Dozens of resident crowded into the Pan Pacific Community Center last week for an early planning discussion with Metro on possible routes for the Crenshaw Line Northern Extension. The meeting was organized by the Mid City West Community Council Transportation, Parking and Streetscape Committee, and the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council’s Transportation Committee. Once completed, the Crenshaw line would provide connections from LAX to North Hollywood. Metro is currently building the Crenshaw/LAX Line, which will extend from the existing Metro Exposition Line at Crenshaw and Exposition Boulevards. The Northern Extension would pick up where that route stops, and continue it to a Red Line connection in Hollywood.
The purpose of the meeting was to bring Metro to the community to talk about the study Metro is currently undertaking to develop the line. Jody Litvak, Director of Community Relations for Metro, kicked off the presentation by noting that the project is in the very preliminary stage. She likened it to the process undertaken for the Purple Line, for which which she noted Metro will be celebrating the half-way mark of Section 1 construction on June 2, 2019. Kitvak said the planning for the Purple line began in 2007.
“When we started, we didn’t know the route, whether the it would be underground or not, where the stations would be. But after five years of planning, Metro broke ground in late 2014,” said Kitvak. “We are at the 2007 stage with this project.”
The completion date for the Crenshaw Line Northern Extension is 2047, but many say that’s too long to wait. There is increasing public pressure coming from all quarters, from environmentalists to business leaders, and including the City of West Hollywood, which is offering to help find more funding to accelerate the construction timetable and move up the completion date to 2028, in time for the Olympics. For the past several years, the City of West Hollywood has been working with West Hollywood Advocates for Metro Rail (WHAM) and the All on Board Coalition to build support for the Northern Extension, to connect the Crenshaw/LAX rail line with Mid-City, West Hollywood, and the Metro Red Line station at Hollywood & Highland in Hollywood and enhance the existing Metro regional rail network.
The Crenshaw line is a significant part of the Metro’s efforts, having the greatest potential ridership connecting four Metro Rail lines and five of the top 10 busiest Metro bus line in the region. But, as with all large infrastructure projects, the devil is in the details and many residents were out in force to tell Metro what they think of the five possible routes Metro is considering.
Starting at the Metro Expo/Crenshaw Station, the possible routes north along Crenshaw could include:
- A. San Vicente Alternative: This option heads northwest on San Vicente Bl where it will connect with the future Metro Purple Line Wilshire/La Cienega Station and continue north up San Vicente Bl, and east on Santa Monica Bl, connecting to the Metro Red Line at Hollywood/Highland Station.
- B. La Cienega Alternative: This option heads northwest on San Vicente Bl where it will connect with the future Metro Purple Line Wilshire/La Cienega Station. From there, it continues on San Vicente Bl, turns north at La Cienega Bl and east on Santa Monica Bl, connecting to the Metro Red Line at Hollywood/Highland Station.
- C. Fairfax Alternative: This option heads northwest on San Vicente Bl and north on Fairfax Av, where it connects with the future Metro Purple Line Wilshire/Fairfax Station. It continues north on Fairfax Av and east on Santa Monica Bl, connecting to the Metro Red Line at Hollywood/Highland Station.
- D. La Brea Alternative: This option heads northwest on San Vicente Bl and north on La Brea Av, where it connects with the future Metro Purple Line Wilshire/ La Brea Station. From there, it continues north on La Brea Av through West Hollywood to connect with the Metro Red Line at Hollywood/Highland Station.
- E. Vermont Alternative: This option heads east on Olympic Bl and north on Vermont Av, where it connects with the Metro Red/Purple Line at the Wilshire/Vermont Station.
During the public comment period of last week’s meeting, scores of residents of historic Carthay Circle turned out in force to let Metro know they don’t want to see a train running down San Vicente Blvd., at least not above ground or in the air. There was considerably less opposition to the idea of running the line underground. In fact, some residents actually expressed support for that option…but Metro officials said they couldn’t say at this point whether the project would be above ground, at grade or below grade.
“As we already lost our legendary Carthay Circle Theater movie palace 50 years ago to shortsighted demolition approved by City Hall, we definitely want to preserve the historic elements and character we still have that made us one of the city’s first HPOZs in 1998, a status befitting our important place in the early history of Los Angeles,” explained Carthay Circle resident Alex Worman. “An at-grade rail line in our increasingly rare tree-lined median would simply destroy that, and in doing so would destroy one of LA’s most important neighborhoods.”
“The most obvious and logical move going forward should be for Metro to extend and complete the Crenshaw line to the North, to directly connect it to the Wilshire Purple Line,” wrote Brent Kidwell, the President of the Carthay Circle Neighborhood Association in an e-mail to the Buzz. “This subway-to-subway joining makes the most sense and would eliminate any need to a train to go through any of the historic Carthay neighborhoods. As of now, the Crenshaw line is a train to nowhere. If riders board this train at LAX, they will terminate at Exposition, where there are no hotels, amenities, or Metro train connections that could get them anywhere from this location. A rider could easily connect from subway line to subway line if the finish the Crenshaw tunnel North, much like they do in most major cities around the World. There could then be a light-rail line built extending from any of the subway stops along Wilshire to the North to reach West Hollywood without going through historic and protected residential areas.”
At one time, Metro did consider a neighborhood stop at Crenshaw and Wilshire, but that was eliminated due to lack of funds and opposition from residents concerned about pressure to increase density near the stop…which was at the time mostly developed with single family residences and small apartment buildings. There has been considerably more development along Crenshaw in the last several years, however, a trend that may continue with new Transit Oriented Communities guidelines.
Most residents at last week’s meeting were generally supportive of the Crenshaw Line Extension, but want more consideration given to neighborhoods and small businesses that will be affected during construction and afterward. They encouraged everyone to submit public comments through the Metro website.
West Hollywood Mayor Pro Tempore Lindsey Horvath, one of several officials from the City of West Hollywood who attended the meeting, said she was looking for a “partnership” to support the new line and stressed that we “don’t want to cram this down the throat of any neighborhood,” though she acknowledged the San Vicente route would serve more residents than the other options.