Every evening for the past 12 years, Boyd Clopton has looked across the street from his front deck as bus after bus roars into maintenance yard No. 6, operated by the Southern California Rapid Transit District just a block from the beach in Venice.
The arrival of scores of buses is so loud, Clopton said, that it is difficult to hear his television.
"You have to take a break on the telephone when the buses are revving up," the 52-year-old painter said. "You have to say, 'Wait a minute until the buses stop.' "
But now, after years of talk that the RTD would move the yard far from the seaside residential community, Clopton has a new problem: A proposal now being examined by RTD officials would call for the expansion--not the relocation--of the three-acre bus yard, resulting in the demolition of Clopton's home and about 20 others in a neighborhood settled near the turn of the century.
The recently developed proposal became the focal point of a homeowners' rally Thursday as about a dozen Venice residents raised banners and held an informal news conference to protest the plan. With slogans like "RTD Out of Venice," and "RTD Don't Take Our Home," draped from their roofs and balconies, residents attacked the RTD plan as illogical and insensitive to an area that has fought bus noise and fumes for several years.
"This is a block from the beach," homeowner Roger Speakman said indignantly. "It doesn't make sense to have a bus yard here. Now they're talking about mowing down three blocks of homes."
Formerly a Rail Yard
The proposed yard expansion is regarded as a last resort for the RTD as it tries to deal with a space shortage at the former railway yard, first used to house the public bus fleet in 1950, transit officials said.
Albert Perdon, the RTD's acting assistant general manager for planning and communications, said five other sites are still being considered as new locations for the yard. He said transit officials intend to move the yard but have decided to weigh a two-acre expansion of the existing site to ensure that all alternatives are studied.
"Clearly, our intent is to find a better site," he said. "There's no question of that."
RTD planners began weighing the expansion as part of preliminary environmental reports that were completed in October, although residents say they were not made aware of the plan until March. As laid out in those reports, the expansion would result in the demolition of 20 to 23 homes on Sunset Avenue, Paloma Avenue and Thornton Place, according to homeowners.
Reports Are Preliminary
But RTD spokesman Rick Jager cautioned that the reports may be too preliminary to provide an accurate picture of the expansion proposal.
"It could be 20 homes, it could be 50 homes, it could be 10 homes, it could be none," he said. The agency has not even determined whether the RTD would try to purchase the homes or condemn the properties.
"As a public agency, we have power of eminent domain," Jager said. "But we don't know. It's really too early in the ball game. It's really all on the drawing boards."
The five other sites have been under consideration for about a year. Those sites include a 4.7-acre parcel at Olympic Boulevard and Centinela Avenue in Santa Monica; a 6.9-acre parcel at Olympic Boulevard and Stewart Street in Santa Monica; a 4.4-acre parcel at Glencoe and Maxella avenues in Los Angeles; an 8-acre parcel at Pico and Sepulveda boulevards in Los Angeles; and a 7.7-acre parcel at Culver Boulevard and the Marina Freeway in Los Angeles.
The sites do not border residential areas and contain no homes, Jager said.
Cost Estimates to Come
Although earlier published reports placed the price range for the properties at $6.1 million to $16.8 million, the RTD has yet to develop cost estimates, Jager said. He said comparative costs for each new site, or for acquiring additional land at the current site, will be released at a community meeting to be held in early July. At that time, the agency expects to narrow its options to three of the possible locations.
Cost comparisons could play an important role in determining which site ultimately will be selected by the RTD, which operates a fleet of 2,771 buses on a yearly budget of $484 million, according to Jager.
But Jager said greater weight probably would be given to public comment and the environmental suitability of the locations. The Venice yard is one of 12 operated by the agency at sites scattered throughout the city. It is considered too small for the current maintenance demand and is the only RTD service yard whose perimeter is encircled by homes.
"Obviously it would be cheaper to stay where we are," he said. "(But) the No. 1 thing will be public input--where they want it. We're trying to work with the community. It's not like we're trying to be the bad guy."
Night Maintenance Curtailed