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Officials May Get 1 More Year to Pick a Light-Rail Path

December 01, 1987|JAMES QUINN | Times Staff Writer

County transportation officials recommended Monday that San Fernando Valley elected officials have up to a year to decide what light-rail route, if any, they favor.

If no consensus is reached by then, all available money will probably be committed elsewhere, said members of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission's Rapid Transit Committee.

The committee met Monday in the wake of a surprise decision two weeks ago by the 11-member commission to halt all consideration of light-rail routes for the Valley.

Frustrated by the spread of opposition to all five east-west routes under study, the commission voted Nov. 18 to turn the issue over to city, state and federal officials representing the Valley.

In determining Monday how to carry out the commission's decision, the committee decided that elected officials should receive up to $200,000 in staff time to aid in selecting a route.

Committee chairwoman Jacki Bacharach will recommend the 12-month deadline, which staff members stressed was only an estimate, and the appropriation of staff time to the full commission on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, several homeowner groups indicated Monday they plan to push for creation of an advisory committee with what they called "strong representation" from the three main coalitions that helped derail the trolley study two weeks ago.

On the other hand, Richard Smith, president of Encino Property Owners Assn., said Monday he is seeking to rally other moderate homeowner leaders to push for a reversal of the Nov. 18 vote.

The commission voted abruptly to halt a $1.6-million environmental study at the halfway point.

Business leaders have said they plan Wednesday to lobby for resumption of the study.

The business community insists that a trolley line is essential to prevent traffic congestion from getting worse in the 1990s.

Noise, Vibrations, Blight

However, light-rail opponents contend that all five proposed routes would bring noise, ground vibrations, visual blight and congestion to residential areas.

Some also question whether an east-west trolley would have significant ridership.

Routes under study were: the Ventura Freeway; the Los Angeles River; following Chandler Boulevard and Oxnard Street east of the San Diego Freeway and then largely following Victory Boulevard west to Warner Center; largely following Victory the length of the Valley, and the Southern Pacific railroad main line, which runs diagonally across the Valley connecting North Hollywood with Chatsworth.

After enduring constant opposition from Valley groups for more than a year, the commission buckled two weeks ago when several large groups formed solely to fight specific routes were joined by established homeowner groups.

Especially effective in halting the light-rail study was the new All Valley Transportation Coalition, organized by militant homeowner leader Gerald A. Silver of Encino with the avowed purpose of stopping the environmental study.

"With the kind of opposition we had been getting, I think we have to have guidance from elected officials before proceeding," Bacharach, a Rancho Palos Verdes councilwoman, said Monday. "Looking back, I think we did the right thing."

The commission, created by the Legislature, is building a countywide network of light-rail lines with the extra half-cent sales tax that county voters approved in 1980.

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