LTCC Opposes Regional Connector Build Alternatives

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By GWEN MURANAKA

RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF

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The Little Tokyo Community Council on Tuesday stated its opposition to the two current build alternatives proposed for the Metro Regional Connector and urged consideration of a new alternative.

Regional Connector seeks to create an almost two-mile transit link between the Gold and Blue Line light rail systems through downtown Los Angeles. On Tuesday at a meeting of the LTCC Transit Committee, a resolution passed stating opposition to both the underground and aboveground alternatives and urged the transit authority continue to explore different options. A majority of LTCC board members were present at the meeting and voted for the motion. It is currently being sent out to the rest of the board for approval.

“It’s a very serious issue for Little Tokyo. We support the idea of transit in this big city, but we are concerned as to what the impact is going to be for the future of Little Tokyo,” said Chris Aihara, co-chair of the Transit Committee. “As proposed, the below grade alignment and how it diverts the traffic, it cuts Alameda off from the rest of Little Tokyo. Bill Watanabe made a point — that so much of Little Tokyo is the small businesses that are currently here. They won’t benefit from this.”

The vote came following more than an hour of discussion by representatives from Nishi Hongwaji Temple, local businesses, property owners, nonprofit organizations and residents. Daryl Garibay, owner of Advanced Parking Systems, said the motion was necessary to show that Little Tokyo is united in its opposition to the current alignments.

“We must have a unified voice and use it as a tool, whether through the media or in Washington,” said Garibay.

The motion follows a series of working group meetings where all four alternatives for the Regional Connector were discussed. The other two alternatives are a shuttle bus system and a no-build option. On Oct. 27 a motion passed stating that LTCC supports further exploration of so-called fifth option which could involve an underground station at Nikkei Center, planned at the northeast corner of First and Alameda streets. The corner is also site of the Little Tokyo Gold Line Eastside Extension station, which opens on Nov. 15.

Earlier in the day, Little Tokyo representatives expressed their concern during a meeting of the Information Technology and Government Affairs Committee, which is overseen by Councilmembers Tony Cardenas and Jan Perry. Perry expressed support for pursuing federal funding for the Regional Connector but had concerns about its impact on Little Tokyo.

In a letter to Cardenas dated Oct. 29, Perry said the Regional Connector concept is “excellent,” but she had problems with its execution.

“The Little Tokyo community has grave reservations about this project and how it will adversely affect their area. They feel as though they are being sacrificed to a larger goal of ‘better public transit,’” Perry stated. “I agree with the community that the project has issues. The natural transfer point for these trains is the nearby Union Station.”

“I see the overall project as a public benefit. I don’t see why one community should continue to be the target of Metro’s planners. I support the concept, but ask for consideration for another geographic solution,” Perry said.

Ann Kerman, a representative of Metro, had not received the latest LTCC motion, but cautioned that Metro is still in the early stages of preparing the environmental impact report.

“There is now what the community is calling a 5th option, based upon some meetings that we’ve had with the developer of the Nikkei Center,” said Kerman. “But it’s still so premature to know if the project can physically work, what the impacts are going to be. Any motion that opposes the existing build alternatives may be premature at this point. As the environmental process is geared to vet out all options impacts and mitigations. We want to create a project that the community accepts and embraces.”

Metro will be holding a series of meetings, including two meetings Thursday, Nov. 12 at the Japanese American National Museum, to provide a community update on the project. The Nov. 12 meetings will take place from 2 to 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Meetings will also be held Saturday, Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Wurlitzer Building, 818 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, and Tuesday, Nov. 10 at the Los Angeles Central Library board room, 630 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles from noon to 1:30 p.m.

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5 Comments

  1. While I agree with the Little Tokyo Community Council that an underground station underneath the Nikkei Center would be better than an at-grade crossing for the Regional Connector, I am also concerned that the LTCC voted to oppose both of the MTA’s proposals.

    The LTCC could have expressed their support for an underground station without cutting off any chance of an at-grade crossing at First/Alameda. What will happen if the MTA decides that an underground station is not feasible?

    Daryl Garibay, as the owner of Advanced Parking Systems, obviously has a vested interest in making sure that people continue to drive to Little Tokyo and park in his parking lots.

    However, anyone who has attempted to visit Little Tokyo during the summer months knows that driving downtown can be a huge hassle. The Regional Connector will allow visitors to avoid the traffic congestion and parking problems that Little Tokyo has.

    I would love to see an underground station at the Nikkei Center, perhaps with the sort of underground subway station mall that you see in Tokyo.

    But I also think that the community needs to give more consideration to the other plans that the MTA has drawn up.

  2. I also agree with the above comment. If anyone has been to Tokyo, they would see how mass transit and density changes cities. This can also be used as a great tool for historic preservation. I agree that an underground station is the best solution.

    Somehow the integrity of Little Tokyo is defending a parking lot, Starbucks and a few other non-descript fast food outlets? How is this part of the master vision for Little Tokyo? The manager of a parking lot is leading the transit discussion of the community?

    The best way to keep Little Tokyo vibrant is strict design guidelines with higher density growth adjacent to the village. All of this connected with transportation linkages that bring customers without cars and parking.

    Presentations have been made to the community for over 2 years. Not sure where folks were as this went through the community process. Downtown LA Neighborhood Council had discussions and presentations on the options and process 2 years ago.
    There may still be time to resolve this but this would have been so much easier if this had happened 18 months ago. I am hopeful that with leadership and flexibility, solutions may be available.
    But I feel that a huge part of this is some who expect that the community should stay low density with no growth or no retail competition. The discussion of no retail competition, lead the design of the Block 8 discussion.
    A few years ago, little Tokyo seemed to be in need of significant help. It is now on a great return and is an incredible resource and community that needs preservation and continued economic activity. Well- planned transit is that key. Many new customers without the need for more and more parking and asphalt are a big part of that solution. Let’s make sure that embracing the rest of the county transit linkages is seen as an amazing opportunity and not try to protect Little Tokyo by keeping it isolated from those changes.

  3. What a pathetic display of NIMBY’ism!!
    Little Tokyo, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
    Because of NIMBY’s and selfish approaches such as demonstrated by you, our mass transit is sooo behind the rest of the world… Literally.
    Well, Little Tokyo, I hope you will suffer from lack of transit alternatives because of your dumb decision of opposing Regional Connector, and I hope you suffer by your car smog and clumsy buses in your neighborhood.
    (And – guess what! When the Regional Connector is build – and I have no doubts it will – you will be envying the rest of us for using a convenient rail alternatives, while you will be confined to your pathetic cars and buses! Good luck to you!)

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  5. I know that several local stakeholders including that major residential building did not receive notice of the project’s meetings – something Metro has admitted to. And I’m sure many knew about the project, but I know the meetings and presentations regarding the impacts weren’t nearly as comprehensive as those delivered at LTCC recently. Remember, we’re dealing with people who don’t spend their entire day reading EIRs or studying rail transit.

    Nonetheless, I fully admit to being an outsider, but I am based in Leimert Park, a similar cultural center constantly struggling to survive, with strong local concerns about preservation and economic development that compliments our assets, and doesn’t diminish them.

    I don’t know what drives the decision making process in Little Tokyo or at the LTCC, and it’s not relevant to my point for me to speculate. I do know from a simple transit and construction standpoint that both options were unacceptable, and I stood up at a DTC meeting over a year ago when the 1st/Alameda crossing was unveiled and said in the microphone with the attention of all of the staff: “If this is built someone at Metro should be fired.” Others in the audience were just as critical, albeit not as frank. Solely from a transit perspective, the junction is too important and the community impact is too sensitive for such a horrible design to have remained on the drawing board this long. But it did.

    Regardless of what happened, I think Metro’s point that they’re still in the conceptual phase should remain at the forefront of consciousness. I also think that given how far Metro had gotten along with the 1st/Alameda crossing a strong signal was needed, and it was delivered. Furthermore, I think any concern that this vote was the product of any anti-transit/pro-car sentiment was dismissed as the group proposed a 5th option.

    Whether desired or not, they signaled to Metro a willingness to accept, if not embrace, the DTC passing through Little Tokyo if appropriately built and mitigated. And according to Metro staff, they’re taking serious previous proposals for an underground train crossing at 1st/Alameda. So the LTCC’s decision and the strength has already proven wise. Today things are on the table at Metro that prior to the vote was not.

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