The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) officially eliminated a previously recommended location in Westchester from consideration for a light rail maintenance facility on December 10th, much to the delight of Westchester residents.

The transportation agency’s board of directors decided to remove from its planning documents a proposed location near Manchester Avenue for a facility that will service rail cars on the Crenshaw Corridor. The board members also unanimously approved a light rail line as the corridor’s method of transportation at the meeting.

The mass transportation line will begin in the Crenshaw District in South Los Angeles, with a station at Aviation and Century boulevards and a possible station at Manchester Avenue and Aviation in Westchester.

Westchester homeowner Denny Schneider, who attended the hearing and lives in the eastern part of the community, said he was pleased that the proposed site had been officially taken off the table by the Metro board.

“We were able to stop the proposals that didn’t make sense,” he said.

Cyndi Hench, president of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa, joined Schneider in supporting Metro’s decision.

“I’m delighted that they will not be building the maintenance yard at the Manchester Avenue location,” she said.

Los Angeles County Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents both Westchester and El Segundo, made an amendment to remove both cities from the list of possible sites.

El Segundo Mayor Kelly McDowell floated the possibility of his city bringing legal action against the agency after a November 13th vote by Metro’s Programming and Planning Committee approved a recommendation to build the maintenance yard, which will service the light rail cars, in El Segundo.

“I am confident that I’ll have the full support of my colleagues should litigation be necessary,” McDowell said.

David Sommers, Knabe’s spokesman, said the supervisor’s request for El Segundo to be taken out of the mix was due to his constituents’ displeasure with the transit agency’s decision.

“There was overwhelming opposition to having the facility there,” Knabe’s spokesman said. “It was something that the community obviously did not want.”

Asked if the possibility of litigation was a factor in Knabe’s amendment, Sommers responded, “Not that I’m aware of.”

McDowell also downplayed the notion that potential litigation might have influenced the board.

“I don’t think that the lawsuit possibility was a factor at all in the Metro board’s decision,” the mayor told The Argonaut. “A lawsuit would only have happened, if at all, following certification of a final EIR (environmental impact report), which is at least a year away.”

The land where Metro was considering building the rail yard lies northeast of Rosecrans Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard. It is also the site where El Segundo officials would like to see a future commercial development.

“The board’s decision allows El Segundo to maintain the planning path that we originally adopted for the property in question, which is additional retail development,” McDowell said.

The board was scheduled to vote on the location of the maintenance yard Friday, December 18th, but that vote will now be delayed until sometime next year, said José Ubaldo, a Metro spokesman.

“We are back to square one,” Ubaldo responded when asked what the agency’s plans were regarding another set of options for the maintenance facility. “We have to begin to look for new sites.”

The Metro spokesman did not offer any details as to what the possible locations might be except that they would need to be able to house a yard of a certain size and shape and be adjacent to the light rail line.

Schneider and Hench think that a location at Aviation and Imperial Highway, near an existing Green Line station, would make a good location for the light rail yard.

Hench noted that while it would not be near residential neighborhoods, the property falls within the neighborhood council’s purview.

“We don’t think of it as being Westchester, but it is,” she said. “I think that site would make perfect sense.”

Schneider added, “It’s away from everything, so it would not be an imposition on residents.”

McDowell said that having the option removed from Metro’s plans was a victory for his city.

“I am deeply grateful to Supervisors Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas for their successful efforts to take El Segundo off the list of possible sites for the maintenance facility, along with Westchester,” the mayor stated. “I think that these two experienced representatives led the charge in our favor based on sound land-use policy grounds, not possible litigation.”

McDowell added that he continues to support the light rail project, which he called “critical to Los Angeles County’s future, including, we hope, finally bringing rail access to LAX (Los Angeles International Airport).”

Ridley-Thomas submitted a motion to the board for a new name for the mass transportation venture that was accepted. The project is now called “The Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor.”

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