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Expo Line Meeting: Rapper's Delight in Cheviot Hills

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Last night, Curbed Palms correspondent Sophie attended that Cheviot Hills meeting held by EXPO, a discussion to allow for public comments on the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Phase 2 of the EXPO Line. Some background: Phase 1 of the light rail line, which goes from downtown to Culver City, has been approved and initial construction has begun, but controversies like crossing issues at Dorsey High School have delayed construction. Phase 2, which'll go from Culver City to Santa Monica, is in the process of final approval. Those Cheviot Hills residents fighting Phase 2 object to the rail's use of the Right Of Way (ROW) along Exposition Blvd, which tangentially goes through their neighborhood, and they are fighting for the use of an alternative route (i.e. down Venice Blvd). In general, any type of public meeting in Cheviot Hills about the Expo Line results in fireworks, so let's listen in to Sophia's report: "While a strong contingent of local neighborhood activists were present, this meeting also drew a good number of pro-rail speakers and several bike activists to the microphone. The meeting had no formal presentation from EXPO (which was noted as a concern for some) and it was stated from the get-go was that there would be no response given to any questions posed at the microphone. This meeting was to record public comments (done by a court reporter sitting at the front table) which would then be presented to the EXPO Board to review and respond to in the next EIR." Sophie's full report is after the jump. Highlights include: A rapping elderly woman: "fo’shnizzle we needs the speed right now / the project, don’t delay / Oy vey?”, sparring with Damian Goodmon (natch), and calls to get funding for the bike path proposal. And some of the quotes of the night:
• “Los Angeles is a car-oriented part of the country?.if people want to ride a train then they’ll move to New York.”
• “Nobody in Cheviot Hills will use the train because everyone here has a car!”
• “How would you feel to have a railroad in your bedroom?”

Issues most raised at the meeting:

Traffic: The number one concern/complaint by most speakers and worry that delays at crossings would exponentially snarl traffic to complete gridlock. Other issues raised included not enough analyzation of traffic impacts in areas outside the ½ mile study area of the ROW. Areas of Pico Blvd (such as at Motor and Manning) need further study regarding potential worsening traffic overflow. Representative of Pico business community echoed this concern several times throughout the evening.

Noise, light, and glare: According to the DEIR, noise mitigation measures will not be studied and tested until after the trains begin running. Residents living near the ROW (especially those near the Westwood/Exposition and Overland/Exposition areas) demand that noise mitigation be studied and put in place prior to the first train running. Since the train is proposed to run 22 hours of the day, these concerns also extended to late night high-intensity lighting at each station (and its parking lot), glare, and general visual blight.

Parking and station placement: Some neighbors to the proposed Westwood/Exposition station felt that the 170 proposed parking spots will not be enough for the anticipated commuters who will then park on their residential streets. Others felt that the City should pay for permit parking on these streets to counteract any parking lot overflow. And others felt that this station should be designated a “residential” station, therefore, eliminating any parking requirements or needs. One attendee felt that Westwood/Exposition and Sepulveda/Exposition were so near each other that the station at Westwood could be eliminated altogether.

Damian Goodmon! Taking the microphone and turning to the audience, Damian [a vocal critic of EXPO] introduced himself as the representative of the group that is “kicking EXPO’s butt at Farmdale.” He expressed that he was here for the safety of the children, asked why there are no gate crossings at any intersection, and reminded the audience of the 92 deaths and over 800 accidents recorded on the Blue Line. Damian said that EXPO was cheapening out by proposing at-grade stations and he was wary of the contract negotiations and the true motivations of politicians behind this project.

Responder to Damian Goodmon: A speaker began by saying that “the previous speaker” was abusing the audience’s time by not directly addressing the DEIR, which is what this meeting is all about. He suggested that Damian take his concerns to the City Council or Board of Supervisors instead. This speaker then asked EXPO to investigate how much property values really will be affected by the train, and the accident rates of bus crossings vs. train crossings in order “to calm down the people in this neighborhood.”

With the voice of Vincent Price laughing nefariously in the background: A few speakers alluded that the EXPO Line is just a big plan masterminded by greedy developers and corrupt politicians hell bent on destroying a single family home neighborhood. One speaker expressed hope that our current mayor would be voted out of office next month because of his support to the EXPO project. Also cited were general concerns of the perceived heavy-handed forward movement of at-grade recommendations and ROW-alignment; that these alternative were not given equal time and investigation by EXPO.

Bike path: While all bicyclist advocates supported light rail, immense concern over the incorporation of a bike path in EXPO Line planning. Not addressed in the DEIR, the bike path proposal is slated to be funded by money from a different source than the EXPO. Thus, so as not to delay EXPO’s EIR, the bike path was not included in this draft. Bike proponents at the microphone urged that the plans for a bike path not be lost in the shuffle, that money be secured for the bike path at the same time that EXPO funds are released, and that agencies work together to ensure that both projects are constructed together at the same time. If the bike path is not kept on the planning table, there was alarm that a path would be severely delayed or abandoned altogether.

The only person to have the microphone shut off on them for talking past the 2 minute limit: Cheviot Hills resident Larry Heller introduced himself as the litigator for grade separation at Dorsey High School. He read an email from a Department of Transportation official stating that DOT did not align or agree with all the decisions by the EXPO authority and said EXPO should not expect to continue to move forward without further legal recourse.

• Larry Heller’s wife spoke next: She cited the 92 deaths on the Blue Line and last year’s Amtrak accident in Chatsworth as examples of problems with at-grade crossings. While she acknowledged that there is a sewage drain/pipe under Overland that prohibits just immediately below-ground separation, she said that the Brits were able to build a train under the ocean, so why can’t it be done here in Los Angeles.

A Senior Jewish Rapping Transit Advocate! A petite senior lady approached the microphone and began rapping a ditty advocating light rail: “?fo’shnizzle we needs the speed right now / the project, don’t delay / Oy vey?”

Something to unite all of LA: A representative from the West LA Neighborhood Council expressed preference of grade separation for all stations, but discussed the potential far-reaching effects of at-grade at the Sepulveda/Exposition crossing. He thanked EXPO for providing a cause that “will galvanize the city from the Valley to the South Bay” to halt at-grade crossing at Sepulveda since the whole city uses that thoroughfare and would be affected by at-grade crossing delays.

Trees and yards: A speaker stated that study of impact on “scenic vistas” are required for an EIR, and the proposal to remove some of the mature trees on Westwood and Overland needs further investigation; how could the trees either remain in place or be preserved and moved to another location. This issue also connected to concerns over of any portions of front yards on these two streets that may be taken during construction and redesign of sidewalks.

The comments portion of the meeting wrapped up shortly after 7pm, with the EXPO reps thanking the attendees for coming and inviting them to review the charts and design plans that were set up at the back of the auditorium.
· CurbedWire: Expo Line Meetings, Saturday Swap Meet Request [Curbed LA]