also in attendance were representatives from the offices of Congresswoman Karen Bass, Assemblymember Mike Davis and Councilmember Bernard Parks.
For the Crenshaw Subway Coalition the future of Crenshaw Blvd is heavily dependent on two changes in the current plans for the line: adding a station at Leimert Park Village, the African-American cultural center of the region, and undergrounding the planned 11 block street-level segment on Crenshaw Blvd from 48th to 59th Street in the Park Mesa Heights community. The street-level segment would travel through the last African-American business corridor in Southern California and require significant roadway changes that would have severe impacts during construction and jeopardize long-term revitalization opportunities.
At the May 26th MTA board meeting, MTA board member Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas offered a motion to make the two changes to the project, but it failed by a vote of 3-10. Blame for its failure has been placed primarily on L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who controls 4 votes on the MTA board. 7 votes were needed for passage.
“Over 600 people, including all of the major clergy, civil rights, business and community leaders in black Los Angeles, were united in our request for a Leimert Park Village station and tunnel in Park Mesa Heights at the May MTA meeting,” said Winnifred Jackson, president of Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment (HOPE) and a Crenshaw Subway Coalition board member. “And all of the elected officials of South L.A. were on board except Mayor Villaraigosa.”
Since the May meeting, the Crenshaw Subway Coalition has publicly expressed two major components of their strategy to achieve their objective: suing the MTA, and requesting elected officials be held accountable for identifying more resources to add to the project.
Monday night’s meeting was held to reveal the third component of the coalition’s strategy — directly engaging the contractors to encourage them to submit a bid for the project that includes both the Park Mesa Heights tunnel and the Leimert Park Village station, and requesting MTA make the tunnel an option in the current environmental document by adopting “The People’s Motion.”
THE PEOPLE’S MOTION
WE THEREFORE MOVE THAT the MTA Board of Directors direct the CEO to:
1. Initiate an environmental review process to environmentally clear and immediately integrate an option for a below grade alignment between 48th Street and 59th Street on Crenshaw Blvd in the City of Los Angeles (“Park Mesa Heights Tunnel option”) in the Crenshaw-to-LAX Transit Corridor Environmental Impact Statement/Report.
a. Request of the Federal Transit Administration an expedited process to review the Park Mesa Heights Tunnel option.
2. Include the Park Mesa Heights Tunnel as a bid option during the construction procurement, i.e. bidders will propose prices for a below grade option from 48th Street to 59th Street on Crenshaw Blvd in the City of Los Angeles.
Damien Goodmon, Chair of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition explained: “With respect to the contractor’s bids, we believe that in this very competitive construction environment there are reputable firms that are willing to submit a responsible bid for a Crenshaw-LAX Line that has both a Leimert Park station and a Park Mesa Heights tunnel.”
Goodmon continued: “With respect to the tunnel being an ‘option,’ right now the Leimert Park Village station is in limbo. The door is still open for it, because it is an ‘option’ and contractors are submitting bids on its cost. The Park Mesa Heights tunnel is not in such a position. Because the tunnel is not an option and bids are not being requested, even if additional resources are identified or construction bids come in extremely low it could not be integrated into the project. The People’s Motion changes that.”
“MTA shut the door on the Park Mesa Heights tunnel when they approved the project without having it as an option, and that’s a big part of the reason we’re suing them,” said Linda Ricks, secretary of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition and chair of the Crenshaw/Slauson CRA Community Advisory Council. “We are asking the elected officials of South LA who sit on the MTA board – Mayor Villaraigosa and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas – to re-open that door right now by pushing for the People’s Motion.”
At Monday’s meeting the audience listened to excerpts from the Mayor’s statement at the May 26th MTA meeting, which seem to indicate the Mayor may support the People’s Motion. While the Mayor stated and voted against additional resources being added to the Crenshaw-LAX Line that would guarantee a Leimert Park Village station and Park Mesa Heights tunnel, generating great outcry in the South LA community, he did say he would support the tunnel if it could be built within budget (mp3 of the Mayor’s statement below):
“Now with respect to the undergrounding, I do not believe, and I said this in a meeting the other day, that undergrounding as proposed here is an appropriate policy decision to do, I do not believe that. But if we could do that within the amount of money here given that we’re looking at maybe 25 – 30% lower bids over the last few years, although I’m not supportive of it as a public policy decision, not every decision we make is based on public policy. So Mr. Ridley-Thomas, to direct my comments to you for a moment, if you would accept that as an amendment, hopefully friendly, I would be willing to get behind it.”
“This is the first of several necessary steps needed to protect and enhance the future of Crenshaw with respect to this project,” said Goodmon. “We hope that as Mayor Villaraigosa considers supporting the People’s Motion he will remember that he stands on the shoulders of Tom Bradley.”
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