WeHo Attacked as Racist in Battle Over Crenshaw Metro Line Extension

City of West Hollywood flyer promoting Crenshaw Line Extension.
City of West Hollywood flyer promoting Crenshaw Line Extension.

UPDATE:  This story has been updated with a response from City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath to accusations that the West Hollywood City Council has acted in a racist manner.

West Hollywood’s campaign for its own Metro stop has sparked anger among African-American residents of neighborhoods like Park Mesa Heights and Hyde Park who see it in conflict with their own campaign for an underground extension of Metro’s Crenshaw line. They argue that putting the proposed Crenshaw line extension underground for 11 blocks in their neighborhood rather than running it at street level is essential to preserve the city’s oldest black business district.

Damien Goodman, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition
Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition

That anger was evident at last night’s City Council meeting, when several of those residents accused WeHo of being insensitive to their needs, if not racist. There also has been an exchange of emails over several months between the Crenshaw Subway Coalition (CSC), which represents advocates of the underground extension, and Councilmember Lindsey Horvath and city staffers. Last night’s speakers particularly objected to a broadcast ad campaign by All on Board, a lobbying coalition funded with $400,000 by the city to push Metro to include a stop on Santa Monica Boulevard in WeHo. That stop would be part of Metro’s extension of the Crenshaw line north from San Vicente Boulevard and then along La Brea Avenue on WeHo’s eastern border to the Hollywood/Highland Red Line station. The ads, they said, suggested that their Crenshaw Subway Coalition has won its battle for an underground line, which is not true. In an earlier dispute, CSC demanded that the All Aboard Coalition remove the names of two African-American ministers and an NAACP member from its published list of supporters of diverting the Crenshaw extension to Santa Monica Boulevard, saying they did not support that. One of those minister, the Rev. Xavier Thompson, president of the Black Ministers Conference, asked that his name be removed because he no longer supports the All on Board group.

“We heard your commercial invade our airwaves with the All on Board Coalition, confusing our citizens as to the fact that we were now successful with the undergrounding of the light rail and in fact fully in support of the continuance of the light rail to the north to allow it to meander through your community, to allow you to have greater economic benefit, whereas right now we are fighting to preserve the lives and to preserve the economic corridor of our community, said Robbye Davis, a resident of Hyde Park, a predominantly black neighborhood in Los Angeles.

“Right now, essentially, the candid photo that we have of the West Hollywood City Council bears a striking resemblance to the white massa who gets out of his bed and leaves the white woman in the big house and travels down to rape the black woman in her house,” Davis said. “So just colloquially speaking…. we do not wish and we will not be screwed over by the West Hollywood City Council.”

Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, which is lobbying for the underground extension along 11 blocks in Park Mesa Heights, said members of his organization, of the Black Community Clergy and Labor Alliance steering committee and of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch of the NAACP are “livid with respect to the actions of this council and its disrespect.” Goodmon said he emailed the city council and WeHo officials on March 11 and wasn’t able to arrange a meeting until 11 weeks later. “I’ve literally scheduled meeting with members of the president’s cabinet in less time.”

“We hope this will not be another chapter in the sad history of black community relations where you use us symbolically to advance your interests to advance selfish non-black interests without regard to black needs.” Goodmon said the All on Board Coalition is not a community organization and is an “astroturf” organization, a term used to describe a group or organizations whose founders make it seem to have broad support by withholding information about who is funding it.

Robbye Davis quoteCouncilmember Lindsey Horvath said that she and the city have corresponded with Goodmon about the Metro extension. Copies of that correspondence were supplied by Goodmon to WEHOville. Horvath met with Goodmon and representatives of the Black Community Clergy & Labor Alliance Steering Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Greater Los Angeles, the NAACP Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch, the Leimert Park Village Merchants Association and the Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment on May 27.

Horvath today contested allegations that the City Council is racist. “Last night, a few of the members of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition suggested that the City of West Hollywood City Council is racist,” she said in a message to WEHOville. “That could not be farther from the truth. The city, as part of the All on Board Coalition, has been building partnerships with communities, including Crenshaw, South Los Angeles and the City of Inglewood, for example, because we see the benefits of connecting our communities, and the value of connecting the rest of the region to our communities.

“As I mentioned on the phone, the All on Board Coalition, is comprised of a diverse group of supporters, including:
Earl Ofari Hutchison – CEO, LA Urban Policy Round Table; James T. Butts – Mayor, City of Inglewood; Alex Padilla – Councilmember, City of Inglewood; Pastor KW Tulloss – National Action Network; Nathan Freeman – Vice Chairman, Black Business Association, Los Angeles; Rev. Francisco Garcia, Jr. – Holy Faith Episcopal Church; Bishop Robert Douglas – Jacob’s Ladder Church; Bishop J. C. Opong – All Souls Christian Center International; Henry Brown – Inglewood Unified School District; Rene Talbot – Former Member, Inglewood Unified School District; Crenshaw Chamber of Commerce; Hollywood Chamber of Commerce; Inglewood Airport Chamber of Commerce; West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce; City of West Hollywood City Council; Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; St. John’s Hospital and Beverly Center.

“The All on Board Coalition has always been and remains open to members from the Crenshaw Subway Coalition to join us in trying to connect our communities. Additionally, the City of West Hollywood does not oppose the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, which I communicated to Mr. Goodmon last week. While we may not be similar in our tactics or demands, we share the goals of achieving access to jobs, economic opportunity, quality health care, and equitable access to transit for under-served communities.”

Metro wants to put on the November county ballot a measure that would extend for 20 years the half-cent sales tax increase that was part of Measure R, which voters approved in 2008. It has been projected to raise $40 billion over 30 years for Metro projects. The increase took effect in July 2009 and is set to expire in 2039. A little more than a third of its revenues are dedicated to new rail or bus rapid transit programs. The ballot proposal also would include an additional half-cent sales tax for at least 40 years, with half of the money generated likely to be allocated to each of Metro’s sub-regions by using a formula based on population and employment figures. The proposal must get the support of two-thirds of voters.

The challenge for West Hollywood is getting Metro to proceed with the proposed extension of its Crenshaw Line to connect with the Hollywood/Highland Red Line station in a way that best serves WeHo. Metro’s target budget for the extension assumes it will run from San Vicente Boulevard and then along La Brea Avenue on WeHo’s eastern border to the Hollywood/Highland Red Line station for a total of six miles. But Fehr & Peers, a consultant hired by the West Hollywood, has pulled together data to argue that running the extension from San Vicente to Santa Monica Boulevard for nine miles, with a stop on Santa Monica Boulevard, will better benefit the city and Metro.

Metro has a long list of requests for light rail and other expansions, and competition among various groups such as Crenshaw Subway Coalition and All On Board coalition reflects the fact that it will not have sufficient funds to meet all requests. West Hollywood also wants its proposal to be high on Metro’s project list so that construction can begin relatively soon.

  1. The most cost effective route would be the extension on La Brea. It will provide the fastest and most direct alignment to Hollywood. The desire of WeHo is one that should perhaps include an expanded vision for service. The Beverly Center and Cedar-Sinai Medical Center could be served by a branch line connection from La Brea and Beverly. The line would head west out Beverly to La Cienega and then take San Vicente to Santa Monica where it would end. The WeHo extension as projected would not provide a broad range of service to the people who really need it. There plan sounds more like one for a regional suburban streetcar line where alignments go through basically residential areas where service demand is low.
    An alternative idea would be to run a branch line from La Brea and Santa Monica. The line would run west out Santa Monica to La Cienega. There it would head south on La Cienega and terminate at La Cienega and Wilshire. This branch alignment would provide quick and greatly needed service through a community that is vibrant and increasingly less dependent on private vehicle for transportation. Most importantly respect and honest dialogue must take place immediately. The outer Crenshaw Community is one that must be respected for their continuous dedication and endless contributions to Los Angeles in general. The West Hollywood community has accomplished great things and continues to grow as a community.
    Please work to find common ground so that this wonder transit opportunity will go the distance to make Los Angeles the transit icon it deserves to be.

  2. Creative One, while a line up Fairfax would definitely be an improvement, it wouldn’t service the Beverly Center/Cedars Sinai complex, and would leave the Westside of Weho without rail transit. Also, the same passengers wouldn’t be using the line for the same trips. Some people would have Weho Westside destinations from the south, while other riders from the west would head to Hollywood/Highland. One loop would serve multiple purposes.

  3. Alison, I’ve lived here since 1999, when they reconstructed SMB. They removed the tracks and widened the sidewalks. Does anyone actually believe that they are going to undo all that? It seems crazy … although more cost efficient than digging tunnels, for sure. Also, is there space all along SMB for a rail track? Like around the Target complex? How would that fit, with traffic needing left turn lanes? Maybe it could be constructed like the F Market in San Francisco, which I believe has traffic/rail lanes that are shared.

  4. Stepping aside from the racial debate, West Hollywood has the odds stacked against it in the Crenshaw line extension. Weho’s suggestion of San Vicente to Santa Monica Blvd adds multi-billion dollars to the project. Additionally, Metro considers travel times. Why would anyone logically go from San Vicente/La Brea all the way northwest to San Vicente/SMB then east to Hwd/Highland? Reasonably, Weho should propose a compromise along Faifax (now that methane is not a consideration). This would still include stops on SMB at Faifax & LaBrea. Also stops at LACMA and Farmers Market.

  5. Matt – there was rail down the center of Santa Monica Blvd. for years. One set of tracks. All that is needed.

  6. Let them call us racist. It just reflects back at them..badly. Everything that doesn’t go their way is because of racism, don’t you know that. /sarcasm.

    If they stop the name calling, I’m sure we can work together to try to get what both communities want, but to be honest, after this, why should we try to help them?

  7. Uh, the criteria for underground should be the urban form and traffic flow engineering. There is no room on WeHo’s narrow streets for two sets (eastbound/westbound) tracks. A trench, tunnel, or aerial are the only choices. Or take vehicle traffic off Santa Monica Blvd entirely… Not.

  8. To J. Chaud’s point, I don’t think it is about taking sides. I also don’t believe this is a racial issue. I would think people from WeHo could meet with Mr. Goodmon and find common ground and ways to work together to achieve goals that mutually benefit each other. Where we disagree we should revisit our positions and be respectful of the other side. Mr. Goodmon’s has a reputation, according to what I have read, for being a community advocate. Community advocates usually respect other communities. Both communities owe it to one another to show our constituents that we are capable of working together.

  9. Why doesn’t any of this surprise me anymore. I feel like if I take either side of this issue, I will be wrong for reasons that make no sense to me. It’s sad that everything is boiled down to racism or non-racism whether or not race has anything to do with how a decision is made.

  10. you’re a racist, no you’re a racist !
    so if you if have a dispute over where to lay down rail tracks, and it involves a black neighborhood v. a gay neighborhood, you’re a racist to disagree with the black neighborhood. oh, ok.
    just want to know where the goal posts are… today.

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