After postponing a vote on the extension of the C (Green) Line last month in order to hear from more South Bay constituents, L.A. County Supervisor and Metro board member Holly Mitchell is asking for federal dollars to help pay for a route along Hawthorne Boulevard.
The Hawthorne Boulevard option is one of three routes offered by LA Metro to extend the C Line 4.5 miles from its current western terminus at the Redondo Beach Metro Station on Marine Avenue to the new transit center at 465 Crenshaw Blvd. in Torrance. No route has been chosen.
Metro staff emphasized using a Metro-owned right-of-way (ROW) for the new line, but that prompted strong opposition from residents at recent Metro meetings. Many said they enjoy walking, hiking and even hosting birthday parties in the green space known as the ROW, and said a train line would destroy that open space.
After the objections, Mitchell cancelled a vote set for Oct. 26, when the Metro board had been expected to pick the route along the ROW for the light-rail extension. That key vote will take place in early 2024, according to Metro’s website.
“The entire Metro Board will make the final vote and it’s important to me that residents who will be impacted are weighing in and that we do our best to secure all the resources necessary for each option to be considered,” Mitchell wrote in an emailed response on Tuesday, Nov. 28.
About a month after the postponement, Mitchell wrote letters to three U.S. senators and two members of Congress, asking them to find out if the federal government would put money into the Hawthorne Boulevard alignment, which costs between $800 million and $1 billion more than the other options.
“My goal is to see what state and federal financial resources are available so we can fairly assess what is feasible with input from residents,” said Mitchell in the recent email.
Metro reported the ROW/elevated/at-grade alignment would cost about $2 billion with completion expected in 2033. A hybrid option along the ROW, with some sections in trenches, would cost $2.23 billion and be completed in 2034.
An option to build an all-elevated train in the median of the 405 Freeway, but mostly along Hawthorne Boulevard, would cost about $3 billion, about $1 billion more than the ROW/elevated/at-grade alignment option, Metro reported.
The Hawthorne Boulevard alignment would need Federal Highway Administration approval because it would use Caltrans property, Metro reported. Metro would have to buy property to sink columns to hold up the tracks. That option would be completed in 2035, according to Metro.
In a letter to Democratic U.S. senators from California, Laphonza Butler and Alex Padilla, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash, and in a letter to Reps. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, both dated Nov. 16, Mitchell wrote:
“I ask for your help determining if and what federal financial opportunities for closing the $1 billion funding gap would be available for the Hawthorne Option should LA Metro decide to pursue that alignment.”
Mitchell’s letter doesn’t choose an option. But many in the communities of Redondo Beach, Lawndale and Torrance see it as trying to eliminate any Metro board member from not considering the Hawthorne Boulevard alignment as the preferred option because it costs too much. Metro has about $1 billion set aside for the project.
“She is being fair and she wants to even the playing field by asking for more funding,” said Karen Ruby, on Monday, Nov. 27, a 31-year Lawndale resident who supports the Hawthorne Boulevard alignment.
Recently, support for the Hawthorne Boulevard option has been growing.
The cities of Redondo Beach and Lawndale officially support the Hawthorne Boulevard option. The city of Torrance previously indicated support for the ROW route, but two of the seven Torrance City Council members, Aurelio Mattucci and Jon Kaji. said they opposed the line, period.
In a letter to Metro dated Oct. 24, Lawndale Mayor Alex Vargas said the Hawthorne Boulevard option would create 35% more ridership than the other two. Instead of hiding the light-rail extension in a right-of-way near houses, the elevated Hawthorne Boulevard extension would be visible.
“The Hawthorne Elevated Option would show riders they are moving faster than the log-jammed traffic on the adjacent I-405 Freeway, then take them down the Hawthorne Boulevard commercial corridor to the new South Bay Social Districts,” Vargas wrote.
The Hawthorne option is the only one with a station at the South Bay Galleria.
The project would produce between 11,500 and 15,000 daily project trips by 2042. That equates to 5,700 to 7,800 daily boardings per station, which is similar to Metro’s B (Red) and E (Expo) Line average daily boardings in 2019. Vargas wrote that this option would help local businesses.
Redondo Beach City Councilmember Zein Obagi told the Metro board that the city does not accept the Draft Environmental Impact Report, or a summary of comments from the report that Metro says indicate 73% of respondents support some form of the ROW option.
Obagi said the city is setting aside $400,000 for a potential lawsuit against Metro for what he calls a “defective” EIR.
“There is a staff agenda to push the right-of-way (ROW) option,” he told Metro. “And we haven’t been consulted.”
At a recent Metro meeting, he said building a line along the ROW requires moving the existing freight line 15 feet closer to adjacent senior citizen residences, and that would increase noise and vibrations in their homes. He also said using the ROW route for the C Line extension is not equitable for low-income people who live in Lawndale.
Josh Standifer, a Lawndale resident who lives near the ROW and would be impacted by the light-rail line if built there, credited Mitchell and the Board of Supervisors for taking time to listen to constituents regarding a train line that will affect their communities for at least a hundred years. He’s opposed to both ROW alignment options.
“We are pro-transit. Hawthorne Boulevard makes sense. Hands down, ridership and South Bay economic prosperity would be best achieved by the Hawthorne Elevated Option,” wrote Standifer in an emailed response.