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West Hollywood Refusing to Let Metro Rail Pass It By

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The city wants an extension of the Crenshaw Line, and they've got a plan to make it happen

It's certainly an exciting time for fans of Los Angeles public transportation. The Measure R transit tax-fueled expansion of Metro's rail lines is already giving more and more Angelenos the ability to ditch their cars and zoom from neighborhood to neighborhood by train, and Metro has many more plans to add new rail lines throughout the city over the next decade (with several underway already).

But all that has eluded the city of West Hollywood. While some Westside neighborhoods will soon see trains traverse their streets for the first time in decades, no future rail expansion plans come anywhere close to the little city.

WeHo tried to get an extension for themselves when Metro was expanding westward, but the transit agency balked at the high cost. Former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told WeHo officials to sit tight then, because they were "next in line," but WeHo began to mobilize just in case that promise went unfulfilled.

In 2015, the West Hollywood City Council launched the West Hollywood Advocates for Metro Rail (aka WHAM) as part of a campaign to win grassroots support for a Metro rail extension into the city. To get a West Hollywood rail line off the ground, WHAM needs Metro to include it as part of its Expenditure Plan when LA votes on it in November. That means selling it to the public, and quickly. WHAM volunteers have been getting the word out in WeHo, as well as engaging neighborhoods that would eventually be connected by the line. They've already gathered about 3,000 signatures from supporters of a WeHo rail extension, reports Los Angeles magazine.

WHAM wants Metro to expand the upcoming Crenshaw Line (already under construction) northward to West Hollywood, connecting the neighborhood not only to Metro's system, but also directly to LAX. A feasibility study is needed to determine the exact route a train line would take to WeHo, but WHAM is hoping for a route that spans from San Vincente to Santa Monica Boulevard. The train would *probably run at-grade, with some parts in tunnels and some above-grade, WeHo Public Information Officer Joshua Schare tells Curbed via email. (not underground, as previously written), making it's way through West Hollywood before connecting with the Red Line at Hollywood and Highland.

On the fiscal side of things, the city council is still grappling with how to cover the immense cost of this potential project—expanding the Crenshaw Line to West Hollywood comes with a pricetag of at least $4.5 billion. *WeHo officials are not "actively considering" a sales tax measure (as previously written), according to Schare.

WeHo Councilmember John Duran has a scheme to push Metro's hand too. He wants to get a sales tax increase on the ballot by June to get the jump on the Metro tax increase that's expected to be on LA's November ballot. If WeHo passes a sales tax increase that pushes it closer to California's cap of 10 percent, it would limit the amount of tax revenue Metro could get from WeHo if their November ballot measure passes.

Duran says a WeHo tax increase would make Metro more likely to negotiate with West Hollywood over rail expansion in exchange for their tax revenues. According to Duran, WeHo felt burned by the passage of Measure R in 2008, which taxed West Hollywood like every other city in the county, but did not provide them with any transit improvements. Duran thinks WeHo's new tax plan would send a message to the county that "we don’t want to be forgotten again."

Metro has been keeping tabs on WHAM's progress. Lisa Belsanti, WeHo communication manager and WHAM member, tells Los Angeles mag that Metro officials have attended WHAM outreach events, and even Metro Board Chair John Fasana has been spotted. WHAM could be a powerful ally for Metro as they attempt to get Measure R's sequel passed in the November election. If a WeHo transit line is in Metro's future plans, WHAM says it will help campaign for the ballot initiative.