By Steve Scauzillo, August 2, 2016
Students walk home after school near heavy traffic along Florence Avenue
bridge over the I-5 Freeway in Santa Fe Springs on Tuesday, Oct. 15,
2013. Florence Avenue is expected to be reduced from four to two lanes
as part of the I-5 widening construction project.
Lurking beneath a unanimous vote Tuesday by the Los Angeles County
Board of Supervisors placing a half-cent sales tax measure on the
November ballot to fund $132 billion in transportation improvements was
some hefty opposition from cities in the southeast and South Bay.
While others praised Measure R-2’s list of rail, highway and bikeway projects as equitable, the South Bay Cities Council of Governments and the Gateway Cities Council of Governments disagree,
saying the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
(Metro) kicked their freeway and railway projects to the back of the
line in favor of added projects for the west side of Los Angeles and the
San Fernando Valley.
Last month, the Gateway Cities voted 21-1 to oppose the measure,
with Long Beach abstaining. The South Bay cities voted 9-0 in
opposition, including Carson, El Segundo, Gardena, Hermosa Beach,
Lawndale, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills and
Torrance, records show. Inglewood, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo
Beach and Rolling Hills Estates abstained.
The two organizations,
representing 43 out of the 88 cities in the county, may stir up enough
opposing votes that could place Metro’s ballot measure — one it has
asked the county to name Measure M — in jeopardy of gaining the
necessary two-thirds vote on Nov. 8.
Ballot watchers and Metro insiders say obscure regional city
groups angry over missing out on local transit dollars may not sway
traffic-weary motorists from voting for congestion relief. On the other
hand, elected officials from tight-knit communities such as Bell, Cudahy
or Huntington Park could influence voters through word of mouth and
informational fliers mailed to thousands of homes from City Hall, said
Karen Heit, transportation consultant for the Gateway Cities.
these small communities, where their councilman also coaches football or
soccer teams, it could be a very real factor in the way people vote,”
Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at
USC, said people vote for tax measures when they believe the dollars
will come home. Already, Metro is benefiting from Proposition A,
approved by voters in 1980; Proposition C, approved by voters in 1990;
and Measure R, approved by voters in 2008. Metro opened two light-rail
line extensions this spring using sales tax dollars. The new measure would bring the total sales tax for transportation to 2 percent. It does not have a sunset date.
“No community organization has absolute influence on these types of
votes,” said Schnur, who added: “It is not determinative but it doesn’t
A Metro survey conducted in May found 72 percent in favor
of a permanent, half-cent transportation measure, said Pauletta Tonilas,
Metro spokeswoman. Of those, 70 percent in favor lived in the South Bay
and 71 percent in favor lived in southeast Los Angeles County.
if Metro loses votes from these and other Gateway Cities such as
Artesia, Bell, Bellflower, Cerritos, Commerce, Compton, Downey, Hawaiian
Gardens, La Mirada, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Norwalk, Paramount,
Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, Signal Hill, South Gate and Whittier, it
could doom the measure.
Because voters in many of these cities are mostly Democrats and
are more likely to approve a local tax, losing them means Metro has to
work harder in more conservative parts of the county to increase voter
support, Schnur said.
“If community leaders in one part of the
county come out against the measure, then you need to increase support
to an even greater degree in areas that support it ... or in communities
that are more likely to benefit,” Schnur said.
presidential politics, strategies don’t focus on race or ethnic groups
but rather on location, he said. “On a transportation measure in
particular, geographic considerations have a huge impact,” he said,
calling transportation taxes a zero-sum game. “You either get the
light-rail route or you don’t.”
The measure’s project list includes 19 of the 44
projects that are new, added since 2008’s Measure R. Eleven are
scheduled for groundbreaking in the first 15 years. The Gateway Cities
argue that two of their projects, the widening of the 5 Freeway from the
605 to the 710, and the proposed Eco-Rapid rail line from downtown L.A. to Artesia, were pushed aside to make room for new ones.
“We do have a problem with all these other projects marching up front,” Heit said.
5 Freeway project would not break ground for another 20 years (2036),
well after the southern half of the 5 project is finished. But a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass would
begin in 2024, part of a $9 billion project to connect the west side of
L.A. with the San Fernando Valley, most likely by rail. In addition,
the last segment of the Purple Line subway under Wilshire Boulevard
finishing in Westwood would break ground in 2018, while the Eco-Rapid
line would not be completed until 2041.
“If you read the ballot measure, the first thing it says is that
it will fix the freeways. What they don’t tell you is not for 20 years,”
It appears the middle, north and east
end of the county may favor the measure, while the southern and
southeastern areas may not, creating a north versus south scenario.
San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments voted in support of the
measure last week. “From our perspective, we kind of got what we wanted
from the tax measure,” said Mark Christoffels, a consultant to the
SGVCOG and chief executive officer of the Alameda Corridor-East
The east San Gabriel Valley’s next foothill extension of the Gold
Line from Azusa to Claremont is scheduled to begin construction in 2019
and will receive more than $1 billion from the measure, about 99
percent of the cost.
The San Fernando Valley Council of Governments
has not yet take a position but may vote in support in September. Seven
Los Angeles City Council members from the San Fernando Valley, led by
Bob Blumenfield, wrote a letter of support to Metro in June. Los Angeles
Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Metro board member, has ardently supported the
The East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor Project and the
extension of the Orange Line busway to the Gold Line would both begin
within the first few years. A light-rail station at 96th Street that
would allow a people-mover to take passengers directly into LAX would
start construction in 2018.
South Bay Supervisor Don Knabe said
Tuesday he believes Measure M is geographically unbalanced. Yet,
conservative Supervisor Mike Antonovich praised the tax measure, saying
Metro got it right by asking each COG for a list of projects.
“The proposal before us today includes input from the bottom up
for a regional transportation system,” he said before the historic vote.
Hilda Solis, whose district includes the San Gabriel Valley as well as
many southeast cities, said she believed the measure includes an
inclusive list of projects. “It didn’t necessarily mean a dollar would
be attached to every item (cities asked for). That is impossible,” she