Street-Level or Aerial Metro Railway Lines Face Opposition from WeHo Residents and City Council Members


Residents of the city’s West Hollywood West neighborhood and members of the City Council spoke out Tuesday night against the idea of an elevated Metro line along San Vicente Boulevard, with some also expressing concern about a possible elevated line along La Cienega Boulevard.

The comments were made as the West Hollywood City Council was considering whether to endorse a proposal by the city’s Community Services Department that it push Metro to conduct a full environmental impact report on the proposed northern extension of Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX line through West Hollywood. The proposal also called for City Hall to work with Metro to reach out to local residents and businesses about options for the Crenshaw Northern Extension.

Metro is considering five options for the extension, four of which would have an impact on West Hollywood. In addition to running the extension along La Cienega or San Vicente, Metro is analyzing an underground route along Fairfax Avenue from San Vicente Boulevard to Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood and also an elevated train above La Brea Avenue from just north of San Vicente Boulevard in Los Angeles to a station on La Brea at Santa Monica, from which there would be either an elevated or underground train to Hollywood Boulevard. The fifth alternative, which would run the extension along Vermont, would be outside West Hollywood.

Leslie Karliss, speaking for the West Hollywood West Residents Association http://www.whwra.org/, expressed concern about the impact on the neighborhood of an elevated train along San Vicente. She said that an analysis by Metro of the options shows that the benefit of an extension along San Vicente isn’t significantly better for riders or businesses than the other options, nor that much more expensive. However an elevated rail extension along San Vicente would “cut in half an established family of single-family residents and would have a negative environmental impact,” she said.

Karliss’s concerns were echoed by Richard Giesbret of WHWRA and Kimberly Winnick, another resident of the area. Winnick described the stretch of San Vicente from Melrose to Santa Monica Boulevard as a “festival space” bordered on the west by West Hollywood Park and the West Hollywood Library and on the east by the Pacific Design Center with its large open plaza. “Together they can be a fabulous public space, but not if you have an El down the middle of it,” Winnick said, using a term to describe an elevated train.

City of West Hollywood flyer promoting Crenshaw Line Extension.

City Councilmember John D’Amico said that the Council should tell Metro it won’t support an elevated or on-grade line along San Vicente or La Cienega. D’Amico called out what he described as insensitive decisions by Metro in demanding that West Hollywood make clear its opposition without waiting for Metro to finish its analysis of the five options. One thing he called out was Metro’s elimination of an extension to the Sunset Strip as an option.

“Metro is not putting a line to the Sunset Strip, the most famous boulevard in Southern California, maybe other than Venice,” D’Amico said. “… It’s just extraordinary to me how blind they are. They don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to West Hollywood. They’re completely unconscious.”

Joanna Hanmaker, principal planner for the city’s Community Services Department, who is working with Metro on the project, recommended that the city not draw the line on possible options until Metro finishes analyzing the options. Hanmaker said Metro staffers are aware of the city’s concerns and will take them into consideration as part of their effort to get community feedback on the options.

One obvious consideration for Metro will be cost. Hanmaker said the rough cost an underground line is $800 million per mile, while it is $300 million per mile for an elevated train line and $150 million per mile for a ground-level track. The City of West Hollywood has committed to help subsidize the cost of the project, a request Metro has made given that has determined that its $1.2 billion budget for various transportation improvements across the county isn’t adequate.

Council members John Heilman and Lauren Meister and Mayor John Duran also expressed their opposition to elevated or ground-level rail lines. Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, who has been one of the most active council members in lobbying Metro for the extension through West Hollywood, said no one has actually advocated for an aerial line along San Vicente Boulevard. Horvath said she is confident that West Hollywood has Metro’s attention because of its willingness to commit to investing in the extension.

One of Metro’s criteria for ranking the priority of projects for construction is whether a local jurisdiction is willing to allocate at least 10% more than the required 3% contribution to the local project. Among the other five criteria in that “partnerships” category are whether the area applying for priority consideration will streamline the construction permit process and whether it will establish a tax district to fund at least 10% of the local extension cost.

A memo to the City Council last May from the city’s Community and Legislative Affairs Division said that the Northern Extension within the City of West Hollywood is “estimated to cost between $1.4 billion and $2.2 billion depending on the final alignment selected after the environmental review. ”

The 3% match thus would cost the city from $42 to $66 million. To earn points in the early project delivery ranking, West Hollywood would have to commit to contributing 10% more, an amount that would range from $70 to $550 million, depending on the final route of the subway line and the timing of its construction.

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Real Deal
Real Deal
2 years ago

What is so ironic about this whole matter is that L.A. County at one time had the most advanced trolley system. It connected downtown LA to the Santa Monica going directly through what is now West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. It was sold in the 1950’s and fully dismantled over the following three decades. It could have been upgraded over time to have been a very effective form of mass transit. Now we have to start over again spending billions of dollars. Most people now living here now probably will not be living here to see it complete.

Doug
Doug
2 years ago

Lots of good comments here. My thoughts only concern the above or below ground type of transport system to our area in West Hollywood. Having lived in Phoenix, I loved the above ground light rail system. For Phoenix, given the city layout, traffic patterns, and most drivers’ temperament, this type of system does work great. However, there continues to be the distracted driver who from time to time becomes entangled with a train. Having lived here in West Hollywood this past 3 years, given the huge driving population, aggresive, distracted, (fill in the blank), driving here, I cannot see how… Read more »

Bill Skywatcher
Bill Skywatcher
2 years ago

I guess I’m missing something. I don’t understand our City Council’s actions. The people of West Hollywood have been BEGGING for Metro to reach our city, and now the City Council waves a red flag and says, “Nyet!” Because of dog parks??? I also don’t understand throwing out the baby with the bathwater, either. OK, so we want to keep the space around the PDC free? (Good heavens, can’t mess with THAT behemoth!) Why can’t the line run along street level from Wilshire to Melrose and then underground from Melrose to Santa Monica (or Sunset to make D’Amico happy.) West… Read more »

Cino
Cino
2 years ago

Ageed! The convulsions exhibited by NIMBYs is why we 50 years behind the rest of the civilized world (choking and being ran over by endless traffiic) in public transportation. You can’t please everyone and the benefit of the majority out ranks the, “0h dear Doris, you live south of the El!”

Build the El!!!

Jre39
Jre39
2 years ago
Reply to  Cino

A bit extreme. Have you seen the videos of how often people are attacked inside and trapped in subways all over the world. You couldn’t pay me to use them. In some more civilized areas of the world, it’s not that dangerous but now people are like loose cannons, drugged, easily agitated, armed, etc. I’ll pass. Don’t tax me for this slow, over budget tube to really nowhere.

LRM
LRM
2 years ago

WeHo would be possibly better off in making bus transit better in the short term. If residents push for the underground option for San Vicente or La Cienega, the expenses are difficult to justify. It’s easy for me to say that the straightest route (La Brea) is best but I understand that politics play a huge role here. A center running bus lane system with boarding islands and lights that allow the buses to avoid car traffic as much as possible are cheaper and possibly have more utility. The SV and LC options are iterations of the line that attempt… Read more »

Matt
2 years ago

Exciting to see this happening! I know the money isn’t there but it looks like West Hollywood needs more than one line. Maybe run this extension up La Brea, as it’s the cheapest, and then a different line along San Vicente all the way to Sunset.

Richard Bourne
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt

North South on La Brea and then East West on Santa Monica blvd.

Sam
Sam
2 years ago

A line should be built west along Santa Monica Boulevard towards Sepulveda. The street is ridiculously wide, and ground-level light rail could easily be added, and would help to ease traffic congestion on the Westside.

Steve
Steve
2 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Please detail where SMB is “ridiculously” wide? And good luck with getting BH to agree to surface level rail

Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
2 years ago
Reply to  Sam

All the Metro already built hasn’t eased traffic congestion one iota. FYI.

Greg
Greg
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim Nasium

The population of LA County has also increased by 1 million since Metro launched and 500,000 in LA city alone. So, sure.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
2 years ago

WeHo will continue to NIMBY away any extension of much-needed regional rail transportation, at great cost to sustained economic viability. Watch as night-life migrates to more accessible areas of town–ask Georgetown circa late 80s when that community rejected the Washington Metro and it took an economic hit until they literally begged for an extension of the Metro. Visit any city with ground level, or elevated rail and you’ll find amazing design, easy access, connected communities, and less traffic.

Manny
Manny
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

You say “NIMBY” as if it was a bad word. Sometimes people have to speak up for what they feel is wrong or inappropriate for their neighborhood. Just as some residents have spoken up for what they feel is right and appropriate. If they don’t speak up, who will?

But to use the tired, old and derogatory term “NIMBY” shows a weak and dismissive attitude to legitimate concerns.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
2 years ago
Reply to  Manny

I speak up and I use my full identity and avoid anonymously referring to the arguments of others as weak and dismissive. I do use the term NIMBY in a derogatory manner to reflect my perception that most concerns are merely parochial and lack a greater vision which is needed in this lovely hamlet surrounded by a major metropolitan area. The strength of my opinions and arguments is buttressed by my identity transparency.

Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D. (Historian)
Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D. (Historian)
2 years ago
Reply to  Manny

As former Silver Lake property owner/landlords who never raised our tenants’ rent while keeping the house and large hillside property in great condition with also updated massive, expensive earthquake retrofitting improvement, we now current WeHo renters, know very well that NIMBY is a term for selfish property owners wanting to freeze their status quo, afraid of losing their precious investment in a real estate market that has nothing to do with housing but with money and snooty “home ownership” identity, not just keeping less affluent people out in housing but also in sending public transport traffic coursing with local underpaid… Read more »

Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D. (Historian)
Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D. (Historian)
2 years ago
Reply to  Manny

Sorry,

NIMBY does mean Not In My Back Yard as in I Don’t Wan’t Those People and That Public Stuff Encroaching on my little turf I have a personal, financial investment in, most often against any sense of public well-being beyond little property rights that have nothing to do with the public good or a neighborhood’s well-being. If one buys a house as an investment, one is a selfish fool against the public good and even one’s own future.

Bill Skywatcher
Bill Skywatcher
2 years ago
Reply to  Manny

It’s a fact of human nature that people don’t like change, especially when it is close by. But usually, it’s the role of government to make the decision whether the change is for the “greater good.” In this case, currently, it seems that the City Council is beholden to the West Hollywood West Association, as is evidenced by the recent traffic reconfiguration to keep people off their streets.

That’s not good government, that’s craven selfishness that diminishes the quality of life for the many to satisfy the beefs of the few.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
2 years ago

The City of West Hollywood has been reconfiguring traffic for many years–I often wonder about the coincidence of the silly dead end created by Trader Joes. Equally confounding, and while not traffic related, is why the West Hollywood 24 Hour Fitness is not open 24 hours a day.

Jim
Jim
2 years ago

A subway would be ridiculously expensive.
Ray Bradbury, famous author, approached Los Angeles city leaders years ago with the idea of building elevated trains on our major boulevards.
No land to buy, no homes to demolish.
Monorails, right down the middle of the streets.
They turned their noses up, just like WeHo.
Guess you all would just rather build ANOTHER hotel…….

JJ
JJ
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim

I agree…subway way to expensive. Elevated trains or monorails along major boulevards and avenues is the way to go.

Randy
Randy
2 years ago
Reply to  JJ

I also agree. Its not just the cost, it is the enormous amount of time it will take to build that infrastructure. In a city like San Francisco, with much less geographic space, that make sense, and even there, they use a combination of street level and underground tracks. As far as going up to Sunset goes, I think that is not needed as much, and I imagine the cost would be completely overwhelming, considering how much narrower most of Sunset is, and its elevation, especially if trying to go underground.

Rlarson74
Rlarson74
2 years ago

Don’t give them a dime. If they can’t budget properly, that’s their fault. We’ve already paid enough through higher taxes. We’ll have false promises just to get a subway a few years earlier. What a money grab. They are likely going to choose Fairfax. But whatever is decided, hold onto your money West Hollywood.

Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D. (Historian)
Ty Geltmaker, Ph.D. (Historian)
2 years ago

Dear Neighbors/Councillors, and all, See Sept. 4 WeHo Council closing public comments wherein I advocated an elevated, elegant, bare-bones iron (not bulky concrete walled) Chicago-style “L” up San Vicente from Wilshire to Pacific Design Center, included — as I would suggest — in a master plan for a Community College at PDC with specialization in West Hollywood’s historic role as a center of architectural and furniture Design as well as liberal arts. (Such a well-linked Community College, halfway here between LA City College on Vermont and Sta Monica College would anchor West Hollywood as a center of learning, and not… Read more »

JJ
JJ
2 years ago

YES!

Keith Cox
Keith Cox
2 years ago
Reply to  JJ

VERY COMPREHENSIVE and well thought out. I agree 100 %%

Cino
Cino
2 years ago

Bravo!

Steve
Steve
2 years ago

To those complaining about at-grade (street level) on San Vicente forget the reason the road is that wide to begin with. The old streetcar right-of-way created that wide street.

That said, subway under San Vicente is not an option. The only way that routing slightly makes sense cost-wise is the savings of at-grade construction.

Fairfax is the likely solution West Hollywood could get behind. LaBrea would barely touch city limits.

As for the Sunset Strip, mass transit was never considered. For the Crenshaw Line extension, there’s far more population closer to SMB than Sunset. Covering both is not possible.

John D'Amico
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Steve. The 2009 METRO study had a Sunset Boulevard route and no mention about how or why it was abandoned in this set of options. My concern is that METRO has decided that the most popular destination in our city is “out of reach.” Just as they did by skipping Dodger Stadium, the Hollywood Bowl and LAX to name a few in the past. And our concerns about San Vicente’s usefulness as public space means that we can protect our yearly PRIDE celebrations, Halloween event, necessary protests and demonstrations and the pleasantness of our future $100 million park and not… Read more »

Steve
Steve
2 years ago
Reply to  John D'Amico

John, I appreciate your response. We are actually not far off on this subject. Re: San Vicente. If this route is selected (but I really think it will be Fairfax), I’d be in favor of a transition to subway just south of Melrose. That protects the Civic area for open space, although I’m a strong supporter of moving Pride to DTLA (but we can debate that another day). Re: Sunset. Metro highlighted their big projects through 2050 in a Measure M. Sunset didn’t make the cut. Low density north of Sunset into BH doesn’t help. Re: Popular Destinations. Not having… Read more »

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