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All Aboard the Expo Line to Santa Monica

IMG_0450Commuters can now travel by train to the beach, with the opening of the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica. The 1.5-billion dollar project features seven stations, including several in Los Angeles County’s Second District, and the last stop is only half a mile from the iconic Santa Monica Pier.

“After the Pacific Electric Streetcars were decommissioned 63 years ago, many never believed that public transit would ever return to the Westside,” said Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. “But today, Metro has made the impossible possible.  Angelenos can now get from Santa Monica all the way to Downtown Los Angeles in just 47 minutes.”

IMG_0454 “Not only will the Expo Line extension improve mobility throughout the region, it will be an economic stimulus for all the neighborhoods that it passes through,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “Its construction has already created thousands of jobs, and I expect its operation will create even more opportunities for more people.”

Inglewood Mayor and Metro Board Member James T. Butts said, “We are changing the transportation landscape of L.A. County and providing a transit system for generations to come.”

The Expo Line now stretches 15.2 miles between downtown Los Angeles and downtown Santa Monica, with 19 stations in all. The extension makes up 6.6 miles and 7 stations: Palms, Westwood/Rancho Park, Expo/Sepulveda, Expo/Bundy, 27th St/Bergamot, 17th St/Santa Monica College and Downtown Santa Monica. Ridership on the Expo Line extension is projected to total 18,000 to 20,000 weekday boardings after the first year of service.

IMG_0455“For the first time in a generation, Angelenos and visitors from around the world can travel from our skyline to the shoreline without setting foot in their cars, bringing needed relief to some of our most congested corridors,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Second Vice Chair Eric Garcetti.

“This is a really wonderful day for me, partly because I had the privilege of carrying the legislation to create the Exposition Construction Authority,” said Metro Board Member and L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “But the real winners today are all the residents of LA County who can bypass traffic in yet another segment of our region, and look forward to even more!”

Service on the Expo Line begins each day at about 4:45 a.m. and continues until about 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. Trains will run every 12 minutes until about 8 p.m., after which service will be every 20 minutes. A paved bike path runs adjacent to the tracks for most of the route between Culver City and the 17th Street/SMC Station.

IMG_0306A regular Metro fare is $1.75 and includes two hours of free transfers for those using a TAP card. A daily pass that is good for unlimited rides on Metro is $7 and monthly passes are $100. There are discounts available for seniors, the disabled, Medicare recipients and students. Please see taptogo.net for more information on how to apply for discounted fares.

“The opening of the Expo Line extension today is a great reminder that we have come a long way in a short time,” said Metro CEO Phil Washington. “But we still have more to do with easing everyday congestion. We will continue to strive to deliver our investments on time and on budget for the transportation network that Los Angeles County deserves.”

With the Expo Line extension, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rail system now includes six lines spanning 105 miles.

 

 

 

Moving Forward to Fund the Fight Against Homelessness

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Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to seek a change in state law that would keep all options open to fund the fight against homelessness.

“To address the profundity of the crisis and the depth of poverty and homelessness in the county, we have to do more,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said during Tuesday’s Board meeting, where more than 150 members of the public testified in support of his motion.

“It won’t get better unless we have significant intervention,” he added. “Each member of this Board has said repeatedly that one-time funding isn’t sufficient. Now it’s time to get on with the rigorous exploration of the kind of funding that would be necessary.”

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With 46,874 people living on the streets of Los Angeles County on any given day – up 5.6 percent from last year – Supervisor Ridley-Thomas called homelessness “the most compelling crisis that confronts us.” He added the County is “uniquely positioned and, therefore, specifically obliged” to take action because of its massive social services, health and public safety infrastructure.

Since adopting a sweeping set of strategies February to address the worsening crisis, the Board has been weighing options for funding. This includes redirecting Measure B revenue, or imposing a parcel tax, a marijuana tax, a half-cent sales tax, or a half-percent tax on personal income exceeding $1 million a year.

A recent poll found 76 percent of likely voters favor the last option – a “dramatic level of support,” pollster David Binder told the Board. The Board, however, does not currently have the authority to put such an initiative on the November ballot. Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl’s motion, which passed with the support of Supervisor Hilda Solis, launches the County’s efforts to seek that authority from the state Legislature and Governor.

“Our actions show that the Board is strongly committed to finding the long-term funding needed to implement the County’s innovative and comprehensive Homelessness Initiative,” Supervisor Kuehl said. “The friendly amendment I introduced this week also allows us to evaluate the interaction of this possible County tax with a new state bond proposal which could build housing in the County.”

The Board also approved Tuesday a measure by Supervisors Solis and Don Knabe that would delve into how the County uses existing funding to serve the homeless. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas expressed support, saying, “It continues our long-term efforts to always ensure we are leveraging existing resources as effectively as possible.”

More than 150 people testified before the Board to support continued efforts to address the homelessness crisis. Steve Renahana of the nonprofit Shelter Partnership told the Board: “Thank you for your leadership in passing a comprehensive set of strategies to address homelessness in the County, and thank you even more for beginning the heavy lifting of providing the resources that are necessary to implement those strategies.”

Marsha Temple, executive director of the nonprofit Integrated Recovery Network, added, “The cost of doing nothing is too high, both in terms of funding and human misery.”

“I’m so proud that you always remember who you’re working for,” said “Sweet” Alice Harris, an advocate for the homeless. “I’m glad you didn’t let God down. Thank you.”

Bidding Farewell to the Sports Arena

Coliseum Front Edited (1 of 1) Flags flew over the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena for the last time as officials bid farewell to the venerable facility during its closing ceremony. Demolition is set for the historic venue, which will make way for a $250-million Major League Soccer stadium.

“Though this marks the end for the Sports Arena, it is also the beginning of a new era as we welcome the Los Angeles Football Club, which will soon break ground on this very spot,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, president of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, which oversees the operation and maintenance of the Coliseum and the Arena.

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“The new venture will produce 3,000 construction and full-time jobs, benefiting the local economy to the tune of $129 million annually from stadium operations,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas added. “We look forward to a bright future here in Exposition Park while honoring the Arena, which has a lasting legacy that will always occupy a special place in history as well as in our hearts.”

The Los Angeles Football Club is poised to debut as a Major League Soccer franchise in 2018, with a state-of-the-art stadium seating 22,000. The venue will also include a museum, as well as dining, retail and office spaces.

It was back on the Fourth of July, 1959, when then-Vice President Richard Nixon opened the Arena, dedicating it to veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The first event, a bantamweight title fight, followed four days later. From 1960-1967, the Arena served as the home court of the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lakers, when the team’s roster included Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. The Arena hosted four NBA Championship series against the Boston Celtics, in 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966.

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A flag bearing the Los Angeles County seal is removed as the Sports Arena is officially decommissioned.

The NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers called the Arena home for 15 years, while the National Hockey League’s Los Angeles Kings moved in for just a few months during their inaugural season. Over the years, the Arena also hosted the 1984 Olympics boxing matches, as well as the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins’ basketball teams and WrestleMania events. The Los Angeles Aztecs played indoor soccer at the Arena, which was also the West Coast destination for track’s top athletes participating in the Sunkist Invitational.

The Arena was not all about sports, however. Delegates gathered there for the 1960 Democratic National Convention where John F. Kennedy was nominated for President. He accepted the nomination next door at the Coliseum.

Major concerts at the Sports Arena have included Michael Jackson, Madonna, U2, Green Day, and Bruce Springsteen, who played at the Arena 35 times, most recently in March. Springsteen famously referred to the Arena as “the dump that jumps,” saying there was no better place for rock ‘n’ roll.

The Arena has also served as the setting for various movies and television shows, including championship boxing matches in the film “Rocky.” Its distinctive architecture was designed by the famed firm Welton Becket & Associates, which also built several other Los Angeles landmarks, including the Capitol Records building, the Music Center, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Cinerama Dome. Welton Becket’s son, who has the same name, attended the Arena’s closing ceremony.

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Coliseum Commission Gets Clean Bill of Health

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Los Angeles County’s fiscal watchdog gave the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission a clean bill of health after auditing its financial records for the previous fiscal year.

Testifying recently before the Commission, Rachelle Anema, a principal accountant of the County Department of Auditor-Controller, said, “The financial statements as of June 30, 2015, received a clean opinion and there were no findings regarding internal control weaknesses either.”

Commission President and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas welcomed the findings of the audit. “It’s not only positive, but it’s the first time we’ve heard that kind of news in approximately five years,” he said.  “I think that it shouldn’t go unnoticed that progress has been made in terms of the fiscal health and integrity of the Coliseum Commission.”

The Commission is a governmental entity representing the City and County of Los Angeles, as well as the State of California. It was established to provide for the operation and maintenance of the Coliseum.

The Commission played a key role in bringing a Major League Soccer team to Exposition Park. The Los Angeles Football Club intends to build a new $250 million soccer stadium on the site of the Sports Arena, which recently closed after nearly 57 years in operation. The demolition and construction projects should create hundreds of jobs, and the new soccer stadium is expected to spur economic development as well.

The Commission is also honored to welcome back to the Coliseum, the Los Angeles Rams. The storied NFL franchise is expected to play three seasons at the Coliseum, while a $2-billion dollar football stadium complex is being built in Inglewood. As a result, the Rams will once again share the Coliseum gridiron with the USC Trojans.

As part of USC’s lease agreement with the Coliseum Commission, the university is also planning a $270 million renovation of the iconic venue to create a world-class facility for entertainment and sporting events.

The Coliseum Commission often partners with the community to give the public the opportunity to experience and learn more about the Coliseum. Upcoming events include a Memorial Day program, a 4th of July fireworks show, a Cystic Fibrosis stair climb fundraiser and Olympic Day, designed to engage youth and promote the spirit and ideals of the Olympic movement.

 

 

Board of Supervisors Journey to D.C.

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L-R: Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, HUD Secretary Julian Castro; Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas; CEO Sachi Hamai; Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Health Services Secretary Mitch Katz

The Board of Supervisors recently concluded its annual trip to the nation’s capital on a quest for federal assistance to address Los Angeles County’s crisis of homelessness, expand its transportation system, and jumpstart its bioscience industry.

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With Senator Dianne Feinstein

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas traveled to Washington D.C. with Supervisors Hilda Solis, Sheila Kuehl, Don Knabe and Michael Antonovich on April 18-21. They met with several members of Congress, including Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as officials in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.

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With Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

The supervisors briefed Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro about the County’s shortage of 500,000 affordable housing units, and he advised them to apply for funding from theNational Housing Trust Fund, among other recommendations.

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With the Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Roy Kojo Jawara “Jay” Williams

Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Phil Washington joined their meeting with Deputy Transportation Secretary Victor Mendez and Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Affairs Jerry Abramson. The board sought $375 million in federal grants for the downtown LA Regional Connector and Purple Line Extension, and funding for other projects as well.

Seeking to jumpstart the bioscience industry, members of the board met with the Department of Commerce’s Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Roy Kojo Jawara “Jay” Williams.
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With Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Jerry Abramson

They discussed an initiative to create bioscience hubs within the County’s medical research facilities, in partnership with academic institutions and the private sector.

Board members met with Roy Austin, Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity, to discuss public safety policies, such as the impact of Proposition 47, which downgrades certain felonies to misdemeanors.

Overall, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said the trip was very beneficial for Los Angeles County and that the board will maintain close ties with officials in Washington, D.C. as they seek federal support for pressing issues back home.