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Metro Rail Officials Get a Rough Ride : Hollywood: Residents and merchants demand more to protect them from effects of subway's construction.

February 21, 1991|JOSH MEYER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Metro Rail officials got another earful this week from Hollywood residents and merchants, who contend that more must be done to protect them from the adverse effects of the commuter line's construction along Hollywood Boulevard.

The comments came Tuesday night during a meeting sponsored by Metro Rail at the Musicians Institute on McCadden Place. Metro Rail executives called the meeting to officially introduce themselves to the Hollywood community and to present details of the second segment of the subway plan.

In all, the 6.7-mile second phase of the Red Line subway system will extend from MacArthur Park through the Wilshire, Vermont and Hollywood corridors on its way toward North Hollywood. Almost two miles of Hollywood Boulevard is to be dug up in the process.

At the meeting, Metro Rail officials announced that demolition work on the second segment had begun in the past few days, and that an official groundbreaking ceremony could be scheduled as early as next month.

As a Musicians Institute student band thumped away in a nearby room, Metro Rail officials told a crowd of about 70 people that they hoped to work closely together between now and late 1998, when the route through Hollywood is expected to be completed.

Joel J. Sandberg, vice president of Metro Rail's construction arm, Rail Construction Corp., promised that construction in Hollywood would be "sensitive" and that most of the work would be underground, in part because of the public outcry over all the above-ground work done on the first leg of the subway through downtown Los Angeles.

Rail Construction Corp. officials have spent months reworking their mitigation measures based on public input, Sandberg said. Metro Rail also plans to open a Hollywood office and set up a 24-hour hot line, construction mitigation consultant Elaine Stewart said.

Although most of the general construction plan is complete, Metro Rail engineers are still working out the final details, some of which will determine whether specific buildings along the route will survive or be condemned.

James Wylie, manager of real estate for Metro Rail, said he will have the task of acquiring properties needed for the subway. Since people rarely want to give up their homes or businesses, the best Metro Rail can do is "make them whole" by paying them fair market value and by helping them relocate, he said.

In all, it took the Metro Rail officials less than 45 minutes to finish their speeches and explain several glossy charts, artist renderings and aerial photographs of the proposed subway. But it took them two hours to address the speeches, accusations, taunts and questions by members of the audience.

"We do not want Metro Rail on Hollywood Boulevard, period," said Doreet Hakman, president of the Hollywood Boulevard Community Council, composed of merchants, tenants and property owners. "But God forbid, if it comes, how are you going to help me pay my rent, my mortgage, feed my kids and help me survive?"

Stewart told Hakman that Metro Rail does not subsidize rents or pay merchants for lost business due to construction.

Property owner Gary Silvers contended that Metro Rail could not legally burrow underneath Hollywood Boulevard because it is a historic district and protected from such disruption. Sandberg said Metro Rail has received all necessary approvals.

Abraham Falick, chairman of the Coalition for Rapid Transit, said Metro Rail officials should have stuck with an old plan that would have kept Hollywood Boulevard intact and burrowed under nearby Selma Avenue instead. That alternative would better address traffic issues and protect area theaters, shops and tourist attractions, he said.

Sandberg said the plans were changed long ago, and that it was too late to go back.

"I'm an old bureaucrat too, and you're giving the bureaucratic answer," replied Falick, a former city planning economist. "Changes can be made, through political pressure."

Few of the speakers were supportive of the Metro Rail plans, and even they had questions.

"Just so there's another voice, I support Metro Rail and I support it coming through Hollywood," said Phyllis Caskey, president of the Hollywood Entertainment Museum, which is planned for a site on Hollywood Boulevard. "But what will Hollywood Boulevard look like during all of this?"

In a related development this week, two elected officials urged that plans to connect the Hollywood segment of Metro Rail with the San Fernando Valley should be scrapped in favor of a privately owned monorail or magnetic-levitation system along the Hollywood and Ventura freeways.

County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar) said a 22-mile futuristic system from Hollywood through the Valley could be built for fraction of the cost of the planned third leg of Metro Rail.

Metro Red Line-Segment 2 Construction on the 6.7-mile second segment of Metro Rail's Red Line, running from Alvarado Street at MacArthur Park to Hollywood and Vine, is scheduled to start as early as 1992, with completion tentatively planned for 1998. The segment will include a one-mile spur along Wilshire Boulevard to Western Avenue.

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