Exploring the South Bay Metro Green Line Extension

One of Metro's highly anticipated metro rail projects is the South Bay Green Line Extension. The Green Line's current western terminus is Redondo Beach Station, located on the edge of Hawthorne and Redondo Beach's North Redondo Beach section. If all goes according to plan -- and there's little to believe that it won't -- the Green Line will be extended further southeast along the old Harbor Subdivision Transit Corridor right-of-way, into the small city of Lawndale, through northern portions of Redondo Beach, and finally on down to Torrance's planned Transit Center.

Definitions of what communities constitute the South Bay vary, but most would include those between the Santa Monica Bay and the 405 Freeway, stretching from Palos Verdes Peninsula in the south to Ballona Creek in the north. It's one of the most diverse regions in the Southland, with significant populations of Canadian, English, Filipino, German, Guatemalan, Indian, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Persian, Salvadoran, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, and West African ancestral origins, which means, of course, that the region also boasts an amazing variety of eateries. It's one of the most physically beautiful regions of the Southland as well, with stunning beaches and incredible views of the ocean. Even the huge oil refineries -- though they regrettably contribute significantly to air pollution -- are captivatingly beautiful in their own way.

Although there are predictably those attempting to slow the rail's progress, suburban development of the South Bay was largely spurred by the arrival of rail. In the early 20th century the Los Angeles and Redondo Railway transported new homeowners to and from the region, primarily comprised of chicken ranches, dairies, and small farms growing strawberries, celery, flowers, and other crops. That railway was soon absorbed by the Pacific Electric Railway. Red Cars traveled along the wide median of Hawthorne Boulevard, which was known as Railway Avenue until 1933. The Red Cars stopped operating in the area in the 1940s and '50s, but rail never disappeared. Freight rail played a huge part in the South Bay's industrial development. Today BNSF -- the successor to the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad which arrived in the 1920s -- still operates in the region.

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The second half of the 20th Century marked a rise in reliance on automobiles. In the 1960s the 405 Freeway carved through the region. Old Rail lines were abandoned, and some were converted into parking spaces for cars. As people were pushed into car dependency, the freeways became choked with pollution, gridlock, and especially in the 405's case, misery. In the 1980s the LACTC advanced the idea of creating a passenger rail line along the so-called "Coastal Corridor," which would've offered an alternative to sitting in traffic.

Eventually, Passenger rail was partially restored to the region when the Green Line arrived in 1995. The further it extends into the region, the easier it will be to visit and explore without having to use a car. Until then, public transit options serving the area include several bus lines operated by Metro, Torrance Transit, and Beach Cities Transit.

The Green Line extension isn't yet in the engineering phase, so it's possible that things will change between now and then. Since construction of light rail along pre-existing right-of-ways tends to take a lot less time than tunnel-boring for subways, the Green Line's extension will probably be completed well before the Purple Line completes its journey to the sea.


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Station No. 1

It looks like the first station will be located near the intersection of Inglewood Avenue and Manhattan Beach Boulevard, at the edge of Redondo Beach and tiny, landlocked, and diverse Lawndale. Nearly 40% of the Lawndale's residents were born abroad -- most often in either Mexico or Vietnam. Within a few blocks of the intersection there are currently restaurants featuring Argentine, Brazilian, Chilean, Cuban, Filipino, Greek, Lebanese, Mexican, Peruvian, Vietnamese cuisines, as well as donuts and hamburgers.

Nearby, underneath the path of high voltage lines (buzzing electric lines hum throughout much of the South Bay), is the South Bay Gardens nursery, whose property eventually gives way to a bike and pedestrian path to the south. A few blocks west of the future station is one of Northrop Grumman Aerospace System's several campuses in the region. Nearby parks include Dale Page and Glenn M. Anderson Parks.

Shopping Center

An oversized chair advertising regular sized chair

South Bay Gardens Nursery


Station No. 2

The second station of the extension will likely be located near Artesia Boulevard, still on the edge of Redondo Beach and Lawndale. The intersection is near the South Bay Galleria, a three-story mall built in 1985 on the former site of an old May Company store. Just south of the mall, between Pacific Crest Cemetery and El Nido Park, is the future site of the Redondo Beach Transit Center -- although it was being used as pumpkin patch when I passed through. It seems likely that it will be in some way incorporated into the Green Line extension, although the relatively small bus operation currently only includes two lines, which serve El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach.

Nearby parks include Dale Page Park, Perry Park, and the aforementioned (and not-very-long) bike and pedestrian trail that runs under high voltage lines, between Phelan and Felton Lanes. Fantasy and Sci-Fi fans might want to check out the Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore. Also nearby is The Thirsty Club, a popular dive bar with both shuffle board and karaoke.

As with the first stop, the area boasts a variety of restaurants -- in this case offering donuts, Arabic, Brazilian, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Mexican, Moroccan, hamburgers, sandwiches, and seafood. The sign on El Indio says "since 1960," which makes it one of the older establishments in the region, and hopefully one that will remain in existence once the train arrives.

Future site of Redondo Transit Center

Bike and pedestrian trail under the wires

Inside the South Bay Galleria

Thirsty Club

El Endio - since 1960


Station No. 3

The third station of the extension will likely be constructed near the intersection of Hawthorne Boulevard and 190th Street, at the edge of Redondo Beach and Torrance. Torrance is the largest city in the South Bay, both in terms of area and population. It's almost completely landlocked except for a bayside neighborhood known as Hollywood Riviera. Torrance's largest ethnicity is Japanese, which is why it's sometimes affectionately referred to as Torrance Prefecture.

Torrance has long been highly diverse, although the demographics are shifting. Today the largest country of origin for the 28% of Torrance born abroad hail from South Korea. One of the oldest neighborhoods is El Pueblo (nicknamed "La Rana"), established by immigrants from Purepero, Michoacan, that arrived around the same time as the first wave of Issei Japanese. That neighborhood is located in the shadow of the huge ExxonMobil Refinery, which began operations in the 1920s when oil refineries began to spring up throughout the South Bay.

Nearby parks include Delthome Park, Franklin Park, La Romeria Park, Lilienthal Park, and Columbia Park -- the largest park in the vicinity of the rail line extension. In the northeast corner of Columbia Park are the Torrance Community Gardens, and in the southeast is the Daisaku and Kaneko Ikeda Cherry Tree Grove. It wasn't prime cherry blossom-viewing time when I visited, and instead of pink flowers most of the branches were decorated with the webs of seemingly countless orb-weavers.

Potential location of Station 3

Bridge over Hawthorne (and MINI in a wall)

ExxonMobil Refinery

Columbia Park and the Daisaku and Kaneko Ikeda Cherry Tree Grove


Station No. 4

The final station of the Green Line extension will be attached to the Torrance Transit Park and Ride Regional Terminal, to be constructed just north of the intersection of Crenshaw and Torrance Boulevards. Torrance Transit, along with Metro and Beach Cities Transit, is currently one of the three bus operators serving much of the area as well as the Harbor, South Los Angeles, and Downtown Los Angeles.

A bit west is the Torrance Civic Center, which includes the Katy Geissert Civic Library, the Ken Miller Recreation Center, the James R. Armstrong Theatre, the Torrance Cultural Arts Center, the Torrance Art Museum, Torrance City Hall, and the Employee Adopt-A-Rose Garden.

A little to the southwest is another large mall, the Del Amo Fashion Center -- constructed in 1961. It was expanded over the years, and from 1981 until 1992 it held the distinction of being the largest mall in the country. In 2005 its eastward expansion forced the closure of the former Torrance Transit Center.

South of the mall, and just over a mile and a half from the station, is Madrona Marsh Nature Preserve, and across the street is the Madrona Marsh Nature Center. Although it's probably more vibrant during the rainy season, at the end of the dry season the marsh has a nice, forlorn autumnal beauty. Other parks near the station include Charles H. Wilson Park, El Prado Park, Greenwood Park, Thomas Keller Memorial Park, and Torrance Park.

Not too far east of the future Transit Center are the American headquarters of Honda, which arrived in 1990, following the lead of Toyota, who moved to Torrance in 1967. Honda is the second largest employer in the city (after Toyota) and their large campus includes, in addition to the expected buildings, several sports grounds, including a baseball diamond, a jogging loop, tennis courts, and basketball courts (which of course aren't open to the public).

I wouldn't be at all surprised if when the Green Line is extended even further that it will include a stop near Old Town Torrance that would make visiting the Torrance Historical Society and Eastgate Plaza even easier, but both are less than a mile and a half from the future Torrance transit center. That's great news because Eastgate Plaza, in my mind, is easily the most appealing shopping center in the region.

Unlike most malls, whose collection of shops varies little from mall to mall, Eastgate Plaza is practically its own J-Town. Currently the mall is home to Bistro Beaux, Matsui, Musha Izakaya, Sushi Nozomi, Teriyaki Inn, and Torihei, and a Mitsuwa Marketplace -- itself practically a mall-within-a-mall that includes Hamada-ya Bakery, Go Squared Takoyaki & Taiyaki, Italian Tomato, J-Sweets, Lupicia, Marion Crepes, Mifune, Santouka Ramen, and Tokyo Ginza Rokumeikan as well as Japanese specialty shops like Video Eye, Books Sanseido, and Trendy.

Also in the vicinity of the planned station are Amore Vino (a wine bar), Branch Office (a dive bar), Max Karaoke Studio, the Torrance City Farmer's Market, and restaurants offering American, Cuban, Hawaiian, Indian, Korean, Mexican, Spanish, Vietnamese, coffee, desserts, hamburgers, sandwiches, and tea.

Abandoned railroad spur

Eastgate Plaza food court

Madrona Marsh in the dry season

Further down the line the rail will continue along the right-of-way, until it reaches the border of the city of Carson and unincorporated West Carson. At that point it will likely either turn south to San Pedro, or continue east to connect with Long Beach's Blue Line. Although no one at Metro has asked me, I'd personally prefer the latter option, and maybe the Silver Line can be extended to San Pedro (and hopefully converted to light rail). Either way, I look forward to the day that I can explore more of the South Bay and Harbor regions via rail.

About the Author

Eric Brightwell is a writer, map maker, and an explorer of neighborhoods. He writes at Amoeblog, and his maps can be viewed at Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography.

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