By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR
A fully underground Regional Connector passed an important hurdle on Thursday as the Metro Board of Directors approved including the alternative for study in the draft environmental impact statement/report (DEIS/R).
The alternative, which was the end result of months of debate in Little Tokyo and work by the Metro staff, was passed without fanfare as part of the board’s consent calendar. More than a dozen Little Tokyo members came to the meeting to show their support for the alternative.
“We came today prepared to speak but I understand that our concerns are on the consent calendar and we appreciate the board’s approval of this,” said Bill Watanabe, president of the Little Tokyo Community Council.
Others who attended the meeting from Little Tokyo included, Chris Aihara, co-chair of the LTCC Transit Committee; Eric Kurimura, Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple; Kristin Fukushima, Pacific Southwest District of the Japanese American Citizens League; Chris Komai, Japanese American National Museum; Yukio Kawaratani, Little Tokyo Historical Society; Paul Yeh, Savoy Condominiums; and Mike Okamoto, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California.
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, eliminates the at-grade crossing for trains at Alameda and First Street and an underpass for car traffic.
Metro staff will now proceed to study the fully underground alternative, a partially underground and an at-grade alternative in the DEIS/R. The Metro board will decide on a preferred alternative in the fall.
At the LTCC meeting on Tuesday, Douglas Kim and Associates was announced as the consultant which will work with the community on mitigation and other issues.
“I don’t think we should assume it’s a done deal. We should continue to put forward that this is the option for us,” Aihara said following the meeting. “Metro and the community are all moving forward with the same alternative and I think that’s a good thing.”
Aihara compared the new alternative to the community’s successful campaign in 2003 to move the LAPD headquarters and jail from the same corner of First and Alameda.
“It goes to show if you’re fairly focused on what is the best thing and continue to move for that. With the mass support of the community and strong intention, we can do these things.”