By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF
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.