Mon, Apr

We Fought for the Expo Line … Now It’s Time to Fight for the Neighborhood

GETTING THERE FROM HERE - For over two decades we’ve fought FOR the creation of a light rail line to re-connect Downtown Los Angeles with USC, the Crenshaw District, Culver City, West LA, Santa Monica and the beach, but as it draws to its conclusion it’s time for us to fight FOR the right type of transit-related development and infrastructure improvements we need to make the Westside a better place for us and for our beloved children.
Our fight still goes on, thanks in part to a small group of individuals who feel their “access to the freeway” is being threatened by the Expo Line, but the desire to build this rail line, which goes back to at least 1989, hasn’t disappeared.
Neither has our desire to build the right type of related development—Transit-Oriented Development—disappeared now that we’re on the verge of enjoying the benefits that the Expo Line ultimately has to offer the regions through which it travels.  
Much of the recent hullabaloo over Expo Line-related development has been over the Casden/Sepulveda project, which unfortunately is NOT the Transit-Oriented Development we fought for, and which both Westside City Councilmembers (Paul Koretz and Bill Rosendahl) and numerous Westside neighborhood council and neighborhood/grassroots associations oppose
Those fighting against the project are likely to be labeled as mere NIMBY’s—opposed to projects, profits and developments of all sorts.  The Casden Project, however, is quite literally in everyone’s backyard, so whether you live next to the project, close to the project, or travel the streets near this project, it will negatively impact your life.   
So four questions must be posed before either LA City Planning or the LA City Council dismisses any and all opposition to this gigantic project:
1) Why would the Westside, especially those fighting FOR the Expo Line, suddenly turn NIMBY and fight against all development?
ANSWER:  We’re not anti-development, we’re anti-overdevelopment.  Overdevelopment is neither economically nor environmentally smart, and the Casden Project is the classic example of a car-oriented overdevelopment that happens to be next to a future rail station (Expo/Sepulveda).  
Let us not forget that Metro is building the Expo Line at public expense, not the Casden developers.  The two projects are mutually exclusive and Mr. Casden should not be allowed to use the Expo Line as a reason/excuse for his project to be built, which he would have tried to build had the Expo Line never existed.  
This project will clog up or hurt access through two dozen Westside intersections, according to its EIR and the LADOT, and has 2000 parking spaces for 538 residential units and 267,000 square feet of retail space—including a possible Target superstore and a mini-mall—as per the Casden/Sepulveda project website.  
As of now, there are no guaranteed amenities to Expo Line riders, bicyclists, bus and pedestrian commuters.  One would be hard-pressed to find on Casden’s website any mention of how the project will enhance or contribute to the Expo Line, as opposed to merely taking advantage of its proximity.
This location is a great spot to create jobs, but is a land parcel abutting the 405 freeway the right place to have children live, grow up, or even breathe, compared to other Expo Line stations or locations along/near Pico, Sawtelle or Sepulveda that are farther away from the freeway?  
Is it always necessary to build housing (and the phrase “affordable housing” should always be taken with a grain of salt) on every piece of available land?  There is a good reason why the land Casden wants to “develop” is zoned for industrial use:  its location is NOT a very nice or healthy place to live.
2) What would the Westside, especially those fighting FOR the Expo Line, want to develop next to its rail stations?
ANSWER:  The three West LA Expo Line stations, as well as other stations in Santa Monica and Culver City, offer great opportunities to develop on adjacent land, but OVER-development is never a good idea.  We have Community Plans for a reason, and the land parcel at Exposition/Sepulveda/Pico—currently a cement factory, a building supply business and a bit of an eyesore—is a great location for an industrial park, a community center, and a few restaurants. 
In short, the land is ripe for some redevelopment, but not to the detriment of everything and everyone around it.  
CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz and CD11 Councilmember Candidate Mike Bonin have both come out in favor of an Internet/Technology/New Media campus to create hundreds, if not thousands of jobs for the land parcel at Exposition/Sepulveda/Pico.  
Such a project would complement the adjacent Pico Commercial Corridor and spruce up the local economy. We agree that a business-oriented development without the 538 residential units would be a better fit for that particular site, and that the push for housing at that location is based on Casden’s potential profits rather than what is helpful for any current or future residents living near the Expo Line.  
A large parking structure allowing remote San Fernando Valley and South Bay car commuters access to the Expo/Sepulveda rail line station from the 405 freeway is also a good idea for this location, and is also consistent with the land parcel’s current assigned industrial-use zoning.
Residential/commercial mixed-use developments would be great next to the Bundy/Olympic and National/Palms Expo Line stations, but—as with the Expo/Sepulveda station, these transit-adjacent developments would have to be right-sized and consistent with current community plans, and NOT be car-oriented!  
A car-oriented development next to a major rail line is, to say the least, an oxymoron.
3) What does the Westside, especially those fighting FOR the Expo Line, want for mitigations next to the Expo Line?
For starters, parks, open space, and pedestrian/bicycle accommodations are not only overdue for the entire city, but especially adjacent to the future Expo Line.  Freeways and major boulevards will rarely be attractive, but this is not necessarily true for commuter light rail lines that can include new landscaping through an urban corridor.
There is, for example, a future Expo Greenway being evaluated and planned between Sepulveda and Overland, which would include a greenbelt next to the Expo Line and include a water reclamation project, the Expo Bikeway, and an extended “pocket park” to allow pedestrians and children a bit of open space to enjoy that currently ugly, sawdust-only land between and around the Exposition/Sepulveda and Exposition/Westwood stations.
While we’re discussion beautification and mitigation, how about fixing the sidewalks along Westwood Blvd and between Pico and National Blvds to accommodate all the bus, bicycle and pedestrian Expo Line commuters for the Exposition/Westwood station?  
How about widening the sidewalks and encouraging small business/café developments on Pico, Olympic, Palms, Bundy, Centinela, Motor, Sawtelle, Sepulveda and other major commercial corridors next to the Expo Line?
West Los Angeles should be a destination for Expo Line commuters, not just a place to pass by on the way to Santa Monica.  The City of Santa Monica, has advocated for the Expo Line for decades because they knew it meant more jobs and tourists, and shoppers.  West LA should take advantage of the Expo Line as well.
4) What does the Westside, especially those fighting FOR the Expo Line, expect for the future?
Hopefully, we will get more transit lines and proper transit-oriented development, but an oversized, car-oriented project threatens to destroy the credibility of the pro-transit movement as one that merely enables overdevelopment and neighborhood destruction.
There is $1 billion in the voter-approved Measure R (and we almost got billions more in the almost-approved Measure J that got over 66% voter approval) for a Westside/Valley transit line which will almost certainly have stations at the future Exposition/Sepulveda and Wilshire/Westwood stations to connect with the Expo and Wilshire rail lines.
Imagine a subway that got commuters through the Sepulveda Pass in less than 10 minutes, and which connected to UCLA, Westwood, the Westwood/Pico commercial district and the two east-west rail lines…and maybe extended south to Culver City and LAX?  
The current widening of the 405 is only going to add more lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic.  The only true solution to traffic gridlock is to offer people ways to get out of their cars, and the only way to do that is to provide viable transportation alternatives such as rail, and for that rail to go to genuine transit-oriented developments such as those businesses we’ve described for land adjacent to rail stations.
The mobility, economic and environmental benefits abound for these wonderful transportation improvements…but overdevelopment and poor land use threatens to destroy the rail renaissance Los Angeles is embarking upon just as our City is ready to embrace all forms of alternative transportation and land use planning.
The two of us have fought for many years, for both our own generation and for that of our children, to create a new rail/transit network for our City and County, and we will continue to do so.  It is no small irony that rail (the once great Pacific Electric) built this city and that rail will rebuild this city, but whether it is well-built or over-built is up to all of us and not something that should be left to profit-at-any-cost developers such as Mr. Casden.
And so as we ask ourselves and our neighbors to embrace change, it’s only fair to ask developers to moderate their desires for endless profits and self-aggrandizing projects and to create thoughtful and forward-looking developments that enjoy the support of neighbors, environmentalists, governmental agencies and taxpayers who are paying for the opportunity to build a better 21st Century Los Angeles…for this generation and the generations to follow.
NEED TO KNOW: The two week extension to receive e-mail testimony on the Casden/Sepulveda development ends Wednesday, December 19th.  Please e-mail the hearing officer (Henry Chu), and copy the two Westside Councilmembers (Paul Koretz and Bill Rosendahl), their planning deputies, and the Director of Planning.  
Make sure the names and planning case numbers are in the email header: 
Casden-Sepulveda Development: Case #CPC-2008-4604-GPA-ZC-HD-CUB-DB-SPR, CEQA #ENV-2008-3989-EIR, Related Case #VTT-70805-GB: 
Send to: 
Hearing Officer Henry Chu: [email protected]  
Michael Logrande, Director of Planning: [email protected] 
Bill Rosendahl: [email protected] 
Whitney Blumenfeld: [email protected]  
Paul Koretz: [email protected] 
Christopher Koontz: [email protected] 
(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 can be reached at [email protected].   
Fred Gurzeler is a Westside Village resident and a member of Friends4Expo Transit. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern and Mr. Gurzeler.) 
Vol 10 Issue 101
Pub: Dec 18, 2012

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