The site where cars from an impending light rail transit line will be serviced was selected by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors last month.

The April 27 vote for the Arbor Vitae Street and Bellanca Avenue location in Westchester is the latest in a series of recent planning decisions involving the Crenshaw/LAX light rail project, which will begin in South Los Angeles and end with a station in Westchester at Aviation and Century boulevards.

Fourth District Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe called the selection of the Arbor Vitae/Bellanca location an important part of the process that will ultimately end in the completion of the Crenshaw/LAX Corridor.

“This maintenance facility is a key step in laying the foundation for transit projects that will improve mobility in the communities around LAX and in the South Bay,” Knabe said. “This project will be funded by Measure R, which the voters approved in 2008.”

Measure R is a ballot initiative that raised county sales taxes by one-half cent for 30 years in order to fund transportation projects and improvements.

The rail project is also part of the “30/10” plan, an initiative to build a dozen transit projects in the next decade by supplementing Measure R money with a federal loan guarantee or another finance mechanism.

The maintenance facility site will serve the Metro Green Line and Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor, as well as the proposed Green Line extensions to the South Bay and Los Angeles International Airport.

The Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor is an 8.5-mile light rail line that will extend from the intersection of Exposition and Crenshaw boulevards to the Metro Green Line. The project will serve the cities of Los Angeles, Inglewood, Hawthorne, and El Segundo and unincorporated portions of Los Angeles County.

The east Westchester maintenance site was recommended by Metro planning officials “because it meets the needs of the medium and long-term requirements of the Crenshaw/LAX line, the Metro Green and the Green Line to (Los Angeles International Airport) projects,” states a report from the planning and programming committee.

The committee advanced the maintenance facility agenda item to the full board at its April 20 meeting.

The number of feasible locations for a maintenance yard was narrowed to four after several months of negotiations and community meetings. The Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa had endorsed a site south of Arbor Vitae, which it contends was a larger parcel.

“There were a number of sites considered, but after significant community input, the Metro Board approved the Arbor Vitae/Bellanca location as the best alternative to get the infrastructure in place in order to move forward on the expansion of the Green Line and the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor,” Knabe said.

Denny Schneider, who has been the neighborhood council’s primary proponent for the light rail line, said he is satisfied with the transportation authority’s choice.

“The main thing was that we wanted something that is adequate for future growth, and Arbor Vitae/Bellanca meets that requirement,” said Schneider, who has lobbied for Westside light rail for decades.

Arbor Vitae/Bellanca is a 17.6-acre site located just inside the Westchester/Inglewood boundary in east Westchester near the 405 Freeway.

The development of a new maintenance facility is necessary since it will be used to store, maintain, repair, and clean light rail vehicles, according to a Metro spokesman.

Crenshaw/LAX Corridor Project Manager Roderick Diaz said each location that Metro considered, including the Arbor Vitae/Bellanca site, would have caused some merchants in the light industrial area to be uprooted from their current locations.

“We will have a relocation process that we will follow for the businesses that are affected,” the project manager acknowledged.

Westchester residents like Schneider have discussed with Metro the possibility of an additional stop at Manchester Avenue and Aviation, not far from the approved maintenance yard.

Westchester-Playa council President Cyndi Hench, in a letter to Metro officials, lobbied for what is referred to in transportation documents as the “optional station.”

“Westchester deserves a station that is accessible and the proposed station at Manchester and Aviation boulevards meets that requirement,” Hench wrote.

Schneider feels that since Second District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes portions of east Westchester, has been vocal about securing certain considerations for his South Los Angeles constituents, Westchester should have its second station as well.

“In view of the fact that Mark Ridley-Thomas is trying to get an underground tunnel built at Crenshaw Boulevard and an optional station at Leimert Park, that would leave only Westchester with an optional station,” Schneider said. “And we would like to see that taken care of at the same time.”

Schneider said he fully supports any efforts to bring light rail to South Los Angeles in the safest, most effective manner. But he also wants Ridley-Thomas to know that he has constituents on the Westside who also want the many benefits of light rail.

“We want him to know that, and I will be at the next board meeting to make the board aware of our concerns,” he said.

This next Metro board meeting is scheduled Thursday, May 26.

Calls to Ridley-Thomas’ office were not returned at Argonaut press time.

The maintenance site will be incorporated into the Final Environmental Impact Statement/ Environmental Impact Report, which is tentatively scheduled for final approval by the board in July.

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