Late Opposition to Downtown Subway Details; Proposed Changes Would Require Redesign of Little Tokyo Station

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CITY NEWS SERVICE

A coalition of downtown Los Angeles businesses, hotels and landowners — including art museum benefactor Eli Broad — are calling for a major realignment in a subway tunnel planned to cross under Bunker Hill.

In a letter sent to Metro, the group calls for major changes to the Downtown Connector, a planned subway that would connect three light-rail lines that dead-end at Figueroa at Seventh streets across downtown and under Bunker Hill to Little Tokyo and Union Station.

The Community Connector Coalition emphasized that its members want the subway to be built. But they called on Metro to make “modest changes” in the alignment and station locations. Their letter was signed by Broad, a major downtown power broker who is funding his new art museum directly above the proposed subway on Bunker Hill.

A Metro official said the proposed changes were offered just as engineers were almost finished with a multiyear planning effort, and said they are “hardly modest.” The agency said its engineers are reviewing the new proposals, and the current timetable of getting the project to the Metro board for approval in December would stay on track.

The letter said it represents the interests of Bunker Hill and Arts District businesses and residents. It emphasized that it supports the proposed subway, and offered to work with Metro planners to keep the project on schedule.

The coalition criticized Metro’s proposed Bunker Hill station for being on the lower, service level of the hilltop office-museum complex along Grand Avenue, and one block to the west of that major street. Their letter called for that station to be relocated to the top of the hill, on Grand Avenue near the entrance to Disney Concert Hall, the Broad Museum and the hilltop pedestrian promenade linking parks, offices and condos.

The letter also asked that the underground Broadway/Civic Center station be moved to underneath a vacant lot, owned by the federal government as a courthouse site, at Second and Hill streets. This would require rerouting the eastern leg of the subway from Second to First streets, and require the complete redesign of the Little Tokyo station at First and Alameda streets.

The coalition said the new route would avoid disrupting a major storm drain, would allow a better connection to the Red Line subway and would be cheaper to build. The current Second Street alignment in Little Tokyo, however, was the subject of intense negotiations between Metro and Little Tokyo stakeholders two years ago.

A Metro official noted on an official blog that the proposed changes were “hardly modest.”

“The Connector is in the process of finishing its Final Environmental Impact Report/Statement, and studying the changes proposed by Broad would likely mean substantial work and perhaps redoing much of the planning work that has just been completed,” said Steve Hymon, a Metro employee who writes an official Metro blog called “The Source.”

The agency later issued an official statement promising to take the coalition’s suggestion, and said it will “follow our well-established technical process to review and respond” to it.

Funded by a half-cent local sales tax, the proposed Regional Connector subway link would extend the Blue, Expo and Crenshaw rail lines from Seventh Street north under Figueroa Street, then curve them east under Bunker Hill along Second Street to Little Tokyo. There, they would tie in to the two branches of the Gold Line that serve East Los Angeles and Pasadena.

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  1. Eli Broad has done a lot of good for Los Angeles art. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for L.A. transit.

    After all of the discussion that Little Tokyo and the rest of downtown has gone through for the Regional Connector, Broad and his coalition has the gall to come in late and push this proposal, which would help out his museum but hurt the Little Tokyo community.

    Without even looking at Little Tokyo, it is obvious that this plan won’t work. There are many layers to Bunker Hill, which is why the current, accepted proposal calls for the station at Second and Hope, directly behind Broad’s new museum.

    There are plenty of ways to link Broad’s museum to the station. Escalators, elevators or moving sidewalks would prevent people from having to “climb” the hill.

    In Little Tokyo, it is obvious that a First Street route would be more disruptive to the community than the Second Street tunnel.

    Also, Broad’s proposal would mean that the Little Tokyo station would only be accessible to some trains.

    The Regional Connector is too important to let Broad derail it.

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