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South LA Citizens Sue Metro

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Last week, Metro voted to add $54 million to the budget of the under-construction Expo Line—which will hopefully shuttle people between Culver City and Downtown by 2010—so overpasses can be built in Culver City. This infuriated the The Citizens' Campaign to Fix the Expo Line, who is fighting for South LA underpasses, especially near Dorsey High School, because they claim an at-grade train will kill students. "They're spending more money in the 1 mile from La Cienega to Robertson than they are in the 4 miles from Vermont to La Brea," says Citizens' coordinator Damien Goodmon in a press release. Goodmon is also incensed that the transit line will go underground at lily-white USC, and the Citizens' Campaign has now retained powerhouse law firm Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal to take on Metro—pro bono.

Led by Save Leimert, Expo Communities United & Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Homeowners' Coalition
P.O. Box 8508 * Los Angeles, CA 90008 * Fax: 323.295.9467 *

April 29, 2008

Damien Goodmon

On the same day the MTA increased the Expo Line budget $54 million for an overpass in Culver City, a South LA community group announced they're going to court represented by Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal.

Los Angeles, CA – On Thursday April 24th, the MTA Board voted to increase the Expo Line budget by $54 million for a Culver City overpass, increasing the project budget to $862 million dollars for the 8.5-mile light rail line from Downtown LA to Culver City. $4 million of the $54 million came from the City of Culver City, while the remaining $50 million came from State Proposition 1B, the $19 billion transportation bond that was passed by voters in November of 2006. $218 million of the bond has gone towards the increase in the Expo Line budget, which was just $640 million six months ago.

"Prop 1B is the same resource we've been requesting MTA go after for grade separations in South LA since the day the bond was passed, yet they keep telling us there's no money," said Damien Goodmon, the Coordinator of the South LA community group the Citizens' Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line.

"They found the money for the Figueroa underpass at USC and they found the money for overpasses in Culver City," said Carol Tucker of the Baldwin Neighborhood Homeowners. "They find the money for everything and everywhere except South LA. Have they no shame?"

The vocal and growing Fix Expo Campaign is concerned about the safety and environmental impacts of the light rail line design as is passes through South LA primarily at street level. They claim that the street-level design is unsafe and as evidence point to the MTA's Blue Line which at 91 deaths and 802 accidents to date is the deadliest light rail line in the country.

The close proximity of several schools to the rail line, namely Dorsey High School and Foshay Learning Center, has prompted action from School Board Member Marguerite LaMotte, the LAUSD Board of Education, LAUSD Parent Collaborative and UTLA all requesting grade separation at all or some intersections.

"No child will have to walk across and no car will have to drive across the Expo Line tracks in Culver City. Yet South LA is being told we have to accept these safety risks," Goodmon said.

Child advocate and West Adams Neighborhood Council member Clint Simmons said, "Instead of insulting our intelligence by telling us they can't find the money to build underpasses in South LA, MTA should admit that killing black and brown kids, and ruining South LA school environments and communities is a part of doing business."

"They're spending more money in the 1 mile from La Cienega to Robertson than they are in the 4 miles from Vermont to La Brea," Goodmon said. The group claims that placing the bulk of the safety hazards and disproportionate environmental impacts in majority-minority South LA community is "textbook environmental racism and against the law."

"We're going to court," Goodmon exclaimed as he announced that the group has signed an agreement with the international law firm of Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal, LLP. The group's legal strategy will be headed by firm partners Ivor Samson, a recipient of the prestigious 2007 California Lawyer of the Year award, and Christopher Prince, who when he was at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund was instrumental in the landmark environmental justice case Labor/Community Strategy Center vs. MTA, which resulted in a 10-year consent decree.

"This firm is huge, these guys are winners, and they know how the MTA operates," said Tucker. "It speaks to the level of injustice that they've agreed to represent us pro bono."

# # #

* This press release is available in Word document format at the following web address:
* The Expo Line Construction Authority will officially approve beginning the design of the aerial structure at the 2:30 pm May 1 Expo Authority Board Meeting:
* The April 24th MTA Board action increasing the project budget is available at the following web address:
* The full April 24th MTA Board agenda is available at the following web address:
* A map of the census tract racial breakdown:
* The Expo Line Construction Authority presentation showing that $218 million from Prop 1B has gone towards the Expo Line (pg. 4):
* Ivor Samson, Esq. biography:
* Christopher Prince, Esq. biography:
* The 91 deaths and over 802 accidents are from MTA's Summary of Metro Blue Line Train/Vehicle and Train/Pedestrian Accidents, which is computed quarterly.
* For more information go to
* Expo Line community forums will be held at Dorsey High School on May 22, 2008 and Foshay Learning Center on May 29, 2008. Local elected officials have been invited. Updates will be supplied.
· CityBeat takes on Expo Line furor [CityBeat]