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Mayoral candidates graded on Crenshaw rail tunnel


After a detailed examination of the candidates, including closed-door interviews with both Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel, the community group that has led the advocacy efforts for a Leimert Park Village Station and 11-block Crenshaw Boulevard tunnel on the Crenshaw-LAX Rail Line released their scorecard on the two mayoral candidates. The Crenshaw Subway Coalition grades both Garcetti and Greuel “A-” on the Leimert Park Village Station; and on the 11-block Crenshaw Boulevard tunnel Garcetti receives a “C” and Greuel a “B+.”

“It is important to note that the MTA board is currently scheduled to decide the fate of the Leimert Park station at their June 27 meeting, which is before the next mayor takes office, so their positions on the station may be moot. The more revealing question regarding the candidate’s willingness to put their political capital on the line for the Crenshaw community is where do they stand on the 11-block Crenshaw tunnel. If the MTA does not fund the station on June 27, then the issue falls into the lap of the next mayor. Both appear committed to making the Leimert Park station happen if it doesn’t in June, but there are key differences in Greuel and Garcetti’s written positions on the Crenshaw Boulevard tunnel.

Regardless of the June 27 decision, mayoral leadership will be needed to make the Crenshaw Boulevard tunnel a reality to prevent MTA’s current street-level plan from 48th to 59th Street from going into effect. The current MTA/Villaraigosa plan would remove more than 308 parking spaces, turn Crenshaw Boulevard into a 4-5-year construction zone, chop down all the mature median trees, erect prison-like fences along the corridor, close several streets and left turns, and impose a severe safety hazard with 225-ton trains operating at 35 mph down the boulevard right in front of community schools. The Coalition asserts that the street-level plan would irreparably harm L.A’s last Black business corridor, jeopardize community economic revitalization plans that are decades in the making and imperil the lives of schoolchildren.

The mayor has a seat, three appointees and considerable clout on the 13-member MTA Board. In May of 2011, despite the unanimous support of local Black elected officials, thousands of petitions and letters, and the presence of more than 600 community, clergy, civil rights, and labor leaders, Mayor Villaraigosa used his four votes to oppose a motion that would have added funds to the line to underground the 11-block section, generating the ire of the Black community. The measure failed to pass by four votes.

Flipping the four mayoral votes from ‘No’ to ‘Yes’ are critical to the success of our effort to protect and enhance Crenshaw Boulevard. On that front, Greuel states she wants to “champion the effort,” while Garcetti, who has provided vocal support in public forums, has refused to put it in writing.

Garcetti has said in multiple community forums that he “supports undergrounding the line,” but when the Coalition requested he put his verbal statements in writing the candidate added several conditions that he never had publicly stated in the forums.

We were frankly shocked that his letter did not correspond with his public statements.

In a letter sent to the Garcetti campaign in response to the candidate’s May 1 letter, the Coalition stated Garcetti’s conditions on the Crenshaw Boulevard tunnel read as “out-clauses” that are particularly concerning because they are “identical to the unfounded excuses our Coalition has received for nearly two years from Mayor Villaraigosa.”

As we clearly articulated, this is solely an issue of political will–nothing else.

The Coalition also stated that Garcetti’s hesitation to champion the cause for the tunnel is particularly concerning in the context of the candidate’s broader transportation agenda, which calls for putting a transit tax on the ballot again, similar to recently defeated Measure J, with a reduced passage threshold.

We feel strongly, as we did with respect to Measure J, that if South L.A. residents are going to be asked to pay additional taxes to improve and expedite tens of billions of transit and highway projects in every other part of the county, then at a minimum Crenshaw should receive an 11-block tunnel and station at Leimert Park Village that would cost far less than one-half of 1 percent of the tax revenue.