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The Crenshaw Station Debate--Dispatches from the Subway Meeting

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We're only about four months away from Metro releasing their draft environmental impact report for the Wilshire subway extension, which will outline the station locations they've picked for the route to Westwood. There won't be too many surprises as to where or what stops will be included (Westwood, Century City, Beverly Drive, La Cienega, Fairfax, and La Brea) other than the Crenshaw station. Metro still isn't certain if it will be included on the route, and at a community meeting Wednesday night at the Wilshire United Methodist Church, it was clear homeowners and transit riders have yet to reach a consensus as well.

Metro project manager David Mieger, and Jody Litvak, community relations for Metro, outlined the status of the extension, currently in the midst of their environmental impact report. Two more rounds of community meetings will happen before Metro releases their draft EIR around July/August. From there, the community can comment on it, and then it goes to the Metro board for certification, and then preliminary engineering can begin. Should everything go as planned, expect early construction to start in first quarter 2012 and an opening to Fairfax about six years after that (if the mayor's 30/10 plan comes to fruition, the subway to Westwood could open in that same time window).

So, the Crenshaw station. Metro believes this station, costing about $153 million, will have pretty low boarding numbers--about 4,200 in 25 years. If the line is built without it, the subway will only lose about 1,300 riders because people will just board at Western or La Brea. Crenshaw would be a 1/2 mile from Western; if it's not built there would be two miles between the Western and La Brea stops (there's typically one mile between Metro stops). Mieger pointed out that it would be next to impossible to install a Crenshaw station once the subway is already built out. As far as time-saving, not having Crenshaw would only shave about a minute from downtown to Westwood (25 min. compared to 26) and from Koreatown to Westwood (13 mins. compared to 12).

A meaty packet of papers from the Windsor Square Association was handed out to attendees. The packet used old memos from Metro to point out that when planning the subway 25 years ago, the transit agency thought Crenshaw was not necessary. The WSA included a letter stating they clearly do not want a Crenshaw stop.

Next up were planners from the city of LA, including senior planner Kevin Keller. With much urban planning-speak like "HPOZ" and "overlay," the planners basically pointed out that the area around the station, Hancock Park and Windsor Square, are currently zoned so that no development can really occur other than low-rise residential and office buildings. So, basically don't expect many mixed-use developments like on Vermont, Western, or Hollywood Blvd, or really much development at all, should Crenshaw get a station.

Commenters spoke next, mainly homeowners from the area and transit riders (though John Welborne, the president of Angels Flight Railway Foundaing, spoke and received a standing ovation for finally getting the funicular up and running). Some interesting comments:

Lawrence Smith, president of the Brookside Homeowners' Association: "This Crenshaw station is like a bad dream that keeps coming up. I think you should spend the money to extend the station further west. If you have money for a Crenshaw station, you have too much money."

Douglas Meyer, architect and Windsor Square resident: "LA is a linear city and Wilshire Blvd. is the spine. Why should there be a donut hole [in the system]?"

Park Mile resident Mary Pickhardt: "If the area is part of an HPOZ (historical preservation overlay zone), how could density increase? We need to bring the city together and we'll do this through transportation. We need this stop."

Windsor Square resident Karen Creeger: "[Not having a Crenshaw subway stop] would decrease home values in our neighborhood, as well as demand of our neighborhood from prospective home buyers. Many young families considering moving here consider whether it has proximity to a Metro stop."

Windsor Square resident David Miner: "I received this packet of archival material from the WSA, and I don't agree with this letter. I've never been polled on the matter. Anything that serves thousands of people conveniently without compromising our planning policy is a good plan."

Windsor Square resident Margaret Hersch: "Don't put a monstrosity like what they have on Hollywood Boulevard [meaning one of the Red Line stops]; I see trash [there] and hundreds of people."

Charles Dougherty, president of Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council: "We are 100% for pushing the subway west, but that it makes no sense to have a $200 million station on Crenshaw Boulevard... Also, the Crenshaw [light-rail] line will be pushed farther west [and won't connect with a Crenshaw stop on the Wilshire subway]."

Other concerns included the mayor's 30/10 plan, and that if it happens, one resident believes paying back interest on a Crenshaw stop will balloon its cost to over $200 million dollars. The few transit riders not living in the area were not that gung-ho for the stop either, will someone saying, "Nobody's destination is Crenshaw/Wilshire." Another resident was worried that the city would seek ways around the zoning rules to increase development. The race issue was only brought up once, with someone saying, "It would be racist to deny a Crenshaw station" because most people using that station will be predominately African-American.

If we were betting bloggers, we'd have to say Metro will skip a Crenshaw staton. The ridership isn't quite there, the density can't be changed, it's cheaper to build the line without it, and you have wealthy homeowners adamantly against the stop.

· Fed Funds Requested, Crenshaw Stop Blasted [Curbed LA]
· Weighing in on Stations [Curbed LA]