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Lawsuit alleges Metro violated law in OKing Crenshaw light rail

October 26, 2011 |  4:01 pm

Transit activist Damien Goodmon. Credit:  Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Less than two weeks after President Obama highlighted the coming Crenshaw Line as one of 14 national infrastructure projects to be fast-tracked for approval, the job now faces potential delays after a community group filed suit over environmental and civil rights issues tied to the rail effort. 

The lawsuit was filed last week in Los Angeles County Superior Court and designated under the California Environmental Quality Act. The petitioner, listed as the nonprofit Crenshaw Subway Coalition, is partially spearheaded by transit activist Damien Goodmon, who earned the ire of some at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority over his role in previous protests against the agency during construction of the Expo Line.

The legal complaint names Metro (called MTA in the suit) and the Federal Transit Administration as defendants and alleges the following: "In approving the project, the MTA violated the provisions of CEQA Public Resources ... failed to comply with the information disclosure provisions of CEQA and failed to adequately analyze project environmental impacts. MTA also failed to require all feasible mitigation and failed to consider an adequate range of alternatives. MTA failed to ensure that mitigation was certain and enforceable and failed to consider feasible alternatives, in particular grade separation of the rail line, proposed by the public," among others.

The Crenshaw Line was approved as an 8.5-mile light rail line that will run from the Expo Line at Exposition Boulevard, through South Los Angeles and Inglewood to the Green Line near Los Angeles International Airport.

The White House announced earlier this month that the line had been chosen to receive extra help from the FTA "to shorten the approval time for this project by several months," according to a news release. White House officials, in a statement, described the move as "an important next step in the administration's efforts to improve the efficiency of federal reviews needed to help job-creating infrastructure projects move as quickly as possible."

Mark Ridley-Thomas, a county supervisor and Metro board member, said the lawsuit had been expected for some time and said he hopes it does not disrupt the project's time line.

"It could," Ridley-Thomas said, "particularly if it is in any way deemed meritorious."

He said he also disagreed with one particular claim in the lawsuit: that Metro's approval of the Crenshaw Line "has a discriminatory impact on the African-American population in the project area.... The MTA approved the project with the knowledge that such approval would discriminate against African-American area residents as petitioner and others commented that the project would have a racially and socio-economically disparate adverse impact," according to the complaint.


Obama speeds Southland light rail

Federal loan to boost work on Crenshaw rail

Metro urged to add Leimert Park stop on Crenshaw line

-- Ari Bloomekatz

Photo: Transit activist Damien Goodmon in 2007. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times