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Transportation

Did L.A.'s African American Community Just Get Passed Over For a Metro Light Rail Stop?

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Fri, May 27, 2011 at 8:06 AM
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It would be like a "subway to the sea" that skips Westwood or Gold Line rail service that said no to an East L.A. Civic Center stop.

The proposal to have Metro's Crenshaw/LAX light-rail line stop in historic Leimert Park, the retail and cultural core of the African American community in L.A., is still "up in the air," in the words of L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas' office.

The board of Metro actually said yes to a Leimert Park Village stop in a vote Thursday, but it refused to find the money for it.

Ridley-Thomas has been championing the stop, and even got old enemy (frenemy?) Bernard Parks of City Council district 8 to join a broad group of area leaders in support of the station.

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There was even a Metro analysis that recently found $2 billion that could be used to build both the Leimert Park stop and an underground section of the light-rail line along Crenshaw Boulevard's Park Mesa Heights area that was shot down by the Metro board.

With hundreds of Leimert Park station supporters on-hand, the board voted to approve the stop, but only if it could be built as part of the line's $1.7 billion budget. The line is being built to connect the Westside-to-downtown Exposition Line with LAX.

"In a nutshell, the ball has been moved forward in favor of the station," Ridley-Thomas stated. "It's moved forward, but not nearly far enough. It's a victory with a small 'v.'"

Ridley-Thomas said he would continue to lobby for both the Leimert Park stop and the underground section.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has a strong influence on the Metro board and who has been championing the Westside "subway to the sea" that some say would have low ridership, was said to have been lukewarm on the Leimert Park stop.

(The board includes the mayor, the county supervisors, and other regional leaders).

Villaraigosa scored a huge victory in 2008 when county voters passed Measure R, a sales tax hike that is projected to bring $40 billion to regional transit. It's the core of L.A.'s light-rail expansion.

And Villaraigosa has been lobbying Washington for billions more to fast-track the subway to the sea. He wants it built in 10 years instead of as many as 30. That's a luxury option.

The battle over a station for black L.A.'s cultural core seemed to take regional sides at Thursday's meeting. Villaraigosa, an Eastside native, was elected largely with the help of the liberal Westside (and an African American constituency pissed off at then-Mayor James Hahn for replacing Bernard Parks as chief of the LAPD).

There's been a lot of cheddar to go around when it comes to building light rail in L.A., but as Eastside county Supervisor Gloria Molina argued, it hasn't always hit the Eastside and southwest L.A. as consistently.

She said the Eastside had to "settle for second best" when it came to its above-ground light rail Gold Line. She implied that other, more affluent areas haven't had to compromise as much.

"Let's be consistent in every community," she said.

Westside County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky argued that the board should be consistent and stay within its budget when building the Crenshaw/LAX line.

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com]

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