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Trolley Vote Proposal Sidesteps Route Issue

February 11, 1988|JAMES QUINN | Times Staff Writer

A proposal to ask San Fernando Valley voters in June if they favor construction of a light-rail line was introduced before the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday, but without a controversial provision to allow voters to pick preferred trolley routes.

The proposed advisory referendum, suggested by Mayor Tom Bradley as a way of breaking a months-long stalemate over Valley light rail, is scheduled for a council vote Tuesday, a day before the deadline for placing measures on the June 7 ballot.

Opponents and proponents agreed Wednesday that voters probably would favor a trolley line, but there was sharp disagreement on what a favorable vote would mean.

Bradley and other light-rail advocates "want to ram through an uninformed vote and use the result to manipulate the route-selection process," said Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino and leader of those seeking to stop the trolley.

But Roger L. Stanard, a Warner Center attorney who frequently represents business leaders on transportation issues, hailed the proposed referendum as "the perfect solution." He predicted the results will be a mandate for light rail and "will expose the Jerry Silvers of the Valley for precisely what they are--leaders without followers."

The planned Valley light-rail line has been in limbo since Nov. 18 when the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, facing heated opposition from homeowner groups and from other light-rail opponents, unexpectedly halted a study of five proposed east-west trolley routes.

Opponents say trolleys would destroy residential neighborhoods with noise, congestion and ground vibrations. Advocates, who contend that noise and other drawbacks are exaggerated, insist that a light-rail line is essential to relieve traffic congestion.

As originally proposed Tuesday by Bradley, the referendum would ask voters if they favor light-rail construction in the Valley and then invite them to vote on the five routes proposed by the county Transportation Commission.

Water Down Referendum

However, City Councilman Mike Woo, who introduced the measure at the council meeting, said he dropped the provision for voting on individual routes because it "might water down the effect of the referendum."

"The more I thought about it, I wasn't sure what it would mean if one route got 19% 'yes' vote and another got 17% 'yes' vote and so on," said Woo, whose district includes Studio City.

Deputy Mayor Mike Gage said that Bradley "still favors a yes-or-no vote on the five routes, but he will certainly support an up-or-down vote on the overall question of light rail for the Valley."

Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, expected to be the leading challenger to Bradley in the 1989 mayoral race, predicted Wednesday there would be an overwhelmingly favorable vote if the referendum merely asks for sentiment about light rail.

"It's an apple pie question," he said, "but I am puzzled by what a vote for apple pie could accomplish, except to get the mayor out from under a morass."

Since the Valley route study was halted three months ago, Yaroslavsky and others have attacked Bradley for what they said was his failure to take a lead role in finding a route that has public support.

Yaroslavsky, whose district includes Sherman Oaks, has proposed creating a committee of homeowner leaders, business representatives and others to determine what light-rail route, if any, should be adopted. That plan is to be voted on next Wednesday by the council's Transportation and Traffic Committee.

The county Transportation Commission, which is building a regional network of light-rail lines, was studying five Valley routes: the Ventura Freeway, the Los Angeles River, a route that follows Chandler Boulevard and Oxnard Street east of the San Diego Freeway and then largely follows Victory Boulevard west to Warner Center, a route that largely follows Victory Boulevard the length of the Valley, and the Southern Pacific railroad line, which runs diagonally across the Valley connecting North Hollywood with Chatsworth.

Since the Valley route study was halted, several other communities have asked the county Transportation Commission to use funds earmarked for the Valley line in their areas.

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