DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - If all goes as planned, when the Los Angeles Streetcar opens in a couple of years, riders will be able to catch it for a ride to several Downtown landmarks. Walt Disney Concert Hall, MOCA and the future Broad museum will not be among them.

The final route approved by the City Council in January and later by Metro included a segment on First Street to Grand Avenue, the cultural corridor that is also home to the Colburn School. That segment, however, has been eliminated from the first phase of the project due to funding concerns.

The route approved in January called for the streetcar to travel north on Hill Street, turn west on First Street, then south onto Grand Avenue near Disney Hall. The re-tooled route envisions the cars instead turning east onto First Street, and turning back south on Broadway.

“What we are proposing to fund is the reduction where essentially the line at Hill and First heads east, so we’re not proposing to build any of the section going west to Grand Avenue and then south on Grand Avenue,” said Shiraz Tangri, general counsel for Los Angeles Streetcar Inc., the nonprofit overseeing the $125 million effort.

On July 31, the City Council is scheduled to vote to finalize the formation of a special tax district that was originally approved by the city in late June. This week’s vote would green-light a special election for a public vote on the tax.

If approved by registered voters who live within the proposed district, the tax, known as Community Facilities District 9, would charge property owners within about three blocks of the route between 20-59 cents per square foot annually in order to raise $62 million for the project. Property owners who do not live within the proposed district would not be able to vote on the matter.

The rest of the project cost is expected to be funded by the federal government, along with $10 million already secured from the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency.

While property owners including condo owners would have to help pay for the streetcar, public property could not be taxed if the CFD is approved. Most of the parcels along the segment of the route that has been eliminated — First Street between Hill Street and Grand Avenue, and Grand Avenue between First and Second streets — are publicly owned.

“It’s a lot of public property that doesn’t contribute to the district…so you would be shifting that burden to others,” Tangri said. “I think ultimately the goal is to get the streetcar built. We had to balance the interest of the private property owners contributing to this with what can feasibly be built.”

Metro, which is currently conducting the environmental review for the streetcar, will still study the entire route to preserve the opportunity to re-insert the eliminated portion in a future phase.

Engineering complications with the Grand Avenue leg also contributed to the decision to shrink the line, said 14th District Councilman José Huizar, the chief proponent of the streetcar project.

“In the long run, we hope to be able to serve Grand Avenue and many other parts of the city with streetcar lines,” Huizar said in an email. “Currently on Grand, there are grade and bridge infrastructure issues that need to be resolved, and the timelines and funding mechanisms just don’t allow for that in this phase of the project.”

While property owners are divided on the streetcar, supporters of the effort acknowledge the practical reasons to shrink the route.

“That part of the route was just economically not feasible,” said Steve Needleman, a LASI board member whose properties include the Orpheum Theater and the numerous Anjac Fashion Buildings (See Needleman's letter to the editor regarding the streetcar here. “We have to start somewhere with the route that’s the most feasible, the most practical.”

Others are disappointed with the reduction, but say they understand the reasons behind the decision.

“It would have been nice to have it go all the way down there,” said Ramin Shagian, who owns a couple of properties along Broadway, the route’s main southbound line. “It’s a popular destination and it would have brought a lot of tourist to our area.

However, since they can’t tax public property we as the property owners would have ended up paying more.”

Though it may be a long shot, Tangri said there is still some hope the streetcar could open with the fully approved route.

Contact Richard Guzmán at richard@downtownnews.com.

©Los Angeles Downtown News.

(9) comments

stevenmw

This is a definitely detraction from the effectiveness of the route. I'd love to see some other sort of funding come from private sources maybe? How about a generous donation or a neighbor.ly campaign just to cover that portion, with the property assessment covering the properties that can be assessed? I touch on this a tiny bit near the end of this post:
http://steven-white.com/2012/07/12/the-downtown-la-streetcar-should-travel-on-9th-street/

Morthos

That area is relatively dead anyways. I for one only want a streetcar if they can make them look like the old pacific electric or LARY cars, I mean if disneyland can do it with their little buena vista street attraction, then why cant they just make a few more and plop em down here? Why do we have to have these ugly modern ones?

central squared

While I love the look of the vintage cars, I wouldn't want to trade efficiency or cost to have them. Also, I feel like modern cars would project a more forward thinking city, rather than trying to recreate a contrived, artificial past. This isn't disneyland, let's project sophistication and modernity. I have no idea what cars they're planning to use, but if it's similar to San Diego or European cities like Vienna or Munich, I'm more than fine with that. That's more of a light rail thing, so I'm not if the cars are similar though.

DTLARes

A unidirectional street car with a limited route? Why not just wait until they have the funding to do it correctly? Bidirectional, linking all of the destinations including Music Center, Grand Park, etc. No more cutting corners!

dsinla

Again with Alan, what the point of build 1/2 of the downtown link. If they are planning to finish this in 2016 why wouldn't you want to do what the point of all this was? Connect downtown.

Reader

According to the L.A. Streetcar web site, this route goes from L.A. Live and the Convention Center at 11th street, up Figueroa to Target (past and within a block or two of Ralph's) turns right on 7th and comes across 7th Street past Bottega Louis and all the restaurants, turns left and travels up Hill, to 1st street, turns right and right again to go down Broadway, and goes all the way down Broadway through the historic core past Ace Hotel (Cal-Mart / Fashion a block away) and then turns right to go across town on 11th Street through South Park to Staples Center.

Connecting all those places with a system that actually runs at night? WOW. I cannot wait!

So what if it doesn't go up Grand at this point ? Grand Avenue was one small part of the original route idea anyway. Businesses and tourists will be in love with it and it will actually work for people who live down here.

Grand Avenue, Schmand Avenue. Just get it done.

RoxBerry90013

This is the city of the future not the city of the past. Enough with the vinatage already. When does old get old? New futuristic cars that have tv's and music on board with high tech seats etc. etc. is where this needs to go.

ScottBogash1964

That's not a bad compromise if it gets the project rolling sooner. The streetcar route in San Francisco expanded after-the-fact.

James Fujita

They need to make it clear that they haven't abandoned Grand Avenue completely; otherwise how can they get enough support for the tax? Make it "Phase II" if they have to, but without the attractions on Bunker Hill, this project doesn't make nearly as much sense.

Los Angeles already has a vintage streetcar line — go down to San Pedro, visit the USS Iowa and give it a try. It's fun but slow; much too slow for modern, moving downtown L.A.

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