By RYOKO NAKAMURA
RAFU JAPANESE STAFF WRITER
In response to the approaching deadline for public comments on the Draft EIS/ EIR for the Metro Regional Connector Project, Japanese-speaking business owners in Little Tokyo held a meeting last Tuesday at Miyako Hotel. About 60 participants, mostly restaurant and storeowners with businesses, raised concerns about the project’s four-year construction, and many showed their support for a no-build option.
“Small restaurants and stores like ours won’t be able to survive a long construction period, especially in this sluggish economy,” said a restaurant owner. “The entire Little Tokyo neighborhood is going to be a construction site, and we will lose a lot of customers,” another participant asserted, emphasizing that it was a matter of life and death for their business.
The meeting was organized by Akimasa Yoneda, president of Kintetsu Enterprises Company of America and a couple of the restaurant owners. Mike Okamoto, senior vice president of Japanese Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Little Tokyo Community Council, gave a summary of the Regional Connector project.
Metro proposes a two-mile rail system with Little Tokyo as a juncture that will connect its Gold, Blue, and Expo rail lines and allow passengers to travel throughout the region without transferring in downtown.
At its Oct. 28 meeting, the Metro Board will choose a locally-approved alternative from four alignments: no build, at-grade, a partially underground and fully underground.
Local business owners understand the benefits of the regional connector for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion. However, a fully underground alternative, which has been backed by the Little Tokyo Community Council, will lead to drilling a tunnel beneath Second Street in the heart of Little Tokyo. Many owners are concerned about this Metro option’s potential damages and business interruptions. On Oct. 16 in response to the Draft EIS/EIR, LTCC in a letter to the Metro Board requested targeted marketing and financial compensation for local businesses and the creation of a Business Interruption Committee that would work with Metro and Little Tokyo businesses.
At the Tuesday meeting, the Little Tokyo Business Improvement District handed out a questionnaire in Japanese to gather more community opinions, concerns, and questions to be submitted to Metro.
Public comments can be submitted by Oct. 18 in any language by email email@example.com or mail to Dolores Roybal Saltarelli, Project Manager Metro, One Gateway Plaza, 99-22-2 Los Angeles, CA 90012.
Copies of the draft EIS/ EIR are available for viewing at the Little Tokyo Library, 203 S. Los Angeles St., Los Angeles or can be accessed at www.metro.net/regionalconnector.