Seven Fatal Flaws in Metro’s Final Environmental Impact Report
for the Proposed LA Aerial Rapid Transit Gondola
Prepared by the Los Angeles Parks Alliance
Please direct any questions or requests for further information or documentation to
Jon Christensen at email@example.com or (650) 759-6534.
1. Piecemealing. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that environmental impact reports study the entirety of a project. Dividing a project to avoid studying any part of it is illegal. But that is precisely what this Final EIR does. It is well known and documented in court proceedings and legally binding covenants and restrictions that Frank McCourt has other plans for the current Dodger Stadium parking lots, including developments such as a hotel, retail, and entertainment complex like LA Live. Those plans are explicitly tied to the development of a new transportation alternative to Dodger Stadium, which would enable McCourt to reduce the number of required parking spaces and develop the land. This Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) does not study the environmental impact of those obviously foreseeable plans. That’s piecemealing. And it violates CEQA.
2. Deferring required analysis to other agencies. CEQA requires that environmental impact reports study all of a project’s environmental impacts. Deferring all analysis of some impacts to a later time or for a later agency’s review and further mitigation is illegal. But that is precisely what this Final EIR does. It’s claims that the impacts of the project on Los Angeles State Historic Park are not significant does not pass the laugh test. The project would build a massive 98-foot-tall station at the entrance to the park and send bus-size gondola cars just 26-feet over the park every 23 seconds in both directions. It will dramatically change the nature of the historic park. It is wrong but not illegal to claim these impacts are not significant. What is illegal is to defer full analysis of these impacts to California State Parks’ revision of the state park’s general plan, which would have to be approved by the State Park and Recreation Commission. The project also defers study of significant impacts in other areas to the City of Los Angeles. Metro wants to punt study of significant project impacts to other agencies. That is not allowed.
3. No alternatives were seriously studied. CEQA requires a good faith study of feasible alternatives. This Final EIR does not seriously study any obvious, better alternatives for solving traffic problems around Dodger Stadium and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It dismisses expansion of the existing Dodger Stadium Express from Union Station by artificially constraining the facilities that could be used by the clean energy express buses at the station and the stadium. It fails to even consider the alternative of routing buses from park-and-ride locations around Los Angeles County, as Metro currently does for events at the Hollywood Bowl. Technology currently exists that can put a router and GPS on buses and coordinate through the cloud so that small platoons of buses can travel together and receive prioritization for green lights at intersections and use dedicated lanes where available. This kind of system could be used for events at Dodger Stadium, as well as other events around the county, including the World Cup, Olympics, and major concerts. If electric buses were used it would dramatically increase reductions in greenhouse gas emissions compared to the proposed gondola, which will have an insignificant impact on traffic and emissions. And those electric buses could be deployed on regular routes when not in use for special events, speeding Metro’s commitment to electrification of the bus system and providing significant countywide benefits.
4. The project will need substantial public funding and will compete for crucial funds needed for other clean transportation projects. When McCourt first proposed this project, LA ART claimed that it would be entirely privately funded and would cost $125 million. Since then, the cost estimate has ballooned fourfold to more than $500 million. And the project has not ruled out pursuing public funding. Moreover, the donation of the project to a nonprofit, Zero Emissions Transit, is clearly designed to enable the project to go after public funding. Moreover, by definition, nonprofits are subsidized by taxpayers since contributions to nonprofits are tax-deductible. We all help pay for their activities, whether we want to or not.
5. Who’s on first? Metro says that McCourt recently donated the LA ART project to a nonprofit called Zero Emissions Transit, which was recently created by another nonprofit called Climate Resolve. But Metro has provided no public documentation of the donation. And there has been no evidence of a public process for approving the transfer of the project. This is typical of an EIR process that has not been transparent from beginning to end. Who is actually responsible for this project? Who is going to benefit? Who is going to be left holding the bag?
6. Who’s on first, part two. Metro is the wrong lead agency. CEQA requires that the public agency with greatest responsibility for supervising or approving the project as a whole must be the lead agency. This proposed project is entirely within the City of Los Angeles and will have dramatic impacts on the heart of the city at El Pueblo and Union Station, along Alameda Street, at Los Angeles State Historic Park, and in Chinatown. City agencies would need to approve the lion’s share of the project. The project would not be possible without those approvals. So, the City of Los Angeles should be the lead agency for a fair and objective Environmental Impact Report, not Metro, which does not propose to build and run the gondola and would oversee few project approvals compared to the many approvals required from the City of Los Angeles.
7. The use of Los Angeles State Historical Park land and airspace for the project is illegal. Under state law, state parks are set aside to protect their natural, historical, cultural, and recreational values in perpetuity. Commercial exploitation of resources in state parks is prohibited unless commercial facilities are required for the safety, comfort, and enjoyment of visitors. And in state historical parks, commercial activities must be part of the park’s history or retain or restore historical authenticity. The historical value of Los Angeles State Historic Park is the specific history of its location, in the area of a historical Tongva village and a campsite of the first Spanish missionaries in California, crossed by the Zanja Madre irrigation ditch that brought water from the Los Angeles River to early farms in the pueblo of Los Angeles, and formerly occupied by a railroad station where thousands of immigrants first set foot in the city. The imposition of a massive station at the park’s entrance and the taking of significant airspace over the park for constant gondola traffic does not protect, retain, or restore the park’s historical authenticity, but instead will fundamentally destroy the historical value of the park.