Environmental Report Ordered on $17-Million RTD Bus Yard Project
The Southern California Rapid Transit District board of directors has ordered an environmental impact report on a $17.5-million bus yard project near Mar Vista after residents and landowners demanded that the agency perform the study.
Albert H. Perdon, the RTD’s assistant acting general manager, said the board decided to order the study after receiving letters and petitions from residents of Mar Vista and the tiny Del Rey community.
Perdon said RTD staff told the board that an environmental study was not necessary because the bus yard would not significantly affect the area.
RTD chose the site after a yearlong search to relocate its controversial Venice bus yard. Venice residents next to the three-acre yard at 100 Sunset Ave. have complained for years about diesel fumes and noise.
Homes Around Yard
Residents have built homes around the yard since it was built as a maintenance yard in 1902 for the Pacific Electric Railway. It became a bus maintenance yard in the 1950s.
RTD wants to build a larger bus yard on a six-acre site bounded by Jefferson Boulevard, Grosvenor Boulevard and Beatrice Street. It would operate 24 hours a day and house 145 buses. Eighty buses are housed in the the Venice yard.
The agency plans to pay $9.5 million for the land and spend $8 million to build the yard.
Funds for the project, proposed last February by Los Angeles City Council President Pat Russell, were approved by the council and the County Board of Supervisors.
Across From Office Park
According to the RTD, about 70 single-family homes are within 1,000 feet of the site, which is across Jefferson Boulevard from the proposed Playa Vista office park.
Russell has hailed selection of the site as a “community victory.” She and aides to Supervisor Deane Dana said that there was no local opposition to the plan when the city and county approved the funding. Those officials now say that residents of Mar Vista and Del Rey, a community of 100 homes located between Marina del Rey and Culver City, oppose the bus yard.
“We are starting to get some letters from people in the community opposed to the new site,” said Peter Ireland, a transportation aide to Dana. “Obviously, the concerns that the community has are things that RTD will have to consider.”
Members of the Mar Vista Del Rey Homeowners Assn. said they gave the RTD board petitions with the signatures of 2,000 residents asking the agency to order an environmental impact report. The residents charged that the RTD was trying to avoid preparing a report and that it did not tell them about hearings on the yard.
Marc Littman, an RTD spokesman, said that the RTD published notices of its April 6 hearing on the bus yard in The Times and in seven local newspapers. However, Del Rey resident Mickey Shockley said that few of her neighbors were aware of the hearing.
“We should have been notified. Nobody received any notice about it,” she said.
Shockley said that she and her neighbors fear they will be affected, even though the bus yard site is 1,000 feet away from her neighborhood.
“The wind blows in this direction. When you have (that many) diesel buses, nobody can tell me we won’t get the fumes,” she said.
Shockley added that buses will be noisy and cause traffic congestion on Jefferson Boulevard.
Concern for Students
And she said that residents are concerned that the fumes and noise will affect students at Playa del Rey Elementary School, two blocks from the site. The RTD, she said, could find a larger site next to Los Angeles International Airport, where residents already experience noise and pollution.
The RTD will have a draft environmental impact report in two or three months and conduct public hearings, Perdon said. The review process will delay the project by about six months, he said.
The RTD had planned to begin construction on the bus yard in July, 1988, and expected to operate it by 1990, but the agency now has no timetable for the project, Perdon said.
The Mar Vista site was chosen because it was in an industrial zone 1,000 feet from the nearest residential neighborhood, Perdon said.
“That distance in our judgment . . . pretty much mitigates the problems we are having with other facilities,” Perdon said.
The effect on traffic on Jefferson Boulevard would be “minimal” because buses would leave the yard between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. before morning peak-hour traffic and would return to the yard late at night after the evening peak hour, he said.
The RTD held hearings last year on six other sites in a number of Westside communities, where the agency faced strong opposition from residents.
The agency decided against all of those sites and, with Russell’s help, settled on the Mar Vista location.
The RTD wanted an 11-acre site for 250 buses, similar to bus yards in Chatsworth and Carson, but a parcel of that size was difficult to find on the Westside, Perdon said.
“It’s not ideal. It will probably not meet our long-term growth needs on the Westside as the population expands,” Perdon said. “Ten to 20 years from now, we may need another facility. But clearly, this will serve our needs for a number of years.”
To build the bus yard, the RTD intends to acquire the land through condemnation. More than three acres of site is farmland owned by Crescenciano Lopez, a farmer who sells Halloween pumpkins and Christmas trees.
Lopez has hired a lawyer, Jerrold Fadem, to try to block the acquisition. Fadem said that the property is “prime agricultural land” and that the Lopez family has run a farm there for many years.
The three acres the RTD wants is all the land Lopez owns, Fadem said. “He has no intention of selling the property,” he said.
The Machado Ranch owns two acres and half an acre is owned by Quotron Systems Inc., a financial information service that plans to construct offices on the property, said Bruce Jackson, vice president of the firm.
“It really destroys our plans to build there,” Jackson said. The company may urge the RTD to buy other land that is for sale next to the site, he said.
The site is zoned for manufacturing use, according to an RTD staff report. It is surrounded by an industrial park that includes phone company offices, a film studio, a catering service and a bank.
The city agreed to provide $3 million and the county $1.2 million in relocation funds. An additional $3 million will come from the Los Angeles Transportation Commission, a regional agency made up of officials from the county and local cities.
The commission will provide a $1.5-million loan for the project and the RTD will provide a $500,000 grant.