Supporters of a Leimert Park Village station line up at the Metro board meeting… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)
The Metro Board of Directors expressed support Thursday for adding a rail station in Leimert Park to the forthcoming Crenshaw Line but declined to provide extra money to pay for it or for placing a one-mile track segment underground at Park Mesa Heights.
Some board members said the decision was a "victory," and others expressed frustration that the board did not act more aggressively. Some in the large crowd of South Los Angeles residents said they were simply confused.
"I can't tell you if we have a station or don't," said Jackie Ryan of the Leimert Park Village Merchants Assn. "I don't know where we go from here."
Board member and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas had called for spending about $400 million to pay for the station at Leimert Park Village and to tunnel underneath Park Mesa Heights. But the board agreed to pay for station construction only if money is available within the roughly $1.7 billion already allocated for the project
"The board wants to facilitate a Leimert station. The only question was, and remains, how to pay for it," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa echoed that sentiment and said he supports "a fiscally responsible proposal for the Leimert Park stop that adheres to the project's $1.7-billion budget."
Aides to Ridley-Thomas said they had identified millions of dollars that could be used for the project, saying certain pools of money designated for some future work had already been tapped for other uses. But Metro officials and some board members staunchly opposed using those funds, saying it would set a poor example if money set aside for other projects were used for the Crenshaw Line.
The 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line will run from the Expo Line along Crenshaw Boulevard through South L.A. and Inglewood and terminate at the Green Line near Los Angeles International Airport. Officials hope it will be complete by 2018.
The board agreed Thursday to include the Leimert Park Village station as an option for potential contractors. Bidders will be asked to propose prices based on the entire project without the station, with an unfinished station, or for the entire line that includes a station at Leimert Park Village.
If neither of the two bids that include the station come in under the $1.7-billion project cap, Metro officials will study the possibility of an above-ground station at 48th Street — about a quarter of a mile south of Vernon Avenue.
Ridley-Thomas worked hard in recent months to create a broad coalition of support for the additions. U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, L.A. City Councilman Bernard C. Parks and California Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) were among several politicians who expressed support for the additions and gave statements to the board.
Ridley-Thomas said Thursday's meeting demonstrated "an unprecedented level of political unity" among South L.A. supporters and said he was disappointed that the board did not take a "more affirmative stance."
"The discussion isn't over," Ridley-Thomas said. "They have to do bids, they have to do value engineering, and they have to be open to ultimately doing the right thing."
"I'm going to continue to fight for it, and the stakeholders are prepared to push for it," he said. "I have no intention of turning back.... It's not over till it's over."