Before a standing-room-only audience of an estimated 600 community residents, business, civic and religious leaders, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board voted to locate a train station in Leimert Park Village, but only if it can be built within the existing $1.7 billion budget allocated for the Crenshaw/LAX line.

Although members of the board overwhelmingly voiced support for the station, their refusal to allocate funds for the project pretty much condemns it. If contract bids for the light rail line project come in at lower-than-expected numbers, then the savings can be used to fund the stop at the intersection of Vernon Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard.

If the the contracts do not come in under budget, the stop will not be added.

Additionally, the subway options was voted down because the board felt the project could be safely and cost-efficiently built above ground. Metro official also felt that widening Crenshaw would effectively handle the potential traffic snarls.

“In a nutshell, the ball has been moved forward in favor of the station,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who has championed locating a stop in the iconic town square since he joined the Metro Board in 2008. “It’s moved forward, but not nearly far enough. It’s a victory with a small v.”

The urgency of locating a station in Leimert Park Village united a large portion of the South L.A. community. In addition to filling the board room, which seats approximately 300 people, there were hundreds of community members packed into three more overflow rooms.

“I can think of no other issue that has united the community as has this one,” the Supervisor said. Ridley-Thomas had sought to run the line underground for a one-mile stretch through Park Mesa Heights, an option that was rejected by the Metro Board.

Nonetheless, the struggle continues, said the Supervisor.

“In addition to the hundreds of people who turned out for the meeting, thousands signed petitions asking Metro to do the right thing,” he said. “The unity members of the board saw today is real and enduring. We are not going to give up on a station at Leimert Park Village. We are going to advocate for Park Mesa Heights. We’re going to keep pushing; it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

MTA Director Richard Katz introduced a substitution motion which reflected the concept of Ridley-Thomas’ original proposal and that further suggested the new Leimert Park station could be built within the overall project budget.

“I would like to acknowledge Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for his leadership in advocating for this light rail station in Leimert Park, an iconic destination that has served as the backdrop for critical historical movements and events that have deeply influenced the African American community in South Los Angeles.

“I support a fiscally responsible proposal for the Leimert Park stop that adheres to the project’s $1.7 billion budget. More than 10,000 Angelenos are projected to use this line everyday and would benefit from this additional stop in the heart of South L.A.,” Katz continued.

“I know that there has been a lively debate on this issue, but I firmly believe that this action maintains my commitment to the voters of L.A. who supported Measure R (approved in November 2008 and commits a projected $40 billion to traffic relief and transportation upgrades throughout the county over the next 30 years) to use these funds for job creation, clean air, accessible transportation, and economic recovery.”

Overall members of the community left the five- and-a-half hour meeting feeling a sense of unity, although somewhat bothered that after all of the debate, there was still nothing concrete established. The hope still flickered that the project can be completed under budget and that Crenshaw-area residents will get to see a stop in their beloved Leimert Park Village.
But that hope was dim indeed.