City Council Adopts Complex Plan to Lobby for a Metro Extension to WeHo

West Hollywood will consider putting a measure to raise the city’s sales tax on the ballot as early as June as part of a complex strategy to get the L.A. County Metropolitan Transit Authority to include the city in its west side rail extension plans.

Metro LineThe measure, proposed by Councilmember John Duran, was approved by the Council in a four-to one-vote, with Mayor Lindsey Horvath voting no. The Council also voted last night to appropriate $200,000 to hire consultants to organize and implement a lobbying effort to build support for a light-rail extension to WeHo.

The city has been pushing for such an extension for years. In 2010 it hired a lobbyist to try to convince the MTA to add a WeHo spur to the planned extension of the Purple Line. Two options the MTA considered in its Purple Line expansion study included an extension of the Red Line from the Purple Line’s Hollywood/Highland station into or near West Hollywood. That extension would run under Santa Monica Boulevard with stops at La Brea, Fairfax and San Vicente and a station near the Beverly Center. The MTA decided both of those options would cost more than it would receive from a half-cent increase in the L.A. County sales implemented in 2009 to fund the Metro expansion. The consultant hired by the city would organize local businesses and residents and civic and government leaders to press the MTA to consider connecting the Metro Red Line to West Hollywood and as well as its Crenshaw/LAX northern extension, which would provide easy access to the airport.

The first section of the Purple Line extension already is under construction, funded by a half-cent increase in the sales tax approved by voters in 2008 along with federal grants and loans. Now Metro must find funding for the final two sections of the project. In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that will allow the MTA to put a measure on the ballot that would raise the overall sales tax in L.A. County, now 9%, to 9.5%, with the additional revenue going to fund its expansion plans. Because of the nature of the measure, it would require a two-thirds vote to pass.

Duran noted that the State of California has an overall cap of 10% on sales taxes. Of that, 7.5% goes to the state and 1.5% goes to the County of Los Angeles, with some portion of that revenue used to fund local programs. If West Hollywood residents were to approve an increase in the sales tax rate, pushing it closer to the 10% limit, the MTA would be limited in the sales tax increase it could seek to fund its rail expansion programs. Thus, Duran reasoned, it would be more likely to negotiate with West Hollywood to receive some of its tax increase revenue and extend its line into WeHo.

“This is the window of opportunity, and it will close,” Duran said. “Either we will be in it or we will be out of it.” Duran also noted that the money raised by the tax increase could be used for other purposes if the city is unable to strike a deal with the MTA. For example, said Councilmember John D’Amico, it could be used to fund affordable housing.

John Leonard, the city’s head of revenue management, said a sales tax increase of .25% would generate about $4 million in revenue for West Hollywood in its first year. Sales revenue in the city typically grows 4% a year, and a city staff report said that means such an increase could generate $175 million over 30 years.

The Council voted in June to support Metro placing its sales tax increase measure on the ballot next year, likely during the November general election. If West Hollywood were to put a measure before voters before that, it would have to get the support of at least two-thirds of them for it to pass.

Horvath said she couldn’t support Duran’s proposal because she feared it would be seen negatively by the county officials with whom the city is trying to negotiate for support for a Metro extension into WeHo. “I think this presents challenges to building relationships,” she said.

  1. Unfornunately I do not think the West Hollywood Red Line connection bus as scheduled will be a sucess. Both MTA Lines 217 and 780 serve the station and proceed southbound on Fairfax thru West Hollywood. It’s ashamed the MTA killed the original One Line that ran down Hollywood Bl. to Fairfax and then Westbound on Santa Monica Bl. to Century City. Good planning is not the MTA’s forte. We used to have a Bus Line from West Hollywood clear to LAX and Marina Del Rey. It now only runs from the Beverly Center to Culver City.

  2. $200,00 to hire a CONSULTANT! (not an actual Lobbyist, but a consultant to fine one??)

    HOW ABOUT DUMPING THIS IDEA but redirecting the $200,000 the City has for a “sky dream” and FULLY FUND A REGULAR ALL DAY TROLLEY BUS DIRECTLY TO THE REDLINE STATION.

    I personally would like to see the trolley service, and it would really make a statement about our city and values if every trolley played a loop of JUDY GARLAND singing “THE TROLLEY SONG”

    What could be grater – and more realistic use of this $200,000 sitting around in a city so in need of cash, they need to raise the sales tax directly financially impacting the residents of weho with nothing in return.

  3. @ Mike Dunn. That’s actually something worth investigating. Although its been 40-50 years…too bad there wasn’t some kind of ensurance for those cities along the proposed SMB freeway. However many cities (including Weho residents) opposed it. This is a good article about it from KCET. Its a shame because the lack of transportation along this corridor is a big part of why we are in such a mess now. A light rail along SMB from the beach to downtown should be of utmost importance.

  4. Mayor Hovath’s concerns are not ill founded. The decisions regarding subway expansion, which we all hold dear, will necessarily have to take into concerns all of the citizens of the County. While a spur up San Vicente is certainly a financially prudent option, we are not likely to see a line along Santa Monica simply because it will not be a fiscally viable nor the best use of Metro funds. But when the City starts receiving an additional $4 million in revenue, it is unlikely that it will give it up, even for a subway. Furthermore, our City Manager is no dummy; he knows that chances of getting a subway spur are 50/50, at best, so there is a great chance City Hall would have a huge windfall while locals and tourists may find shopping in West Hollywood just got a bit more expensive. While I am all for a subway extension into WeHo I think this proposal is more than a bit half baked.

    1. If the MTA intends to extend the politically evolved Crenshaw line to Hollywood and Highland Red Line Station no matter which route is picked much of it will have to be underground. Currently the north terminus is being built underground adjacent to the street level Expo Line. The published reason being Crenshaw Bl. is to narrow to be running much of it’s route at street level. So once it reaches Venice Bl. the old P.E. right of way could be re-established and the line could run to ether San Vicente Bl. then turn north or to La Brea Ave and turn north. La Brea is to narrow for street level running. I believe there is an old right of way along Highland Ave. to Melrose but there is a slim chance the residents along Highland would allow their grass and tree lined divider be turned into a light rail corridor.

      So now we have a proposed by those I’m guessing in the city for the line to continue up San Vicente then turn east on Santa Monica Bl. and then either travel underground on La Brea or Highland to the Red Line Station.

      The pluses are it would serve the lower Fairfax business area, Beverly Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Ctr. and West Hollywood.

      The minus is a extended street level travel plus the under ground portion along Santa Monica Bl. where there is no old right of way to La Brea Ave. where it would join the more direct route from Venice Bl. Also with the direct route up La Brea Av. it could connect with the Purple Line extension under construction whereby if it continued up San Vicente there would be approx. two block walk to the station under construction at La Cienega.

      What would I like to see built? A independent line extending from the Expo Line at the Supulvada Station and run north on Sepulvada Bl. to eastbound Santa Monica Bl. clear to Sunset Bl. or Downtown L.A. This line would significantly reduce the grid lock on both Santa Monica Bl. and Sunset Bl.

      For those who do not know the history of the area a proposed freeway was slated to be built from the end of the Glendale Freeway in the Echo Park area to the Westside. The property had been acquired by the state and construction was supposed to start when Governor Jerry Brown during his previous reign cancelled it. Century City and most development on the Westside were planned and built with the assurance the freeway. It’s my opinion that since the state screwed up an adopted development plan, the state should be held accountable to resolve the issue.

  5. Yes, whatever the city can do to try and get a subway or light rail (which seems easier to pull off, and faster to build). The problem, as I understand it, is with where the voters live. The majority of voters in our district live in the valley, and even with their vote to increase the sales tax in 2008, money was appropriated to other Metro projects, such as the Orange line. They have no interest in relieving congestion on SMB, or into making this a car-less community. It doesn’t affect them.

    It is sad that these variables have resulted in the most densely populated city on the west coast to not have a fast, connected, easy-to-use public transportation system. I’ve lived in the community for almost 20 years, and would love to see a day where I could walk to SMB and get to Santa Monica, Century City, Hollywood, Downtown, the Valley, etc., with considerable ease, and not spend miles and miles on buses that have to wait in congested traffic. New York has this. So does San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, etc.. I do realize that the geographic size of Los Angeles sets us apart, but public transportation should take population density into account just as much as commuters’ needs (people coming in from the Valley to downtown, for example).

    Even just a connection down Fairfax or La Cienega to the new purple line construction would more easily connect us to downtown, and many other places.

  6. If the City is looking for additional revenue, we all know that it’s coming in waves over the next few years. The City’s transient occupancy tax (the hotel tax) is currently 12.5%. Add 1/2 percent to that rate to make it 13%.

    There are a bunch of new, expensive hotels coming online in 2016, 2017 and beyond. The LA Times just reported that The Edition hotel up on Sunset @ Doheny just got financing. There is another proposed hotel at Sunset @ Hammond. There is a hotel planned for the Hustler site on Sunset @ Hilldale. The two hotels on Sunset @ La Cienega will be finished soon. There is the one planned for the Factory location. There is another currently being built on La Peer or Almont. There is the re-envisioned San Vicente Inn. I’m sure there are more that I’m forgetting, but the extra revenue coming to the City is substantial in the next few years.

    Hell, the extra sales tax from the Shake Shack alone would pay for one lobbyist. You know that place is going to be mobbed as soon as it opens.

    The City could easily use the additional revenue from all the new developments mentioned above to (1) do some lobbying AND (2) beef up public safety by adding additional sheriff patrols and other assets. All this can be done without raising the sales tax rate.

  7. There was an odd juxtaposition in my reading of this article today and my reading about a delivery driver being shot in an ongoing series of armed robberies in West Hollywood. So the City debates our taxing ourselves higher to extort the MTA into promising an extension of a line into the City before we repeal it, so that we can stop the other citizens of the County from adding more to their sales taxes to raise enough money to do some good for the far more underserved areas of the County. This as my daily walk from Fuller Ave to La Brea to catch a 212 down to the Expo Line takes me past the construction of two massive projects that will increase the traffic density tremendously and provide retail spaces for businesses whose customers would pay less taxes if they made their purchases out of the city. And we have apparently not provided our Sheriffs with the funding required to patrol the city and stop the robberies. It seems the City Council has the same focus on main goals Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition demonstrated for its chief weapons.

  8. Far behind? That is such an understatement it would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic. Los Angeles has its dreamy concepts in the 21st century but it’s head and feet are stuck in the 19th and early 20th c. The fact that such exponential development could have been conceived without suitable infrastructure and sophisticated transportation measures on the boards shows incompetence at a high level. We have become the poster child for “hunt and peck”planning in this area and execution by “2 guys and a bucket of tar”.

    Perhaps emergency implementation funds should come from all new development and this should be Number One Priority……. next to all the other Number One Priority out of control issues that we ignored while attempting to be a world class city. Wake up folks!!! We seem to be going backwards faster than we can even think about going forwards.

  9. A city with $100,000,000+ surplus needs to raise $4 million extra in taxes?
    If they are short on funds compel airbnb to collect bed taxes for all the units in WeHo.

  10. We are so far behind where we should be in 2015 in Los Angeles and in particular the West Side with transportation. Whatever it takes to get the subway into West Hollywood as soon as possible should be supported. The Los Angeles and West Hollywood of the future will be great, but fixing the gridlock and transportation issues is key and the subway access is essential. Make it happen!

  11. Let’s see, we want to raise taxes “in the hope” we’ll be able to convince the County/Metro to add us to their plan. Don’t see it happening. Not gonna happen. Nope. Sad, but true. It’d be one thing if it was a sure bet. But a gamble? Nah. Thank you, Mayor Horvath.

  12. I live in studio city but travel to weho/mid town all the time. I was thinking the great option for a subway would be something going from laurel canyon / ventura blvd in the valley, and then going under the hills and following fairfax all the way down to wilshire. Another line that would be more weho focused would be a line with stops 1. highland/hollywood 2. sunset /crescent heights 3. santa monica / la cienega 4. melrose/ la cienega 5. beverly blvd / la cienega 6. san vicente / la cienega 7. wilshire / la cienega. Either or both of these lines would definitely help with making the area more walkable.

  13. It would seem as though all the variables are not yet on the table. It would be heed to have clarity. Rather than wishing and hoping that somethings may fall to our favor because Shiela Kuehl is in the mix is not exactly comforting . Can we have a point person in WeHo that is capable of staying on top do we are legitimately in the game?

  14. RickT: Self driving car will solve everything but then you ask for more parking. What sorcery is this?

    Mandated parking minimums has been shown to negatively effect everything you just posted. It will not decrease traffic (it will actually increase it), will increase housing costs (to the tune of at least $5k to $10k per unit) and turn the city into a suburban hellhole.

    Ever notice how every great city or great part of a city has no parking minimums? That’s not a coincidence.

  15. Self driving cars will fix the traffic in WEHO before any rail lines will. WEHO needs to add more parking on SMB and Sunset. All new construction should allocate 100-200 spots for free 60 minuet parking or $1.00 hr parking. That alone would cut down on traffic, just look at Beverly Hills, so many lots you don’t need to circle the block 10 times to find parking. Second with UBER people who live close by will use that service more and more then drive, the key is to build more density of apartments and offices closer to each other. Part of this can be fixed by zoning more office space and taller buildings, the other part will fix itself with self driving cars, and UBER. Metro is a dream that will help a little but will not fix all the traffic issues.

  16. Metro hasn’t finalized a list of projects that could receive funding from a potential tax increase measure for Fall 2016. That list should come out sometime in the Spring. At that point, we will know if Metro will prioritize a northern extension of the Crenshaw Line. They definitely need a stop at San Vicente/Santa Monica where the current bus depot is located.

  17. West Hollywood could show Beverly Hills a thing or two about pro-activity and community efforts for the greater good of the county. The area is deserving enough with shops, bars, and events. Lets hope We-Ho gets some priority!

  18. not in our lifetime. this is an unnecessary collection of tax money for a project that will never occur. the bullet train has a better chance of blowing down santa monica boulevard.
    john duran should focus on his office flirting skills. leave the serious work to others.

  19. Excellent comments Mike.

    Why doesn’t WeHo have a seat at the table of directors composed of supervisors and mayors of other cities given our pivotal location particularly since so many travel through our city en route to other destinations? Seems as though someone in our hood w close relationship to Beverly Hills could be more useful than lobbyists. Perhaps John Duran might consider taking this up as his raison d’etre since he missed the supervisors position early on.

  20. There wont be any extension of the Purple Line to West Hollywood. I think that is pretty clear. The only hope is if we can extend the Crenshaw line up to Weho and pray they somehow find the money to connect it to the Hollywood/Highland Red Line stop. But we are talking probably 50-75 years from now.

    I think a better use of the .5% sales tax would be the lobbying of the construction of an east/west light rail down SMB from Doheny to LaBrea and somehow get LA to link up the other ends that extend beyond Weho. Many of the right-a-ways are still there.

    1. WEHO BOY is correct, much of the old right of way is intact down Santa Monica Bl. It does seem odd except for the parking garages in mid Beverly Hills the old right of way remains unused after all these years. Could it be that the Union Pacific or some spin off from the Southern Pacific still owns the land and by some government covadent it can only be used for public transit?

  21. Having lived in City’s past with vast subway/light rail and the ability to travel without a car; brings benefits to our City and others that some of us may not see but this legacy must be set and vigorously supported to our Metro Board.

    This legacy for West Hollywood will solidify our greatness, creative and innovative City stature that we are.

    Our residents, visitors, businesses, hotels will receive the gift that keeps on giving. Imagine, if you will, how the film industry will expand and flourish on our eastside, the design district on the west, our cultural and historical district’s and wide ranging architecture will be sought-out and on tourists – must-see-list.

    Our restaurants’, shops, parks so accessible just a subway stop away. Art on the outside, diverse, eclectic, and worthy to be part of West Hollywood will have exposure surpassed by any measure of today. Come experience West Hollywood by subway today. Come far and wide and step off the train to the wonderment the West Hollywood is and most are curious to experience over and over again.

    The current plan is the subway and light rail go completely north, east and west of our City but will the power of lobbyist, (we seen many times before on a state and national level) can show we are in this and we want this. Weho residents can hop on a train to the beach and no car! Walk Weho, walk when you arrive to your final destination. You will be enriched beyond your wildest imagination.

    This was a fine hour for West Hollywood to fund the lobbyist and begin to secure on the ballot, the money from acquired from an infrastructure improvement, through a marginal tax, will in fact stay tied to West Hollywood.

    Councilmember Heilman’s suggestion to incentivize the funding of a aggressive outreach and lobbying effort with our mayor neighbors like Cedar’s, Beverly Center… The benefits to them, West Hollywood, and our unique city will live on for the future Weho’s constituents’.

    This is a plan we can all get behind-together.

  22. It’s time the MTA addressed the terrible grid lock on Santa Monica and Sunset Blvd’s. extending from West Los Angeles and continuing at times clear to East Hollywood and Downtown L.A. Rather many disagree concerning the Westside development starting in the late 1950’s and continuing today Governor Jerry Brown cancelled the extension of the Two Freeway during his prior reign that developments like Century City were counting on. If one observes the 101 Freeway at Vermont the reason for the large gap between the northbound and southbound lanes was created for the proposed interchange which was built in the late 1940’s early 1950’s. Light Rail being built in West Hollywood will only solve part of the problem, the entire east-west travel corridor should be addressed. If West Hollywood passes a one half cent sales tax increase it will maximize our tax rate to the maximum of 10% which will preclude the MTA from imposing further tax increases on the citizens of West Hollywood and could in fact scuttle the MTA’s ability to pass a tax increase on the rest of the county.

  23. Oops, I meant to say La Brea and Wilshire at the Purple line, not the expo line where the Crenshaw line already terminates.

  24. I’m glad that the city is fighting tooth and nail for an expansion of a subway/light rail within city limit. It shows commitment to the idea, at least (while a certain city to the west of WeHo is doing the comlete opposite).

    WeHo’s best hope is the extension of the LAX/Crenshaw line up north and to connect it to the Red Line in Hollywood, with stops within the city. Metro already has plans to extend that line towards Expo line at La Brea and an extension up north is already in the periphery of their radar.

  25. I can’t see the MTA changing direction and putting in a West Hollywood extension, probably under Santa Monica Blvd. Maybe we should just volunteer to be a test site for the Hyperloop which is being developed in Downtown LA. And I think the City Council should do anything it can to attract Google to build its Fiber high-speed internet & TV service in WeHo.

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