By C.J. Salgado
What would you do if you were offered several million dollars to spend to better your community? About two dozen members of the East Los Angeles community, including residents, business leaders, and non-profit representatives, huddled over maps on Tuesday night and debated just that – how to best spend at least $9 million that is available thru the Metro Gold Line Eastside Station Access Program.
It was the first meeting of Metro’s Community Advisory Committee (CAC), an ad hoc group organized to provide feedback to the agency and its designers as they compile a list of transit related projects to improve “intermodal access” to the four easternmost Gold Line stations– Indiana, Maravilla, East L.A. Civic Center, and Atlantic–that are located in unincorporated East L.A.
Funds earmarked for this program, however, must be spent on “public space” improvements like street or sidewalk infrastructure improvements to make routes to the stations comfortable and safe. Funds– which were generated by Measure R, passed by Los Angeles County voters in November 2008–cannot be used for neither maintenance or operations, nor for improvements to private residences or businesses. What can be funded are public goodies like bike lanes, landscaping, destination signage, street lighting, gathering/resting places, and other improvements near each station to provide a better walking and bicycling experience.
So the CAC members worked hard to identify “community treasures and areas of interest,” destinations in East L.A. for which these program improvements could support the Metro stations’ role in serving as a transportation conduit to these community resources. The committee also gave input to the Metro on the needs and priorities of the community. Laura Cornejo, a Metro planning manager, stated that they “actually have money to build,” sweet words to the avid members of the community present at the meeting. She reported the plan is to complete identification of the projects to be funded by the new year, followed by preliminary design work and cost estimates, and ending with actual construction during 2014 to 2017.
Josie Cervantes, a program manager for a local non-profit, VELA, thought it would be good to install bike storage racks near key commercial locations like Whittier and Arizona Avenue. Others thought shaded sidewalks, safe bike routes, or plugging potholes would be the way to go.
So, what was decided? Well, it’s too early to call, but according to Katherine Padilla, a community outreach consultant for Metro, there will be more opportunity for input at a community workshop scheduled for November 17, 11 AM to 3 PM, at the East Los Angeles Library, held in conduction with the East L.A. Safe Connections Festival at the East L.A. Civic Center Park which is sponsored by the county Fire Department.
Until then, you could say the holiday “shopping season” has started a little early for the community of East L.A.
C.J. Salgado is an East Los Angeles resident.