Rejecting more than three years of staff work, the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission on Wednesday threw the field open to alternate routes for the proposed trolley through the San Fernando Valley.
The commission voted unanimously to direct staff members to return in January with a list of possible east-west light-rail routes.
But commissioners stopped short of acceding to a demand from well-organized North Hollywood residents that no more consideration be given to constructing the trolley on Chandler Boulevard.
Commissioners said Wednesday that they will submit the list of possible routes for a yearlong environmental study by outside consultants working under staff supervision. They stressed that all routes will be given equal consideration, with no edge given to the Chandler one favored by the staff.
List Pared Down
The staff has worked since 1983 at paring down a list of possible routes across the Valley.
Two weeks ago, staff members formally endorsed using the Southern Pacific railroad right of way along Chandler in North Hollywood.
The Chandler stretch is just one segment of a proposed 14.3-mile route connecting Canoga Park and Woodland Hills with the planned Metro Rail subway station at Chandler and Lankershim boulevards.
Most of the proposed route would follow the railroad tracks along Victory Boulevard and has encountered little opposition.
But opposition to the North Hollywood segment imperils the entire route, staff members said.
Alerted by reports that Chandler would be the staff's choice, opponents began organizing several months ago and have won support from most East Valley elected officials.
Leading the opposition is the Eastern Sector Transit Coalition, which represents 17 homeowner and religious groups.
Leaders of the coalition claim that their neighborhoods would be ruined by noise and vibrations from three-car trolleys passing within 100 feet of homes as frequently as every three minutes during peak hours.
Richard L. Rosett, president of Valley Cities Jewish Community Center, which is close to the staff-recommended route, asked the commission how a staff "that already has rejected the alternate routes can now go back and fairly consider the alternatives."
But Commissioner Robert Geoghegan said the commission "has to look at all the alternatives," including Chandler.
Among other east-west routes that have been considered by the staff and rejected are Sherman Way, the Los Angeles River, the Ventura Freeway and the Southern Pacific main line.
Transit Coalition members and City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky are among those pushing for a new look at the main line, which cuts diagonally across the Valley from Burbank Airport through Chatsworth en route to Oregon.
Line Avoids Neighborhoods
The line, largely staying away from residential areas, passes near California State University, Northridge, Panorama Mall, Northridge Fashion Center, the General Motors assembly plant in Van Nuys and the Northridge-Chatsworth industrial center.
A spur could run south from Chatsworth to Warner Center, proponents said.
They predict that updated population figures will show that the main line has as much potential for attracting riders as the Chandler-Victory route.
Commission staff members said the main line was dropped when projections of rider use showed it would draw 52,000 riders a day, versus 60,000 for the Chandler-Victory route.