TOD Starts & Stops

Although a broad coalition of stakeholders around the country embraces transit-focused development., such projects are by no means immune from criticism.

A broad coalition of stakeholders embraces transit-oriented development, from elected officials to economic development agencies and environmentalists. In many ways, projects that use rail or bus hubs to generate investment seem to offer the best of two worlds–economic development and sustainability.

But even though transit-centered development has a way of creating good will, it is by no means a guarantee of smooth sailing. Such is the case with one project on Los Angeles’ new  Expo Line, a $2.4 billion light-rail project that will link Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica when it is completed in 2016. It is regarded as a crucial link in the strategy of providing transportation alternatives in a traffic-choked region.

As with other areas that are expanding their rail systems, the Expo Line is drawing interest from developers along its 15-mile route. But a proposal to redevelop one site near the Expo/Sepulveda stop in West Los Angeles recently hit a major hurdle. Casden Property Co. is proposing a multi-family and retail complex in West Los Angeles near the stop. Casden’s original plan called for 636 residential units, a grocery store, restaurants and a Target or other big-box store on the current site of a cement plant.

The plan won the backing of the city’s departing mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, but critics contended that its scale was inappropriate for its location at the intersection of Pico and Sepulveda boulevards. Opponents insisted that proposed building elevations—with the highest at 17 stories—would be ill suited to the low-rise neighborhood. Also, they pointed to city estimates that the development would generate nearly 10,000 additional car trips daily, further worsening traffic in an already congested corridor.

In late June, Casden agreed to scale back the project. The tallest building will reach only 10 stories, rather than 17, and all but 15,000 square feet of the retail will be eliminated. As of July, the revised proposal awaited consideration by the Los Angeles City Council.