The Westside Subway Extension isn't just causing trouble in tony Beverly Hills, it's also making waves in the Arts District.
The neighborhood recently found out that the Metro plans to install a maintenance facility for this track in the heart of the Arts District at 590 S. Santa Fe Avenue between Lucky Brand and the planned Sixth Street Bridge.
"This was completely from left field," said developer and resident Yuval Bar-Zimmer. "Nobody every came to the community to discuss the environmental review. Most of these meetings took place on the Westside, where they were most affected." The final environmental review for the project was released in 2012.
"We weren't included in the discussion," said Deborah Meadows, president of Los Angeles River Artists & Business Association (LARABA). "We were perturbed that even council district 14 didn't seem to inform us."
The Westside Subway Extension is a 8.9 mile project that would extend the Purple Line beyond Wilshire and Western, all the way to Westwood. It would decrease travel time from Pershing Square to UCLA by half an hour. Riders from South Los Angeles will shave off 23 minutes, while those from East Los Angeles and Pasadena will save 29 minutes. Its construction also includes property acquisitions, necessary to the project, including a maintenance yard that sits mostly between First and Sixth streets.
If put in place, the maintenance yard could be an eyesore to an area that the city is desperately trying to revive. It would hamper plans for the Sixth Street Bridge. Its most recent designs include an arts park, a performance space, and a river gateway tunnel connection under the rail yard to the Los Angeles River. It would also put a wrench in the popular in-channel bike path proposal, which uses the area as an access point.
According to Bar-Zimmer, he only found out by virtue of his sitting at the citizen design advisory committee for the Sixth Street Bridge. "I kept asking about this in the plans, but nobody could quite give me an explanation." Finally, the developer tracked down the owner of 590 S. Santa Fe Avenue and found some alarming answers.
It seems the agency is purchasing the property by eminent domain, which is the right of a government to expropriate property for public use. Though the property owner will be compensated at fair market value, residents feel that it would not mitigate the damage it would cause to the neighborhood. The property would help expand the Division 20 Maintenance and Storage Facility to accommodate heavy rail vehicles.
LARABA is currently working to oppose the plan. With the help of Supervisor Gloria Molina's office, the group successfully introduced a motion that postponed the construction efforts. It also directed Metro to begin a dialog with residents and stakeholders. The Metro board unanimously approved the motion.
"We want to open the conversation," said Deborah Meadows, president of LARABA. "We'd like to slow down the process a bit and discuss reasonable placement of the facility or at least agree on a reasonable design compatible to the neighborhood."
It has also begun a petition to solidify neighborhood support. In less than four days, the group has acquired over 140 signatures from property owners, businesses and residents in Arts District.
Despite the motion's approval, LARABA isn't letting up. It continues to canvas for signatures, sending a message that the community won't stop until their neighborhood receives the kind of infrastructure it needs to maintain its character.
You can sign the neighborhood petition here.