The Expo Line Bait-And-Switch

First, advocate for a multi-billion transit line that will serve your home neighborhood. Then once it’s built, make sure nobody else can move to your neighborhood to take advantage of the taxpayer-funded transit line. It’s a classic bait-and-switch, and it’s happening now along the Expo Line in West L.A.

What’s at stake is an already-watered down city plan for rezoning Expo Line stations areas. The city’s “Exposition Corridor Transit Neighborhood Plan,” while rezoning some station-adjacent areas for higher density, still leaves a whopping 87% of the area, including most single-family neighborhoods, unchanged, and with too-high parking requirements to boot.

But this weak plan is still too much for Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz and his homeowner allies, including an exclusionary group of wealthy homeowners assembled under the name “Fix The City.” They oppose even these modest changes to land use in the transit-rich area. Essentially, they’ll get the financial and quality-of-life benefit of the Expo Line, while working to ensure no one else does.

As Laura Nelson details in the Los Angeles Times:

Koretz told the Planning Commission this month that the areas surrounding three Expo Line stations in his district “simply cannot support” more density without improvements to streets and other public infrastructure.

It’s a view shared by advocates from Fix the City, a group that has previously sued Los Angeles over development in Hollywood and has challenged the city’s sweeping transportation plan that calls for hundreds of bicycle- and bus-only lanes by 2035.

“It’s like when you buy a new appliance, you’d better read the fine print,” said Laura Lake, a Westwood resident and Fix the City board member. “This is not addressing the problems that it claims to be addressing.”

If Koretz and his allies have their way, their homeowner property values will go up with the transit access, but taxpayers around the region have to continue subsidizing the line even more because neighbors are not allowing more people to ride it. And to boot, they will keep regional traffic a mess by not allowing more people to live within an easy walk or bike ride of all the jobs near their neighborhood. Essentially, they force everyone else into long commutes while keeping housing prices high — an ongoing environmental and economic nightmare.

Thankfully there are others mobilizing against these homeowner interest groups, such as Abundant Housing L.A. But two things need to happen now: first, the Expo neighborhood plan needs serious strengthening, including elimination of parking requirements and an end to single-family home zoning near transit stops. Second, L.A. Metro needs to hold the hammer over these homeowners by threatening to curtail transit service to the area. I see no reason why taxpayers should continue to support service to an area that won’t do its part to boost ridership on the line.

Single-family zoning near transit is an idea that should have died long ago. It has no place in a bustling, modern, transit-rich environment like West L.A. The Expo Line bait-and-switch must end.