Metro Unveils New Regional Connector Plan

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Members of the Little Tokyo Working Group vote to endorse a new alternative for the Regional Connector that was presented on Thursday by Metro at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)

Members of the Little Tokyo Working Group vote to endorse a new alternative for the Regional Connector that was presented on Thursday by Metro at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)

By GWEN MURANAKA

RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

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“This is a work in progress with a lot of moving parts,” said Dolores Roybal Saltarelli, Metro project manager, as the transportation authority unveiled a new concept for the Regional Connector Thursday night. Members of Metro presented the new plan during a meeting of the Little Tokyo Working Group. Following the presentation, the group voted 23-0 to endorse the plan and encouraged further refinement.

The Regional Connector, if built, would create an almost two-mile transit link between the Metro Gold and Metro Blue Line light rail transit systems through downtown Los Angeles. The new alternative, a refinement of the underground alternative, addresses many of the concerns expressed by Little Tokyo community members, eliminating the at-grade crossing for trains at Alameda and First Street and an underpass for car traffic.

The new plan would involve building an underground station, possibly under the site of what is currently an Office Depot as well as build two portals for trains: a portal on First Street for east- westbound trains, and a portal on Alameda north of Temple Street for north- southbound trains.

“This is a fifth option, a third build alternative if you will. We would be underneath Second (Street). We would be underneath the Office Depot property looking at locating a station there that would have access to all lines,” Roybal Saltarelli explained. “We would then proceed underneath First and Alameda and if you were going northbound, the train would go underneath the Nikkei development and surface north of Temple onto the bridge structure that goes over the 101 Freeway into Union Station and

An overhead view of Little Tokyo shows the new proposed alignment for the Metro Regional Connector. (Courtesy of METRO)

An overhead view of Little Tokyo shows the new proposed alignment for the Metro Regional Connector. (Courtesy of METRO)

beyond.”

The new plan would add $200 million to the cost of building the Regional Connector, in addition to the estimated $910 million in 2008 dollars. Earlier this month, the Little Tokyo Community Council voted to oppose both aboveground and underground build alternatives presented by Metro and urged the team to come up with another plan. A fifth option opened up after Jonathan Kaji of Kaji and Associates, developer of Nikkei Center, indicated that they would be open to having a station at their site. Metro also met with officials from Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple to assure them that they would not be impacted by the new proposal.

Roybal Saltarelli emphasized that the new plan was very conceptual at this point and it has not been presented to the Metro board as another alternative for further analysis and study. A draft environmental impact statement/report is expected to be completed next summer and the Metro board will select a locally preferred alternative in the fall 2010.

The Little Tokyo Working Group is a subcommittee of the Little Tokyo Community Council’s Planning and Cultural Preservation Committee. The group also discussed mitigation monitoring plans and reviewed a proposal for hiring a consultant versed in transit and mitigation issues to work with the group.

Metro will present the new alternative at the Little Tokyo Community Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 12 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum.

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3 Comments

  1. I ws very surprised when I heard that the MTA had come up with this new plan. I thought for sure that there were technical and engineering difficulties that would have prevented them from doing so.

    Or it would have been much too expensive or it would have caused problems for the Nikkei Center.

    However, now that the MTA has proposed this, I hope that the Little Tokyo community will stand behind this.

    Of course, the next question is, what goes on top of the new station? A new park, perhaps? The area could use more open space.

    Or maybe new shops? Perhaps something more in keeping with Little Tokyo’s ethnic and cultural background than Office Depot?

  2. I am glad that Metro and the community are coming together for this critical project.

    Many of the businesses on the Ofifce Depot site have little to do with the cultural integrity of the neighborhood. Weiland’s and Senor Fish have history. Fast food outlets and an Office Depot do not. With planned adjacent parking being built at the Parker Center lot, maybe a traditional Japenese plaza with gardens, tea house and dining options incorporating outdoor seating of the adjacent businesses can be an option? Surely, Office Depot can find another home nearby?

    Hopefully, this can be viewed as an amazing opportunity to reimagine the village as a pedestrian oriented whole community with linkages to Nikkei and mass transit, Arts Distict and LA River, Civic Center, Historic Downtown and Broadway.

    Remember that the high speed bullet train also creates Union Station linkages north of Nikkei across the freeway. Add in Park 101 (freeway cap park) and a redeveloped LA river and Little Tokyo will have many advatages in being an authentic destination for many while perserving its pedestrian friendly environment.

  3. I hope the Senor Fish building can be preserved. Before it was SF, it was Troy cafe. Before Troy, it was Atomic Cafe. A lot of different art events happened at these locations. The Atomic Cafe was a well-known hangout for musicians and the emergent punk art movement in the 80s – and they did it while selling a lot of internment camp hybrid foods. The Troy hosted numerous gallery shows and music events. I’m not that familiar with what SF has done, but they appear to have kept that tradition going.

    And what a name – the Atomic Cafe. It borders on offensive, but also very sad, and gave you a lot to think about when you’re eating hot dogs and scrambled eggs.

    The corner used to be a somewhat ignored corner of Little Tokyo. It always looked a little shabby. It has basically become ‘gentrified’ over the past 30 years or so, losing the sleepy retail storefront/warehouses, and becoming restaurants, but it still looks roughly the same. Like the area to the west, it should be preserved as a bit of the old Lil Tokyo. Maybe it’s not the clean-and-old of 1st street, but, it’s the down-in-the-dumps-old Lil Tokyo of the 60s to 80s that I remember.

    When things are lousy, you want everything fixed up. When things are good, you should preserve the ugly stuff to remember the hard times.

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