The West Hollywood City Council last night agreed to take steps to accelerate the northern extension of LA Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX subway line through WeHo.
The vote was 3 to 1, with Councilmember Lauren Meister voting no. Councilmember John D’Amico was on vacation and not present at the meeting. Meister objected to the potential cost of the project to the city and uncertainty about where it actually will run within West Hollywood.
Since the passage in 2016 of Measure M, which authorizes a one-half cent increase in the county sales tax to fund Metro’s overall growth plans, many cities and neighborhoods have lobbied to be one of Metro’s earliest projects. In response, the Metro board has adopted an “early project delivery strategy,” which uses certain criteria to assign points to projects and rank their priority. The Metro extension of the Crenshaw line had been scheduled for 2041-2047. Accelerating it means construction could begin in 2020.
One of the criteria for ranking projects is whether a local jurisdiction is willing to allocate at least 10% more than the required 3% contribution to the local project. Among the other five criteria in that “partnerships” category are whether the area applying for priority consideration will streamline the construction permit process and whether it will establish a tax district to fund at least 10% of the local extension cost.
A memo to the Council from the city’s Community and Legislative Affairs Division says that “… the portion of the Northern Extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line within the City of West Hollywood is estimated to cost between $1.4 billion and $2.2 billion depending on the final alignment selected after the environmental review. ”
The 3% match thus would cost the city from $42 to 66 million. To earn points in the early project delivery ranking, West Hollywood would have to commit to contributing 10% more, an amount that would range from $70 to $550 million, depending on the final route of the subway line and the timing of its construction.
Meister objected that the unknown amount of money the city was committing to spending on the future project could be used instead to improve existing transit options, such as the CityLine free shuttle service.
“I don’t think this is what our constituents bargained for when they voted for this,” Meister said.
The resolution adopted by the City Council also would authorize the city to engage a consultant to consider ways to attract private investments into the extension into West Hollywood and other options, such as tax on property that would benefit most directly from the location of a Metro station in WeHo or a local sales tax measure. That revenue would offset the direct costs to the city of the extension. Councilmember John Duran asked that the city consider putting on the March 2019 ballot a cannabis tax proposal.
Metro hopes that the Passage of Measure M, which was supported by 86% of West Hollywood voters and 70% countywide, will generate $120 billion over 40 years to fund projects ranging from the Metro extension to sidewalk repairs. An estimated 35% of the revenue would fund transit projects, 17% highway improvement projects and 2% pedestrian and bicycle projects. The remaining 17% would be allocated to cities for their own local transportation projects.