A Westside Regional Transit Center We Can Be FOR

GETTING THERE FROM HERE - A little over a decade ago, the Westside was galvanized into changing their tune from always being against new ideas and choosing instead to be FOR something that would, at the very least, offer an attractive new alternative to enhance mobility and avoid the traffic nightmare that is the I-10 freeway:  the Expo Line. 

 

Rather than reject the rest of the City—in particular, the Mid-City and Downtown regions that were mentally walled off after the LA riots—the Westside would reject a strategy that was imprisoning itself in gridlock.  Unfortunately, City Planning combined with unscrupulous developers and lobbyists—and a Mayor willing to discard the Westside like a used Kleenex—have opted to use the Expo Line to worsen, and not provide relief from, gridlock. 

Yet the same Friends4Expo Transit, Sierra Club and Westside Neighborhood Councils that fought FOR the Expo Line can and must now be FOR new developments in the Westside that will, if appropriately sized and planned, allow for some reasonable (and even advantageous) densification near Expo Line stations and also enhance (not discourage) access to the Expo Line and all of its exciting destinations. 

In particular, the Westside (and all adjacent regions) can and should be FOR a Westside Regional Transit Center at Exposition/Sepulveda. 

The West LA Expo Line stations at Palms/National, Exposition/Westwood and Bundy/Olympic have their own opportunities, challenges and limitations, but Exposition/Sepulveda is special for a particular reason: 

The Exposition/Sepulveda Expo Line station is where a future north-south transit line station (hopefully, and presumably, a rail station) will be to allow Westside and San Fernando Valley commuters access to both sides of the Sepulveda Pass.  It’s also where the major commercial corridors of Pico and Sepulveda Blvds. converge, as well as the I-10 and I-405 freeways. 

Unfortunately, this station is next to the industrially-zoned land abutting the I-405 freeway, and no matter how hard the landowners (the hard-charging, hard-lobbying and politically-connected Casden Associates) and tone-deaf L.A. City Planning Department (whose view on New Urbanism and single-family homeowners have allowed it to wage holy jihad on the true New Urbanists and homeowners who fought for the Expo Line in the first place) deny it, this isn’t a very nice place to live. 

This is, however, a great place to commute to en route to other transit lines—be it train, bus, vanpool or even a place to jump on a bicycle—because of its excellent and advantageous location. 

The southeast corner of this property (the intersection of Exposition/Sepulveda) is approximately where the future north-south transit station would most likely be, and near the Sepulveda and Pico Blvds. where buses already frequent, and where bicycles and buses and vanpools and LAX Flyaway and Amtrak links someday should be. 

This isn’t hard to figure out, provided one has a simple instrument called a “map”—this is where everything already does, and certainly will, come together. 

What’s to be built next to the I-405 freeway a few hundred feet to the west is a much harder task to figure out—as with Century/Aviation, which is under the flight path of LAX-bound jets and which LA World Airports owns (and where it refuses to allow residential development out of an environmental common sense and a desire to avoid legal risk), this is NOT the place to locate a 16-story residential tower where children and families will live, play…and breathe. 

The commercial/industrial developments championed by Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin—which would (as with Century/Aviation near LAX) be an exciting place to locate a New Media/Silicon Beach jobs center to attract commuting professionals and beef up the City and regional economy—are ideas that fit well into a location that’s great to work…so long as it’s in a filtered, indoors environment, but a dreadful place to live. 

To this end, the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee has asked CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz and CD11 Bill Rosendahl, as well as Rosendahl’s successor (Mike Bonin) to grab the attention of Metro and City Planners and be FOR and alternative type of project which: 

1) The Westside grassroots fought for and must fight for again:  a project that is consistent with the West L.A. Community Plan and which takes into account a future north-south transit line already funded in part by Measure R, and which will have a station at Exposition/Sepulveda.

 

2) Has a bus/vanpool bay for connecting Metro, LAX Flyaway, Amtrak-bus services, and shuttles to Pico Blvd. and nearby employment, UCLA, Century City and other destinations.

 

3) Creates a Westside Regional Transit Center that accommodates the automobile, bus, bicycle, carpool, vanpool, kiss-and-ride and pedestrian needs for this key location (where so many freeways, roads and rail lines will inevitably intersect).

 

4) Protects the adjacent Metro parking lot for Expo Line commuters from residents/workers living or working at this development, and which creates sufficient parking for a future north-south transit line station.

 

5) Creates a bicycle parking lot and bicycle storage facilities with sufficient size and amenities to accommodate the many bicyclists likely to access the Exposition Light Rail Line station, as well as any future adjacent and intersecting north-south Metro transit line station.  Currently, a nebulous plan for 40 bicycle spaces exists, with no true guarantee of really accommodating bicyclists, bus riders and pedestrians accessing the Expo Line.

 

6) Scales down the project to a reasonable size and community impact and with a Floor-Area Ratio (FAR) calculated without the inclusion of publicly-owned land.  We didn’t create an Anti-Mansionization Ordinance for nothing—and the Floor-Area Ratio calculated by the Casden developers (2.7) is closer to 4.4 when it does NOT include the publicly-owned land on the Exposition Rail Right of Way.

 

7) Facilitates, and doesn’t discourage, regional access to the adjacent Exposition Light Rail Line.  The “Casden-stein Monstrosity” currently will convince locals and regional commuters to access the Expo Line somewhere else, perhaps the Venice/Robertson station in Culver City.

 

8) Utilizes the current industrial zoning for this land parcel to create an industrial/commercial jobs center, such as that consistent with a New Media/Silicon Beach business park.

 

9) Removes any residential development within 500 feet of the I-405 freeway, and acknowledges the serious health hazards associated with residential proximity to freeways and major arterials as confirmed by recent scientific studies.  Anyone from City Planning or from Casden Associates who are jones-ing for a trio or quartet of 8-12 story residential towers there should ask themselves why they disregard the health and safety of children and seniors.

 

10) Provides funding to the City of Los Angeles for infrastructure improvements proximate to the project, including widening Sepulveda Blvd. south of the project, elevating the Exposition Bikeway route at project crossings, and engineering dedicated Sepulveda Blvd. bicycle lanes.  Right now the southern driveway of the “Casden-stein Monstrosity” runs smack into what will be a heavily-ridden Expo Bikeway.

 

11) Contributes funds for Westside open space, public/community centers and meeting rooms—can we please create a project that the rest of the region gets something out of, and is Open Space really something for which Planning and an developer-enabling Mayor has no respect or consideration whatsoever?  Perhaps something for the Expo Greenway that recently got some City funding, located adjacent to the Expo Rail Right of Way between Sepulveda and Overland?

 

12) Contributes funds to expedite the completion of an updated West Los Angeles Community Plan Update—because clearly Planning and this Mayor, and other Downtown forces, have utter disregard for City Policy and the City Charter, and will use “overriding considerations” to break the law right and left.  The Community Plans of the entire City must all be updated, and its taxpaying residents must have some legal recourse from those willing to transform and destroy Los Angeles.

 

And yes, the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee has asked Bill Rosendahl to inquire with the City Attorney as to whether Brown Act, City Policy and CEQA laws were broken and whether the City has placed itself at legal risk because of how it rammed through a “transit-oriented” project that has dozens of unresolved questions, and which as of now remains unseen and unknown by the community at large. 

 

Even the Casden developers don’t know what this project will look like—but they have been given the go-ahead by the City Planning Commission and Mayor Villaraigosa to build it, despite the firm opposition of Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Bill Rosendahl, who pleaded with the Commission to not approve it, and despite the Commission’s legal counsel’s recommendations to continue/postpone approval of this project…

 

…a legal counsel who was then sternly and loudly rebuked by the Commission that it was too late to bring it up, and who was cowed into silence.  Seriously, folks, if I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it was possible.

 

Last night, the very same Mar Vista Community Council, a Neighborhood Council that has approved motion after motion after motion in favor of the Expo Line, has asked the City Attorney to look into this bizarre spectacle that threatens the credibility and future of mass transit and transit-oriented development.

 

But beyond the political and legal implications and debacles currently surrounding what will be built at Exposition/Sepulveda, let’s all be FOR something:  a Westside Regional Transit Center and a development at Exposition/Sepulveda that will boost the mobility, economy and quality of life of the Westside and the greater region.

  

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at Alpern@MarVista.org This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us.   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) 

-cw

  

 

CityWatch

Vol 11 Issue 22

Pub: Mar 15, 2013

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