RUNNING SINCE 2008

Distorting Environmental Justice is an Injustice

Posted by Fix Expo Team On December - 24 - 2009 ADD COMMENTS

By Damien Goodmon, Coordinator of Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line & Chair of Joint Committee on Rail Transit of South L.A. Neighborhood Councils

(Image courtesy Univ. of North Texas Center for Environmental Philosophy)

(Image courtesy Univ. of North Texas Center for Environmental Philosophy)

Justifying the construction of unsafe and congestion worsening rail crossings in non-poor white communities, because they’re being built in majority-minority South LA, is one of the more incredible subtexts to emerge in the Expo Line discussion. It should be noted that these statements are NOT coming from our coalition of civil rights, neighborhood councils and community groups that has led the South LA fight for environmental justice on Expo Phase 1. Rather, the cynical chatter is coming from the public agencies, politicians and apologists who have opposed our efforts at every turn.

The objective of environmental justice laws is to raise the environmental standards, quality of life and participation in the decision-making process for minority and low-income communities, not to lower them for non-poor Caucasian communities. To realize this, one need only extend the practical application of our opponent’s misinterpretation of environmental justice: building a large polluting port in Malibu would be justified by the presence of one in Wilmington, building a landfill in Beverly Hills would be justified by the one in Sun Valley, etc. Such arguments are clearly illogical and contrary to the objectives of the environmental justice movement, which is rooted both in the cause of civil rights and environmental protection.

Recognizing that low-income and minority communities (“environmental justice communities” or “E.J. communities”) are substantially more likely to be subjected to policies, designs and projects that are harmful, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12898, which is the basis of every federal agency’s environmental justice policies, including the Environmental Protection Agency. E.O. 12898 begins:

“[E]ach Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations in the United States…”

E.O. 12898 remains a response to centuries of economic and political disenfranchisement that is institutional, systemic, and at times racial. Fifty years of civil rights legislation and the election of an African-American president not withstanding, the problem persists.

Environmental injustice can manifest itself in many ways. On the Downtown LA to Culver City Expo Phase 1 project it is shown in the disproportionately adverse effects on the minority and/or low-income South LA communities when compared to the only non-E.J. community that the project impacts – Culver City. MTA has appropriated the resources to build a line that is totally grade separated (the train crosses no street) in Culver City, while building the project in South LA on the cheap with over a dozen street-level crossings across busy intersections and at the doorstep of large urban schools.

Despite the claims of the Expo Line Construction Authority and opponents of “grade separation” (trains crossing the street underground or elevated), the MTA Grade Crossing Policy determined that the Culver City crossings at Washington/National and Jefferson/National were supposed to be built “at-grade” (street-level).

Excerpt from the MTA Grade Crossing Policy Recommendations for Expo Phase 1 showing recommended at-grade crossings in Culver City.

Excerpt from the MTA Grade Crossing Policy Recommendations for Expo Phase 1 showing recommended at-grade crossings in Culver City.

Also untrue is that Washington/National had to be grade separated because the policy required Venice/Robertson to be grade separated. In truth, the distance between the two crossings is sufficient to cross Washington/National at-grade and transition to an elevation over Venice.

Rendering of possible design with an at-grade Washington & National crossing AND Venice & Robertson elevated crossing

Rendering of possible design with an at-grade Washington & National crossing AND Venice & Robertson elevated crossing

The grade separations and additional resources to build them were added to the project because the City of Culver City opposed street-level crossings in their boundaries, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultant fees and bureaucratic resources fighting MTA, engaged in intense political lobbying and used the threat of a legal challenge. Culver City was successful, and as a result the Expo Phase 1 adverse impacts are inequitably placed.

Phase 1 discrepancies

The discrepancies in impacts of the Expo Phase 1 Project

This disparity is best illustrated in the construction budget: $185 million for the one mile from La Cienega to the Culver City terminus, vs. $140 million for the 4.5 miles from Vermont to one block east of La Cienega in South LA.

$185 million/mile west of La Cienega vs. $31 million/mile in South LA

$185 million/mile west of La Cienega vs. $31 million/mile in South LA

The point is not that the Culver City crossings should be built at-grade. The adverse impacts of street-level crossings on safety, congestion, air quality, emergency service response times, and others environmental impacts would be severe. The point is that the impact of street-level crossings is also severe in South LA. Internationally renowned rail safety experts and nationally renowned vehicular accident causation experts have raised alarm bells about the hazards to pedestrians and motorists, and congestion at several of the major intersections like Crenshaw, Western and Vermont will be worsened to Level of Service F (the worst possible congestion level) with the project.

Furthermore, the process of proposing substandard designs and forcing communities to fight for what MTA calls “betterments” but most in the public consider basic necessities, will inevitably lead to projects with disparate impacts. E.J. communities are far more likely to be politically disenfranchised and/or to lack access to legal recourse, both of which are severe impediments to fighting projects or winning concessions/mitigations.

So what’s the correct course to address the environmental injustice on Expo Phase 1, which for better or worse MTA has legally segmented from Expo Phase 2? Consistent with the objective of raising standards for E.J. communities, not lowering them for non-E.J. communities, we have focused on the cause of grade separating South L.A.’s street-level crossings to eliminate the “disproportionately high and adverse human health [and] environmental effects.”

The need to address the disproportionately adverse effects of the project is why simply adding one or two grade separations to the project in South LA is not enough – there would still be another 3.5 miles of Expo Phase 1 E.J. communities that will be exposed to the hazards and adverse impacts of street-level crossings, of which Culver City has been completely spared.

MTA/Expo could have and still can tap a variety of resources to fund the grade separations, including the federal stimulus act, Proposition 1B and Measure R. But the reality is they don’t want to and neither do those who seek to misconstrue the meaning of environmental justice. MTA wants to build the Expo Line as cheaply as possible without regard to the 100-year impact to traffic, public safety, community cohesion, system capacity and public need, which all necessitate grade separation.

MTA’s reasoning is flawed and must be resisted in the streets and in the courts. Building 15 miles of inadequate and unsafe rail that will worsen already congested traffic is bad for all communities and the region, and it is not a better use of taxpayer resources than building 10 miles of good rail that will serve our 100-year transportation needs.

Citizens should place the blame for poor planning and performance right where it belongs – in MTA’s lap and not attempt to pit communities against one another by misrepresenting the meaning of environmental justice. After all only the most cynical would define “justice” as harming one non-poor white child in West LA for every minority child harmed in South LA.

As published in this week’s CityWatchLA article, with applicable renderings, documents and links.

Popularity: 25% [?]

What Happened to the Foshay Bridge?

Posted by Fix Expo Team On February - 22 - 2009 ADD COMMENTS

The initial proposed decision denied MTA’s application at Dorsey and at Foshay, and required MTA to build a pedestrian bridge at Foshay that would have cost $5-8 million to construct. That proposed decision was written by Administrative Law Judge Kenneth Koss and the assigned CPUC Commisioner Timothy Simon, who both have been monitoring this case for the past 2 ½ years. It was they who attended the public hearings at Dorsey in November 2007 and at Foshay in July of 2008. It was they who presided over the week long evidentiary hearing that involved the testimony and cross-examination of over a dozen expert witnesses.

Proving once more that there is truly no low that MTA will not go to push their unsafe design, after the Koss/Simon proposed decision was made public, MTA/Expo spent taxpayer dollars hiring a former Enron lobbyist, Sandra McCubbin, to work to overturn it.

McCubbin and the Expo’s high-paid attorney initiated nearly two-dozen backroom/off-the-record meetings with the CPUC Commissioners and staff, and convinced Commissioner Rachel Chong, to author an Alternative Decision to Simon’s, that would remove the pedestrian bridge at Foshay that Simon originally found necessary at the end of the trial.

Then Westside politician Zev Yaroslavsky, who doesn’t represent any community within miles of Dorsey or Foshay pressured the Commission (pdf) to overturn Simon’s previously required pedestrian bridge at Foshay and adopt the Chong Alternative.

Zev Yaroslavsky has advocated for a $5-8 BILLION dollar subway under his community of Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills and Century City, yet he opposes a $5 million bridge at Foshay to protect the South LA students.

Unfortunately, the Zev Yaroslavsky/MTA/Enron-lobbyist pressure worked as the Chong Alternative was approved in a 4-1 decision, with Simon, the only African-American on the Commission, and the Commissioner most intimately familiar with the case being the dissenting vote.

Popularity: 11% [?]

Video Footage of CPUC Public Hearing on 11/5/07

Posted by Fix Expo Team On November - 28 - 2008 ADD COMMENTS

On November 5, 2007, at the CPUC Public Hearing at Dorsey High School, about 500 residents, students, parents, teachers, administrators and child advocates packed the auditorium to deliver a message to CPUC Commissioner Timothy Simon and CPUC Judge Kenneth Koss about the Expo Line’s proposed primarily at-grade design through South LA.

The hearing was covered in the media in particular by Fox 11 News:

We recorded several more of the statements. In addition to the statements by LAUSD Board Member Marguerite LaMotte, former City Councilmember Nate Holden, and delivered on behalf of Congresswoman Diane Watson, comments from the public can be viewed on the Fix Expo YouTube page:

Continue for videos…

What Would Jesus Do?
Breeves Brogan, an area resident, pleads with the CPUC Commissioner, “So please, in the name of Jesus don’t kill any children today. Their blood will be on whoever’s hands makes the decision.”

Why Not In South LA?
Sharon Rogers of the New Frontier Democratic Club and Los Angeles County Democratic Party Central Committee states, “Culver City children won’t have to walk across tracks with 225-ton trains traveling at 55 mph coming up to 30 times per hour, why should ours?”

Other Side of the Tracks
Michelle Colbert of Save Leimert and the Empowerment Congress West Area Neighborhood Council states, “If we accept the line at it’s current design South Los Angeles will literally be the other side of the tracks. There is data that shows that black and brown communities are more likely to have hazardous conditions placed in their communities. This dilemma wreaks of environmental racism, and an inferior diminished quality of life. Everything about the current design of this train is egregious and terribly wrong.”

Build Smart Transit

  • Prof. Najmedin Meshkati, the creator of the USC Transportation system safety program, quotes Metrolink CEO David Solow, “Every grade crossing is an accident waiting to happen.”
  • Irwin Davidson, a local property owner reminds MTA that, “It’s not acceptable. We’re a rich country. We can afford better than the very minimum. What is cheap today will be expensive in the long run.”
  • A native New Yorker states, “It’s incomprehensible that you would consider bringing something as important as mass transportation to Los Angeles in the 21st century and having it doing this up and down sort of thing.”
  • A local resident asks, “If the MTA Blue Line was kind of flawed why put another flawed system in?”
  • Mark Jolles reads from an article that quotes former LACTC Commissioner regarding the Blue Line deaths, “It’s not fair to blame motorists. It’s a terrible cop-out to blame pedestrians or kids to say they are at fault.” Mr. Jolles concludes his personal statement with, “It’s not the citizens that are causing problems. It is a low standard of engineering of the crossings.”

Dorsey HS Alumni Association
Steve Bagby, president of the Dorsey HS Alumni Association: “As former Deputy of Transportation for the late Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald to have overseen the Alameda Corridor as I have, I’ve seen the cut-and-cover – I’ve seen it be below grade in the communities of Compton and Lynwood, and the city of Los Angeles deserves no less. You cannot put a price on a child’s life.”

Student Learning & We Wanna Pick Them Up in the Afternoon

  • Andrea Canty the VP of the Dorsey HS Alumni Association: “The tracks will be so close to the bungalows that are here, which will impede student learning.”
  • Jackie Conkelton a Dorsey surrogate parent and foster parent: “I raise other people’s children; I don’t want anything to happen to them. And the people who have their own children, they don’t want anything to happen to them. We take them to school in the morning and we want to pick them up in the afternoon.”

Dorsey Students
  • Tinisha Brooks, president of the Dorsey Senior Class ‘08, “If a train going 25 mph can turn a Ford F-150 into a tincan, your child has no hope.”
  • Shellea Daniel of Dorsey ASB, “What if a train derails into this queuing area?”
  • Afolabi, Dorsey student, “Once the line is operating everyone is going to get distracted.”

Kids Will Be Kids
  • Rev. Donald Wilson of Dorsey Motivated Men: “An Expo Light Rail Line is needed, I do agree with that…but I want this committee to strongly consider how you want to bring it through here through Farmdale…at ground level. This is a very dangerous situation.”
  • Harold Washington of the Sutro Block Club: “It’s not safe. I’m a former alumni of Dorsey High, class of ‘61. I would [have been] the first one to jump that fence and end up being hit by the train.”
  • Thabiti Ambata: “There is no way you can build a gate high enough. Testosterone rules these children.”

North Area Neighborhood Development CouncilMike Ureña, president of the North Area Neighborhood Development Council: “I understand the logic of the design, but I think in practice it simply is not going to work. I also want to point out to you that when I was a kid as when you were a kid, we thought we were going to live forever.”
Treat Us RightNelle Ivory, a passionate veteran Leimert Park activists responds to MTA’s proposed holding pen at Dorsey HS, “I asked the manager of Expo – he said they were going to build a holding pen at Dorsey to keep the kids in. That’s insulting! I know what a holding pen is, we used to put our cattle in there before we sent them to slaughter. Is that the same thing they’re going to do to our kids?”
West Adams Neighborhood CouncilHattie Babb of the West Adams Neighborhood Council, which covers the area around Dorsey delivers the neighborhood council’s findings and concludes: “Be it resolved that the West Adams Neighborhood Council supports beginning to build the Expo Line below grade from USC trench through South Central Los Angeles as far as the existing $640 million budget will allow.”
They Don’t Tell Us – We Tell Them
  • Marta Zaragosa of the East Culver City Neighborhood Alliance begins with, “This is not about moving people out of their cars, [off] of the freeways. It’s about developers who have been buying property along the line for the last 15 years. And these same developers have given money to our politicians who have run for office.”
  • Julia Ansley, “Our elected representatives in this community, laid down, took a walk, because they want money paid to their campaigns.”
  • Tut Hayes, “You got to recognize that MTA and Expo they don’t build transit. This is million dollars worth of construction there’s big money in this.”
  • Jackie Ryan of Save Leimert and Leimert Park Business Association states, “You – the community – you here tonight are going to determine how this railroad is going to come.”

Popularity: 5% [?]

Street-Level Debacle – LA Business Journal Op-Ed

Posted by Fix Expo Team On July - 29 - 2008 ADD COMMENTS

The following op-ed appeared in the July 28, 2008 edition of LA Business Journal, regarding the Mayor’s proposed sales-tax increase for transportation.

Shared tax burdens should result in shared benefits. Thus, if the MTA and mayor hear the concerns of South L.A. and invest in life-saving and community-preserving grade separations, particularly near our schools, we’re prepared to support his sales tax hike. But expecting South L.A. taxpayers to accept the street-level Expo Line design, while forcing us to pay for a subway under Hancock Park, Beverly Hills and Century City, is simply adding insult to injury and furthering MTA’s discriminatory tactics.

The entire article is below:

Street-Level Debacle

MTA expects South L.A. to bear the burden of proposed Expo Line and its dangerous above-ground trains.
By DAMIEN GOODMON

In his effort to build the Wilshire subway western extension to Santa Monica, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who chairs the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, has proposed increasing the regressive sales tax in the face of an economic downturn that is hitting the vulnerable taxpayers, consumers and businesses of South Los Angeles the hardest.

The mayor’s request for sacrifice from his South L.A. constituents for the Subway to the Sea is audacious given his unresponsiveness to the large South L.A. coalition requesting equal investment and equal treatment from the MTA regarding Phase 1 of the Expo Light Rail Line.

As it traverses from downtown L.A. to Culver City, the 8.5-mile Expo Line is proposed to slice across nearly all intersections in South L.A. at street level 240 times a day. In addition to the adverse traffic impacts, noise pollution and other environmental concerns, the street-level design poses a significant safety hazard, with 225-ton trains planned to operate at speeds up to 35 and 55 miles an hour. At Vermont, Normandie, Western and Crenshaw, which abut large urban schools, parks and places of worship, crossing gates aren’t even proposed. Twenty one of the 27 proposed street-level crossings have no gates.

This design has proved to be unsafe, evidenced by the accident record of the MTA’s Blue Line, which en route to Long Beach from downtown L.A. carves through the communities of South L.A., Watts, Willowbrook and Compton, and is the deadliest light rail line in the country with 818 accidents and 90 deaths.

The Expo Line’s close proximity to more than a dozen schools, in particular the 2,100-student Dorsey High School (which would be 10 feet from the tracks) and 3,500-student Foshay Learning Center (50 feet from the tracks), has prompted resolutions opposing all or portions of the street-level design from United Teachers Los Angeles and LAUSD Parent Collaborative, and legal action by the LAUSD Board of Education. All are concerned that children will be lost, such as 14-year-old Lavert Baker Jr., who never made it home from school last year because he was killed by a Blue Line train that was carrying his sister. Lavert is one of more than a dozen youths and young adults who have met similar unfortunate fates on the tracks of MTA trains.

Throughout the planning stages of the Expo Line, all parents, teachers and residents expressed concerns about the safety and environmental impacts of the street-level design – in South L.A. and in Culver City. The Culver City City Council heard the voices of its constituents and responded by passing motions prohibiting the street-level crossings the MTA had originally planned for their city.

Recognizing the power of a municipality, MTA bowed to Culver City’s demands, adding very costly overpasses, realigning National Boulevard and shifting a station platform so that Phase 1 of the Expo Line would not have any street-level crossings west of La Cienega Boulevard. The result is a 100-year project that west of La Cienega requires no child to walk across tracks, gridlocks no traffic, delays no emergency services, and inflicts no noise pollution, while imposing all of these burdens and more east of La Cienega in South L.A.

This discrepancy is perhaps best illustrated by the vast disparity in the amount of tax dollars MTA is spending for the one mile of the Expo Line from La Cienega to the Robertson Boulevard terminus in Culver City ($185 million for the one mile) compared with the 4.5 miles in South L.A. (just $31 million per mile, for a total of $140 million).

South L.A. paid its taxes for Phase 1 of the Expo Line: $35 million from the city of L.A. versus just $4 million from Culver City. Yet, we’re receiving a substantially lower return, and expected to bear greater hardship, including the ultimate calamities – the loss of life and limb.

Shared tax burdens should result in shared benefits. Thus, if the MTA and mayor hear the concerns of South L.A. and invest in life-saving and community-preserving grade separations, particularly near our schools, we’re prepared to support his sales tax hike. But expecting South L.A. taxpayers to accept the street-level Expo Line design, while forcing us to pay for a subway under Hancock Park, Beverly Hills and Century City, is simply adding insult to injury and furthering MTA’s discriminatory tactics.

Popularity: 4% [?]

Our op-ed on the Mayor’s proposed 1/2-cent sales tax increase for transportation appeared in CityWatch:




“The discrepancies on the Expo Line need to fixed and this institutional discrimination cannot be tolerated. If the MTA and Mayor Villaraigosa go back and find the additional money for grade separations for South LA like they did for Culver City, or simply scale back the Expo Line and only build the portions they can afford to build correctly, we’re prepared to support his sales tax measure.

“But increasing the tax burden on the taxpayers of South LA, who are being hit the hardest by the economic downturn, for rail projects that primarily benefit other areas, like a subway under Hancock Park, Beverly Hills and Century City, or threaten our children’s lives and harm our community, like the street-level design of the Expo Line is simply pouring salt on our wounds and furthering MTA’s discriminatory tactics.”

Click here to read the entire article:

Discussion of a possible ½-cent sales tax increase for transportation that would be forced upon all residents of Los Angeles County has been dominated by Westsiders and the Valley, with those regions demanding something in return for their support. What about the South Los Angeles region, which is among the country’s most economically challenged and whose residents and businesses the tax hike would impose the greatest hardship?

A growing South Los Angeles coalition of neighborhood councils and community organizations, has come together to demand equal investment and equal treatment from the MTA regarding Phase 1 of the Expo Light Rail Line from Downtown LA to Culver City. En route to Culver City the MTA’s train is planned to cut through South LA residential community across the major intersections of Vermont, Normandie, Western and Crenshaw at street-level.

In addition to the adverse traffic impacts of the street-running design, the lack of even basic crossing gates and grade separation (overpasses and underpasses) at almost all of the intersections, ensures that South LA will endure countless accidents and deaths from the Expo Line, as evident by the MTA’s own Blue Line. The Blue Line similarly slices through the black and brown communities of South LA, Watts, Willowbrook and Compton en route to Long Beach from Downtown LA, and is America’s deadliest light rail line.

The close proximity of over a dozen schools and parks, including several that are within a stones throw of the Expo Line, is especially worrisome, and has prompted opposition to all or portions of the street-level design from UTLA, LAUSD Parent Collaborative, and the LAUSD Board of Education.

In the early planning stages of the Expo Line, all residents, teachers and parents expressed safety and environmental impact concerns – in South LA and in Culver City. The Culver City Council responded by passing a motion prohibiting any street-level crossings in their city and threatening to tie the project up in court if the MTA tried to push through their original design that called for all street-level crossings in their city.

MTA eventually complied with Culver City’s demand, adding very costly overpasses and realigning National Blvd so the Expo Line would not cross any street at street-level, thereby imposing no safety risk, no traffic impact and eliminating other adverse impacts. These upgrades came at a price, which is best illustrated by the vast discrepancy in the amount of tax dollars MTA is spending for the one mile of the Expo Line from La Cienega to the Robertson terminus in Culver City ($185 million) vs. the 4.5 miles in South LA (just $140 million).

The MTA’s failure to apply the same standards across all residential communities from Downtown LA to Culver City has resulted in an 8.5-mile light rail line that places all of the safety hazards and adverse environmental impacts on low-income and/or minority communities, and none on the majority Caucasian middle to upper class community west of La Cienega. The legal term for this is environmental racism.

We in South LA paid our taxes, but are not receiving the same safety enhancements, traffic mitigation or amount per mile as the community west of La Cienega. In fact, the City of Los Angeles is contributing $35 million to the construction of the line, compared to just $4 million from the City of Culver City.

South LA is being forced to assume a much higher risk, and be imposed a much greater burden for a project that’s primary purpose is to benefit the areas to our east and west. That’s not right.

Children in South LA shouldn’t be forced to walk across Expo Line tracks, if they won’t be in Culver City.

Residential communities, traffic and emergency response times shouldn’t be disrupted in South LA, if they won’t be in Culver City.

The discrepancies on the Expo Line need to fixed and this institutional discrimination cannot be tolerated. If the MTA and Mayor Villaraigosa go back and find the additional money for grade separations for South LA like they did for Culver City, or simply scale back the Expo Line and only build the portions they can afford to build correctly, we’re prepared to support his sales tax measure.

But increasing the tax burden on the taxpayers of South LA, who are being hit the hardest by the economic downturn, for rail projects that primarily benefit other areas, like a subway under Hancock Park, Beverly Hills and Century City, or threaten our children’s lives and harm our community, like the street-level design of the Expo Line is simply pouring salt on our wounds and furthering MTA’s discriminatory tactics.

Popularity: 4% [?]

The Environmental Justice Fact Sheet

Posted by Fix Expo Team On June - 25 - 2008 ADD COMMENTS

We’ve uploaded our Environmental Justice Fact Sheet to the web (link to pdf). You can access the document, along with all of our other flyers and fact sheets on the right hand corner under “Fact Sheets & Forms”

Popularity: 3% [?]

Separate & Unequal: Expo Phase 1

Posted by Fix Expo Team On May - 28 - 2008 1 COMMENT

UPDATE: Added Environmental Justice Fact Sheet

Some have emailed asking for a more extensive explanation of “environmental justice” and “environmental racism.”

It’s best to first look at the two most prominent civil rights protections among many others: Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson and Executive Order 12898 sign by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

Title VI, which was fought for through the blood, sweat, tears and ultimate sacrifices of giants in the civil rights movement reads as the following:

“No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

And this is how Executive Order 12898 begins:

“[E]ach Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations in the United States…”

The FTA elaborates on these laws and explains how they apply to public transit projects with a powerpoint presentation on their website titled, “Environmental Justice: Principles, Policies, Guidance, and Effective Practices” (ppt), which was delivered at the FTA Region VI Civil Rights Colloquium in March of 2006. Among the slides in the presentation, is the following below, where a screenshot also shows the notes for the slide:

Click on the image to increase the size of the picture and you’ll see the following:

Adverse effect–can include economic as well as effects to the human and natural environment.

Disproportionately high adverse effects are those effects that are:

(1) Predominantly borne by a minority or low-income population or

(2) Effects that will be suffered by the minority or low-income population and is appreciably more severe or greater in magnitude than the adverse effect that will be suffered by the non-minority or non-low-income population.

The notes section of the slide states the following:

Adverse effects in transportation: air pollution, noise, vibration, property taking, effects associated with construction such as street closures and loss of business, loss of community cohesion, and dangers to pedestrians

Example of the first case: Bus depots that are disproportionately sited in minority or low-income communities.

Example of the second case: a fixed guideway alignment that would tunnel under predominantly white or affluent communities but would run at-grade in predominantly minority or low-income communities.

Compare the design of the Expo Line Phase 1 west of La Cienega to that in majority-minority South LA and it’s clear that Expo Line Phase 1 is textbook environmental racism.

Census Tract Racial Breakdown:

(Brown = majority Hispanic; Grey = majority/plurality black; Pink = majority/plurality Caucasian)

The Culver City Census Tract (Tract 7024) is THE ONLY majority Caucasian census tract and affluent census tract along the Expo Line Phase 1 route.  (USC is plurality Caucasian but poor given students lack of income, which technically makes it an “environmental justice community.”)  In the Culver City census tract, indeed in every residential community in the mile west of La Cienega on Phase 1 of the Expo Line there will be:

a) no children forced to walk across Expo Line tracks

b) no chance of train-vehicle accidents

c) no train horns or crossing gate bells

d) no blight/privacy impacts to residential communities (see Section 4.4-40 of the Expo Line EIR/EIS)

e) no forced commuter detours
f) no delays in emergency services from crossing gates

g) no closed off parks

This is the exact opposite of how the Expo Line will operate in South LA where there are countless at-grade street crossings, almost all without even basic crossing gates, where THOUSANDS of children and HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of cars will be forced to cross every day.

There is an elevated structure at La Brea that is directly adjacent to residential properties having direct privacy impacts.

At some intersections that are directly adjacent to homes, schools and churches there will be noise from crossing gate bells and train horns blowing nearly 1000 a day.  At other intersections the train gong will be heard with each and every train crossings.

There are 9 street closures, the traffic impact of which can be felt today.

And the park access at one of our parks will be irreparably closed, while the other will be substantially reduced.

For more information about the Environmental Justice issues in transportation go to the USDOT Environmental Justice website and the FTA Civil Rights web page.

The law is clear. The Expo Line Phase 1 design places disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental impacts on the majority-minority and poor communities along the alignment compared to the majority Caucasian and most affluent census tract. This is accented by the fact that MTA is spending more money in the 1 mile from La Cienega to the Robertson terminus than in the 4.5 miles in South LA:

185 million for the one mile of the line west of La Cienega to the Culver City terminus

vs.

140 million for the 4.5 miles of the line in South LA from Vermont to Clyde (one block east of La Cienega)

Popularity: 68% [?]

On Thursday April 24th, the MTA Board voted to increase the Expo Line budget by $54 million for a Culver City overpass, increasing the project budget to $862 million dollars for the 8.5-mile light rail line from Downtown LA to Culver City. $4 million of the $54 million came from the City of Culver City, while the remaining $50 million came from State Proposition 1B, the $19 billion transportation bond that was passed by voters in November of 2006. $218 million of the bond has gone towards the increase in the Expo Line budget, which was just $640 million six months ago.


Prop. 1B is the same resource the Fix Expo Campaign been requesting MTA go after for grade separations in South LA since the day the bond was passed. It’s even on our petitions (pdf). Yet the MTA keeps telling us, “There’s no money.”

As Carol Tucker of the Baldwin Neighborhood Homeowners Association has said, “They found the money for the Figueroa underpass at USC and they found the money for overpasses in Culver City. They find the money for everything and everywhere except South LA. Have they no shame?”

continue reading…
We remain concerned about the safety and environmental impacts of the light rail line design as is passes through South LA primarily at street level. The street-level design is unsafe and as evidence by the MTA’s Blue Line which at 91 deaths and 802 accidents to date is the deadliest light rail line in the country.

The close proximity of several schools to the rail line, namely Dorsey High School and Foshay Learning Center, has prompted action from School Board Member Marguerite LaMotte, the LAUSD Board of Education, LAUSD Parent Collaborative and UTLA all requesting grade separation at all or some intersections.

The grade separations and street realignment west of La Cienega means no child will have to walk across and no car will have to drive across the Expo Line tracks in Culver City. Yet South LA is being told we have to accept these safety risks.

As child advocate and West Adams Neighborhood Council member Clint Simmons says, “Instead of insulting our intelligence by telling us they can’t find the money to build underpasses in South LA, MTA should just admit that killing black and brown kids, and ruining South LA school environments and communities is a part of doing business.”

An astonishing fact is that MTA is spending more money to build the the 1 mile from La Cienega to Robertson than they are in the 4 miles from Vermont to La Brea. That’s not right, and placing the bulk of the safety hazards and disproportionate environmental impacts in majority-minority South LA communities is textbook environmental racism and against the law.

It’s inevitable but we’re going to have to go to court. And by our side will be the international law firm of Sonnenschein, Nath and Rosenthal, LLP. The group’s legal strategy will be headed by firm partners Ivor Samson, a recipient of the prestigious 2007 California Lawyer of the Year award, and Christopher Prince, who when he was at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund was instrumental in the landmark environmental justice case Labor/Community Strategy Center vs. MTA, which resulted in a 10-year consent decree.

“This firm is huge, these guys are winners, and they know how the MTA operates,” said Tucker. “It speaks to the level of injustice that they’ve agreed to represent us pro bono.”

As covered on Front Page Online: Culver City Was Taken Care of, Why Not South Los Angeles?

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MTA: GUILTY of Environmental Racism

Posted by Fix Expo Team On November - 2 - 2007 ADD COMMENTS

Any evaluation of the design of the Expo Line shows that MTA is guilty of environmental racism.

The Disparate Impact

In 1995, knowing MTA was planning the Expo Line, the City Council of Culver City adopted a measure in their General Plan prohibiting at-grade crossings within their city boundaries. Shortly thereafter, in 2001 MTA published their Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement for the Expo Line that had ALL at-grade crossings in Culver City. Culver City backed up their initial no at-grade crossings position with another measure in 2001, this time adding no elevated crossings next to residential areas.

Two years later, Metro adopted their Grade Crossing Policy, which is more of a political document to explain why MTA doesn’t have to grade separate, than an evaluation of the hazards to determine where grade separation is required (see pg. 7 to 17 of the Reply Brief). The MTA Grade Crossing Policy, establishes an arbitrarily high vehicle count per lane per hour threshold that must be met for a street to receive grade separation. Even with the Grade Crossing Policy, MTA determined that both intersections in Culver City (Washington/National and Jefferson/National) wouldn’t meet their threshold to require grade separation. They were to be built at-grade. Shortly thereafter, Culver City threatened to not sign-off on the project unless there were no at-grade crossings in their city.

The end result of the negotiation between MTA and Culver City was a decision by MTA to:

a) extend the Jefferson/La Cienega overpass 1,000 feet so it would cross Jefferson/National elevated, and 
b) essentially “move the goal posts” to force a grade separation at Washington/National, by pushing the future Venice/Robertson station a few hundred feet east.  
Both streets have less vehicular traffic than streets left at-grade in South LA. Crossings in South LA directly adjacent to parks where children play. Crossings in South LA directly adjacent to schools.

MTA chose not to apply the high standard they’re using in Culver City throughout the entire line and the result is a disparate design where the bulk of the safety risks are placed in South LA, while comparatively Culver City assumes no risk.

The Fix Expo campaign supports the efforts of Culver City to fight for grade separations that eliminate the safety hazards and other adverse environmental impacts of Phase 1 of the Expo Line. But if grade separations are to be given to Culver City they must be given to South LA too. 

The Solution
MTA is building a 1/2-mile trench at Figueroa by USC.  Fix Expo believes the environmental justice issues that currently exist on Expo Phase 1 can be addressed by extending the trench 4 miles to La Brea.

Popularity: 3% [?]

Next Meeting: Mon Jan 11

Join us at our first community update and organizing meeting in the new decade as we discuss the on-going Farmdale controversy and Crenshaw subway effort.

Campaign for Stimulus & Measure R Funds to Grade Separate the South LA Portion of Expo

MTA now has more resources that by law has to be spent on rapid transit expansion. Now is our time to request these resources go toward FIXING EXPO!

Responding to MTA Spin & Deception

A comprehensive response to the spin, red herrings, and half-truths delivered by MTA/Expo, complete with agency memos, testimony, studies, pictures, videos and all.

Separate & Unequal: Expo Phase 1

Compare the design of the Expo Line Phase 1 west of La Cienega to that in majority-minority South LA and it’s clear that Expo Phase 1 is textbook environmental racism.

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