No, Mr. Casden, We Didn’t Build an Expo Line to Make You Rich and Wreck the Westside

MOVING LA - I’m not the only one living on the Westside who is a supporter of transit-oriented, urban renewal-inducing development that would help lead Los Angeles into the 21st Century as a first-rate economic player.
I'm also not the only one living on the Westside who is horrified by the warping of the legal and planning processes in the City of Los Angeles that would allow a zoning map change and slew of variances to create a project as inappropriate as that planned by Alan Casden and his win-at-all-costs team of developers at the intersection of the Expo Line, Pico Blvd. and Sepulveda Blvd.
 
Hence my recent CityWatch foray into the improper, entirely too-big and inappropriately-planned Casden/Sepulveda project at the intersections of Exposition, Sepulveda and Pico, and adjacent to the future Exposition/Sepulveda light rail station.  
 
I am aware of absolutely NO transit advocate or member of a neighborhood council or association, no Expo Line supporter or opponent, or Westside/City planner who favors the project as currently proposed.
 
Currently, that land parcel is zoned for industrial use (it’s a cement factory), so changing the use of that land (which adjacent to the fume-laden I-405 freeway) to a residential/commercial “spot zone” with a couple of 8-10 story towers and a Target and a small shopping mall is just too big to have people live (or even breathe) and easily commute to.  
 
The Final EIR of this project states that the traffic issues are unworkable, and it’s almost a certainty that the water, power, sewage, open space and City resources for this project would seriously and negatively damage the Westside.
 
Yet what if we didn’t change the land use at this site (in other words, keep the use as “industrial” with respect to zoning)?  
 
It could be a very necessary parking lot and Westside Regional Intermodal Transportation Center with amenities to all the car, bicycle, bus and light rail riders who would use this wonderful location to connect to their daily destinations from and to the roads, freeways, bus routes and light rail lines of the Westside.
 
(This is especially important because this Expo/Sepulveda light rail station will someday have a connecting station to a future north-south rail line to serve the needs of commuters travelling to and from the Westside and San Fernando Valley)
 
It would also be an awesome place to build a large Internet/Media job center to power up the City economy.
 
It could even be a manufacturing center to create both sorely-needed blue- and white-collar jobs. 
 
Mass transit is exploding on the Westside, with too few buses, light rail cars and parking to accommodate the current system and developing Expo Light Rail Line—a challenging but almost-pleasant dilemma to have after decades of being told “no one uses mass transit”—but the planning HAS to occur, and it HAS to be done legally and properly.
 
This is not happening with this project, and so the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee recently and unanimously approved the final motion:
 
The CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee opposes the Casden-Sepulveda Development (Case #CPC-2008-4604-GPA-ZC-HD-CUB-DB-SPR, CEQA #ENV-2008-3989-EIR, Related Case #VTT-70805-GB), and demands it not receive any approval of any zone change, tract map, or variance at the upcoming Planning Hearing on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 (10:00 a.m., West Los Angeles Municipal Building Hearing Room, Room #200).
 
The project as currently defined and described in the Final EIR is in gross violation of the Community Plan of West Los Angeles, and therefore the project should not receive any approval of zone change, tract map, or variance until appropriate changes and mitigations are implemented to make it conform with that Community Plan. Specifically, the project as currently defined and described in the Final EIR presents too many unmitigable traffic and other infrastructural impacts to the existing Westside (CD11 and CD5) traffic/infrastructure deficit. 
 
The CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee therefore opposes any spot-zoning and land use changes for this project.
 
An ideal course of action for anyone reading this involve attending the upcoming Planning Hearing for the Casden/Sepulveda Project at the West Los Angeles Municipal Building Hearing Room, Room #200 (second floor) on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 at 10 a.m.
 
An alternative plan (for those unable to attend) would e-mail the hearing officer, and copy the two Westside Councilmembers (Paul Koretz and Bill Rosendahl), their planning deputies, and the Director of Planning.  
 
Make sure the names and planning case numbers are in the email header: 
Casden-Sepulveda Development: Case #CPC-2008-4604-GPA-ZC-HD-CUB-DB-SPR, CEQA #ENV-2008-3989-EIR, Related Case #VTT-70805-GB: 
 
Send to: 
Hearing Officer Henry Chu: [email protected]
 
Michael LoGrande, Director of Planning: [email protected] 
 
Bill Rosendahl: [email protected] 
Whitney Blumenfeld: [email protected]  
 
Paul Koretz: [email protected] 
Christopher Koontz: [email protected] 
 
This is NOT transit-oriented development, mixed-use development, affordable housing or any other initiative performed at its best—it is merely another profit-oriented, adversely-impacting Westside overdevelopment that will hurt the entire area and create a precedent for more overdevelopments.
 
This is a pity, considering the numerous exciting opportunities available to build at this site for the betterment of the region, and for encouraging urban growth to complement mass transit.  
 
But for those of us who fought for the Expo Line, and/or for those of us who fight to preserve and even enhance our neighborhood (and all neighborhoods within the City of Los Angeles),  the need to establish and restore credibility for the Expo Line effort and to stop unchecked overdevelopment is now upon us.
 
The Expo Line is much, much more than an opportunity for uber-developer Alan Casden to make a lot of money and hurt the Westside—we need to stop this project—but it WOULD be nice for a change to see a developer who can do the right thing, make a lot of money with the RIGHT project, and enrich the lives of all who live in, and travel to, the Westside.
 
(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected] . He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us.   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) 
-cw
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
CityWatch
Vol 10 Issue 97
Pub: Dec 4, 2012