Los Angeles mayoral candidates weigh in on the proposed Subway to the Sea

When Los Angeles County voters passed a half-cent sales tax to raise $40 billion for transportation last fall, about $4.1 billion was set aside for the first phase of a subway extension west from downtown Los Angeles.

Times editors have been posing questions about a variety of city issues to the 10 candidates for mayor in the March 3 city primary.

Here are excerpts from the seven contenders who responded to this question:

Do you favor building a Subway to the Sea? What would be your preferred route?

Carlos Alvarez: “We need a subway to the sea, but we also need subways to East Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, San Pedro and all working-class areas. Building these lines should be prioritized in terms of travel and recreation needs for these communities, not based on making profits for the tourist industry.

“These subway lines absolutely should not be used to gentrify neighborhoods and kick out low-income residents or people of color. This is how the current mayor and City Council view transit expansion -- as a giveaway to their friends, the greedy capitalist developers. . . .

“A subway to the sea could traverse numerous acceptable routes; I believe Wilshire Boulevard makes the most sense. It is accessible and centrally located.”

David R. Hernandez: “Absolutely not. These are the vital funds we need to get L.A. moving.”

Phil Jennerjahn: “Yes. I foresee a route that goes under Wilshire Boulevard and turns slightly at the intersection with Santa Monica Boulevard and goes under Santa Monica and ends at the Third Street Promenade.

“As a conservative, I hate the idea of the staggering cost, but there are long-term benefits to subways that are difficult to explain to shortsighted individuals. When I was in London, I rode on subway lines that have been in use for over 150 years!

“The initial cost is staggering, but when you calculate the savings from payroll of thousands of bus drivers and the low maintenance cost of not replacing vehicles every few years . . . then the advantages become more clear.”

Walter Moore: “The only thing this proposal has going for it is alliteration. It would take too long, cost too much, and span just a few miles along one road in a city comprising 469 square miles.

“Plus, when the Big One hits, who wants to be trapped 30 feet underground where hydrocarbons abound and exits do not?”

Craig X Rubin: “We definitely need more accessible public transit, and it would be nice if our current rail system reached the ocean. I like Pico or Venice Boulevard or along the 10 Freeway -- wherever it will be the most helpful and cause the least amount of traffic building it.”

David “Zuma Dogg” Saltsburg: “Here’s another one of those ideas that sounds great conceptually, and who would say ‘no’ to a magic ‘Subway to the Sea?’ . . .

“However, let’s be realistic. There isn’t money [to] get this project done. And it doesn’t do any good to have it partially completed. Secondly, there is no plan to move ahead with this besides a bunch of talk and optimism. So at this point, I don’t think even the supporters of ‘Subway to the Sea’ say we are talking 25 years before we see this thing. And it always takes longer, so let’s just say 25 to 30 years for a project that has not even gotten started and there is no real and tangible way to fund it. So that’s a lot of money, time and hope tied up for something that may or may not even happen for 30 years. . . . As mayor, I will be pushing for all the other more practical and realistic traffic congestion solutions.”

Antonio Villaraigosa: “A Subway to the Sea was one of my earliest campaign proposals, and under my administration, we have finally laid the foundation for the construction of this long-awaited project. With the passage of Measure R [the half-cent sales tax], we have secured funding that will allow us to build this extension. As chairman of the [Metropolitan Transportation Authority], we took the crucial step of approving the planning study and initiating the environmental impact report.

“Now that we have secured a local source of revenue, I intend to continue my work with officials in Sacramento and Washington to leverage more funding as soon as possible.

“I remain open to any of the routes currently under consideration by the MTA, with an emphasis on connecting the most people to as many jobs as possible.”