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Sepulveda Pass Transit – Can Metro Be Trusted?

GUEST WORDS

GUEST COMMENTARY - Metro’s Sepulveda Pass Transit project from the Valley to Westside is the highest-cost, most complex Measure M project – and so far Metro’s made a mess of it. As Chair of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association Transportation Committee, I’ve been participating in the project since 2016 – attending every public meeting, studying every obtainable document, getting documents through California Public Records Act requests, submitting formal comments and questions, and meeting with Metro, elected officials, and other organizations. Metro never responded to more than 80 questions we submitted since 2018, even though some of the project concepts will severly impact our community. We and many Valley and Westside residents are beyond frustrated with the trivial information publicly available from Metro – and their refusal to talk with us as partners. We wonder if Metro deserves being the trusted steward for this project.

Last week, we were forced to do something we don’t like to do – threaten to elevate our fight if Metro does not respond to two reasonable demands. Our threat is real because we have historical data to convince federal and state authorities that Metro has withheld essential project information from the public, provided misleading and possibly fraudulent information to the public, and purposefully undermined the public’s ability to make educated comments and questions. We formally submitted our demands to Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins in a February 28th letter and gave Metro until March 14th to meet them. She replied on February 29th, saying her staff was working on a response.

Our first demand is that Metro tell the public when the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report will be released and give the public no less than 90 calendar days to review it. Metro has already slipped the report by at least a year and hasn’t yet announced a new release date. Once released, Metro typically gives only 45 days to review of this massive 25,000-page document. It’s unfair because the Metro Board determines the final project to build based on the report. The public deserves and needs sufficient time.

Our second demand is that Metro answer 20 questions provided in our letter and post their responses on the Metro project website by March 14th. Our questions are reasonable and ask for facts that any trusted project steward should have at their fingertips. For example, why doesn’t Metro talk with impacted communities before they develop routes, how much funding is in place today for the project, how much does each project concept cost, and how long will each take to build? These aren’t hard questions, but they are critically important to the public.

I’m working on a series of CityWatchLA articles about our questions and other project issues, so stay tuned for more in-depth insights. You can read our letter and 20 questions at www.SOHA914.com “Click Here to Read Letter to Metro”. It’s an interesting but sad story – because it shows a public agency gone rogue with the public and not doing its job.

Our letter goes one step further and asks for whistleblowers. There must be underlying deficiencies behind Metro’s abject failure to partner with communities and the public. We are asking current and former Metro and Metro contractor personnel to think deeply and courageously about concerns they may have and consider confidentially contacting me.

(Bob Anderson is a nuclear engineer with 50 years engineering and business development expertise in the aerospace and high-technology sectors. He is VP and Transportation Committee Chair of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association. Contact him at [email protected].)