Angry Residents Confront Metro Officials at Noise Meeting

Subway Construction Update

Angry Residents Confront Metro Officials at Noise Mitigation Meeting

Grinder

On May 27, Metro held a meeting of the Purple Line Extension advisory group at the Petersen Museum. On the agenda was Metro’s mitigation plan for construction noise and vibration in the Miracle Mile. Metro’s PowerPoint presentation on the topic can be seen here.

The proposed mitigations offered to the community did not pass the “common sense” test with numerous residents in attendance. Nighttime work currently underway for utility relocations at Wilshire/La Brea and Wilshire/Fairfax sparked complaints from residents of the La Brea-Hancock area and from those living on Orange Street near Fairfax.

A mother of young children displayed a smartphone video she made of Metro contractors grinding welds on temporary steel plates covering a trench near La Brea and Wilshire; the late night work woke her children blocks away.

A professional recording engineer living on Orange Street argued that Metro was trying to snow residents by claiming that nighttime subway construction would not exceed nighttime ambient noise levels by more than 5 decibels. He pointed out that while that might seem to be only a slight increase in volume to the uninformed, in fact, a 5 decibel increase would nearly double the perceived nighttime ambient noise levels.

A Windsor Square resident complained that a long promised sound wall surrounding the subway construction yard at Crenshaw and Wilshire had yet to be completed – despite the fact that the utility relocation crews headquartered there began using the site many months ago.

Others inquired why nighttime utility relocation work recently detoured eastbound Wilshire traffic to 8th Street for two nights in a row; a situation that had idling and honking vehicles stacked up at the intersections of Genesee and Ogden late into the night – without traffic control officers present. Even Metro’s 720 bus was diverted to 8th, adding to the traffic noise that disturbed a number of nearby residents.

A Metro official admitted that they were having difficulty implementing practices designed to require the various utility relocation contractors to reduce nighttime noise; that it is a challenge for Metro to ensure that every construction vehicle has a low volume back-up alarm; and that, on occasion, a construction worker pulls up to the work site in the middle of the night with their car stereo blaring. This official was also unable to explain why workers were grinding welds at such a late hour, despite Metro’s often-repeated assurances that noisier work would be confined to the earlier hours of the evening.

The experiences of residents enduring the disturbances of nighttime utility relocations serves to reinforce the MMRA’s opposition to permit 24/7 activities at the Miracle Mile subway station construction sites. In their PowerPoint presentation Metro admitted that the greatest amount of noise would be generated at their Wilshire/La Brea yard, which will house a slurry recovery facility and a grout manufacturing plant – as well as serve as the location where all the dirt will be extracted from all of the tunneling from Western to La Cienega.

Once again, it was reiterated at the meeting that the contractor of the subway extension is solely responsible for mitigating noise and vibration. That the mitigations Metro touted at the meeting were only examples of mitigations that might be provided. This is why the Miracle Mile Residential Association maintains that until such time that Metro actually engages a contractor it is pointless to discuss specific noise mitigations for the subway construction sites at Fairfax and La Brea. Time and time again, the MMRA has informed Metro that it will not sign a blank check on work hours exemptions that will be cashed at the expense of the residents of the Miracle Mile.

The only way to guarantee that the neighborhood has a voice in how subway construction is conducted in the Miracle Mile is to sign the online petition opposing nighttime, Sunday, and holiday construction. This petition campaign, which has been underway since last February, has already compelled Metro to ask the Los Angeles Police Commission for a “time out” in considering their application for an exemption from work hours rules at the Miracle Mile subway construction sites.

Subway Petition Lawn Sign

The MMRA’s “no blank check” stance appears to have gained traction with the Police Commission. Recently, the commission began requiring all contractors seeking work hours exemptions in the Miracle Mile to consult with the MMRA before they will consider applications for variances. This is a requirement that the commission didn’t enact before they granted permission to allow nighttime utility relocation work. Obviously, our petition campaign has provoked this policy change and the MMRA is pleased that the commission is being so responsive and respectful towards our community.

The MMRA’s petition campaign has gotten a lot of attention – and some criticism from those who mistakenly believe that we oppose the subway extension. Our objective is to balance the fundamental right of thousands of residents to enjoy the peace and quiet of their own homes with the enormous demands of a massive, decade long, multiple billion-dollar construction project. Neither side is going to get everything they want, but the MMRA will not allow the needs of the residents to be ignored no matter how important or worthy the cause.

SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION

Click here to download the printable petition

We also invite you to visit the Subway Construction page on the MMRA website. It is frequently updated with links to media coverage on our petition campaign, official correspondence, construction fact sheets and reports, YouTube videos of subway construction techniques, and other information.

Petition Drive to Stop Nighttime Subway Construction Going Strong


Hundreds of Miracle Mile Residents Join the Fight
to Stop Nighttime Subway Construction

Last month the Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] launched a petition drive to stop nighttime, Sunday and holiday construction for the Purple Line Subway Extension – which is scheduled to begin major work in August. In January 2014 the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority [Metro] applied to the Los Angeles Police Commission to be exempted from municipal noise ordinances for subway construction in the Miracle Mile.

MMRA members and volunteers from the community have been distributing petitions every Saturday within the boundaries of the MMRA [see map]. So far about 60 % of the area has been canvassed and the remaining blocks should be completed by March 22. The response has far exceeded expectations and the online petition has proved to be a very effective means of collecting signatures.

The Police Commission has not set a date as to when they will render a decision on Metro’s applications to be exempted from noise ordinances, so the petition drive will be an on-going campaign until further notice. The petition effort has also received significant support from residents in neighborhoods adjacent to the Miracle Mile, who will be equally impacted by nighttime, Sunday and holiday construction. The MMRA has received a number of requests to expand the petition campaign beyond our boundaries and this be will taken this under serious consideration once the canvassing of the MMRA area is complete.

The petition campaign has attracted media attention and MMRA President James O’Sullivan and Vice President Ken Hixon have been interviewed by the Los Angeles Times for a story they are preparing about the impact of subway construction on the Miracle Mile. The Times also interviewed the owner of an apartment building located near the Fairfax subway station construction site, as well as a long-time resident on nearby South Orange Grove Avenue.

Metro is battling our efforts to stop around-the-clock construction by accusing the MMRA of being “against the subway.” This allegation could not be further from the truth. The MMRA whole-heartedly supports the extension of the Purple Line. Our issue with the subway expansion is solely about nine years of constant nighttime, Sunday and holiday construction noise and disturbances.

The Miracle Mile is one of the most densely populated urban corridors in the nation; we must stand together to remind Metro that we are a residential community and not a full-time construction zone.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION

On March 3, 2014 the MMRA sent a letter to the Los Angeles Police Commission clarifying our position. The MMRA believes the burden should be on Metro to demonstrate why the residents of the Miracle Mile are unworthy of the protections of a well-established ordinance that protectsall residents of Los Angeles from 24/7 construction activities. We encourage you to read this letter; it makes a concise and strong argument why it is premature for Metro to seek to be exempted from the noise ordinance at this time [click here].

If you would like to help out with the petition campaign please contact us at: petition@MiracleMileLA.com.

Additional information:

MRA Newsletter – February 2014: MMRA Launches Petition Campaign to Stop Nighttime, Sunday, and Holiday Subway Construction at the Fairfax and La Brea Stations

The Subway Construction page on the MMRA website contains a lot of details and information with maps of the Fairfax and La Brea stations and construction staging sites. It also includes YouTube videos of tunnel boring machines in action.

MMRA Position on Subway Construction Work Hours Supported by Mid City West Community Council

Wilshire:La Brea Station map (Metro)

At the September 10, 2013 meeting of the Mid City West Community Council [MCWCC] a large majority of its board of directors voted against a motion granting Metro blanket exemptions from work hours rules and ordinances for the construction of the Purple Line subway extension in the Miracle Mile. The Los Angeles Police Commission issues work hours exemptions and Metro sought the endorsement of MCWCC in order to persuade the commission that all of the concerns of the residents of the Miracle Mile have been addressed – which is far from the case.

The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] opposes giving Metro a free pass on work hours rules that would allow them to engage in construction 24-hours-per-day/seven days a week, during rush hour traffic periods, and over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. MMRA President James O’Sullivan and Vice President Ken Hixon attended the MCWCC board meeting and encouraged the board not to give Metro a blank check that would be cashed at the expense of the residents of the Miracle Mile.

As the site of two Wilshire subway portals at La Brea and Orange Grove and four construction staging sites extending well into densely populated residential areas the Miracle Mile will endure the full brunt of the subway extension project. Construction is estimated to take at least nine years. Given the immense scale of the work involved the disturbance and disruption to the surrounding community will be substantial.

The MMRA feels that it is premature for Metro to seek these exemptions now. Metro has yet to hire contractors for the La Brea and Orange Grove subway stations. These will be design-and-build arrangements where the contractors will be charged with both designing and constructing the stations. Hence, the reason why Metro has been so vague about how they will mitigate the disturbance of nighttime work and the traffic disruption of construction during rush hour periods – because all responsibility to mitigate the impact of subway construction rests solely on these yet-to-be-determined contractors.

The MMRA maintains that any exemption from work hours rules should be a dialogue between the residential and home owner associations directly impacted by subway construction and the contractors – not Metro. Only the contractors can provide the specific information necessary for well-reasoned decisions. The MMRA is willing to consider supporting limited work hours exemptions on a step-by-step basis for each major stage of construction. This would motivate contractors to do their very best to maintain good relationships with the community for fear that they would lose future chances at securing additional exemptions.

But at this time there are too many unanswered questions regarding the full impact of granting work hours exemptions, for example:

  • How will allowing construction during rush hour traffic periods impact the upcoming Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit [BRT] lanes – which reserve curb lanes during rush hour periods for buses only? Will it require that Wilshire be restricted to buses and all other traffic be diverted to 6th and 8th streets?
  • How will subway construction be coordinated with other construction projects in the Miracle Mile? The new Museum Square office building, the Academy Museum, the Desmond’s apartment complex, the proposed demolition of LACMA’s original buildings and the construction of the new museum, the new Shalhevet High School and adjacent mixed-use project will all be under construction during this time period. This extraordinary amount of activity could exponentially magnify the negative impacts of granting exemptions from work hours rules.
  • Museum attendance increases during the holiday season. How will an exemption permitting subway construction during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season affect Museum Row?

Having failed to secure the endorsement of MCWCC, Metro is currently seeking support for blanket work hours exemptions from the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council [GWNC]. La Brea Avenue marks the jurisdictional boundary between MCWCC and GWNC. Although the subway entrance and construction staging sites for the La Brea subway station are west of La Brea Avenue and part of MCWCC, a large part of the underground subway station extends east to into the GWNC area [see graphic at top].

O’Sullivan and Hixon appeared at the September 11, 2013 GWCC meeting to persuade its board not to grant Metro blanket work hours exemptions. The GWCC board referred the matter to their Transportation Committee for study. The MMRA will continue its effort to insure that the residents of the Miracle Mile have a full voice on how subway construction is conducted. We are optimistic that GWCC – like MCWCC – will support our position against granting Metro blanket work hours exemptions.

MMRA Opposes Subway Work Hours Exemptions

Miracle Mile Residential Association Opposes Work Hours Exemptions For Purple Line Subway Extension

Los Angeles, July 23, 2012 – The Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA] announced today that it opposes exemptions from work hours ordinances sought by METRO for the construction of the Purple Line subway extension. The Miracle Mile is the future location of two subway portals along Wilshire Boulevard: at La Brea Avenue and at Orange Grove Avenue (across from LACMA).

METRO is seeking exemptions from ordinances prohibiting construction activity at night, during rush hour traffic periods, and the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season. In a letter to METRO released today the MMRA stated: “The construction staging sites for the La Brea and Orange Grove subway portals will extend well into residential areas and the disturbance and disruption to our community will be substantial even if normal working hour restrictions are strictly observed.”

METRO maintains that such exemptions will shortened the construction schedule, but the MMRA countered that they are “familiar with the challenges of construction in a methane hazard zone replete with rich deposits of important fossils. Construction delays and complications are very common in the Miracle Mile. We anticipate that the construction of the Fairfax portal will be fraught with difficulty and that its completion will be over-schedule with or without work hours exemptions. Such exemptions will offer small advantage to METRO and create a very large and ongoing disturbance to the residents of the Miracle Mile.”

METRO has encountered similar resistance to work hours exemptions from downtown residents and businesses surrounding the construction of the Regional Connector Transit Corridor.

MMRA Letter to METRO:

July 22, 2013

Ms. Jody Litvak

Director, Community Relations

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority [METRO]

One Gateway Plaza

Los Angeles, CA 90012

litvakj@metro.net

[Via email w/ hard copy to follow.]

Dear Ms. Litvak,

At the July 11, 2013 meeting of the Board of Directors of the Miracle Mile Residential Association [MMRA], a motion was made and approved by the board instructing me to write this letter – with copies to the Los Angeles Police Commission and Councilmember Tom LaBonge – conveying our opposition to any and all work hours exemptions that METRO may seek in connection to subway construction in our community.

At  METRO’s  June 5, 2013 Purple Line Extension community meeting it was announced that Metro would be seeking the following work hour exemptions for subway construction in the Miracle Mile (between La Brea and Fairfax Avenues):

  • Peak Hours exemption to allow construction to continue work in the public right of way during rush hours.
  • Extended Work Hours exemption to allow overnight work within specific noise limits.
  • Holiday Moratorium exemption to allow construction to continue between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Although the subway extension is the largest construction project to ever come to the Miracle Mile, it is by no means the only construction project we are confronting: the Museum Square office building project on Curson and the re-adaptation of the former May Company for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures at Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard are entering the EIR stage; plans are underway to subdivide the Shalhevet property (boarded by Fairfax Avenue, San Vicente Boulevard, and Orange Grove Boulevard) and construct a new private high school on the northern section of the parcel and a mixed-use 145 unit apartment building on the south; a 175-unit building has begun construction behind the Wilshire-Tower (“Desmond’s”) building on Wilshire Boulevard; not to mention that the Petersen Automotive Museum is preparing to announce plans for a major renovation of their facility and that Los Angeles County Museum of Art is actively raising funds to do a major overhaul of their campus in the next three-to-five years that would require extensive demolition and construction.

The Miracle Mile is the location of two subway portals – the impact of subway construction threatens to overwhelm our residents and businesses for nearly a decade of construction.

Given the extraordinary number of major construction projects in the pipeline, that Metro would seek such a work hours exemption has caused much alarm in our community. The Miracle Mile is a unique area in that our residences, particularly multi-unit buildings, directly abut the office and commercial buildings lining Wilshire Boulevard. The construction staging sites for the La Brea and Orange Grove subway portals will extend well into residential areas and the disturbance and disruption to our community will be substantial even if normal working hour restrictions are strictly observed.

The Miracle Mile is celebrated as Museum Row, it is a source of pride to our community. Work hours exemptions allowing nighttime and holiday season work would exacerbate what will already be a significant impediment to museum visitors. Attendance at our museums increases during they holiday season.

A holiday season work exemption would also deprive our residents of the enjoyment of the very holidays that the ordinance was created to protect.

Nighttime work is a particularly sensitive issue for us as noise travels further in cooler night air and is magnified by the reduction of ambient noise from daytime levels. There is no effective way to mitigate noise at night. Allowing any sort of construction activity would mean many sleepless nights for hundreds of residents.

In regards to traffic and congestion in our area, rush hour work exemptions will only make what promises to a be a miserable situation completely intolerable. The advent of BRT lanes on Wilshire Boulevard will divert a projected 20-to-30 percent of rush hour traffic onto 3rd, 6th and 8th Streets, as well as Olympic Boulevard. Subway construction during rush hour periods would turn these key east/west routes into parking lots

METRO maintains that such work hour exemptions would speed the completion of the project, but we believe that this is overly optimistic. We are intimately familiar with the challenges of construction in a methane hazard zone replete with rich deposits of important fossils. Construction delays and complications are very common in the Miracle Mile. We anticipate that the construction of the Fairfax portal will be fraught with difficulty and that its completion will be over-schedule with or without work hours exemptions. Such exemptions will offer small advantage to METRO and create a very large and ongoing disturbance to the residents of the Miracle Mile.

We acknowledge the truth of the axiom that METRO’s representatives constantly tout: “That you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” We realize that our community will be inconvenienced and disrupted by the construction of the subway – in the “frying pan,” so to speak. We are committed to do our best and work with METRO to manage the impacts on our community – but the MMRA strenuously opposes these work hours exemptions.

The MMRA has never endorsed such work hour exemptions for any construction project. Work hour ordinances exist for the greater benefit of community; they protect residents from undue and constant disturbances that would intrude on their basic right to enjoy the peace and quiet of their own homes.

We chose to make our objections to these work hours exemptions known now, prior to METRO’s formal application to the Los Angeles Police Commission, because we wish to establish a forthright and strong working relationship with METRO – to which end, we saw no benefit to either party in waiting to make our position known on this matter. We also wanted our objections to go “on the record” with both the Los Angeles Police Commission and our Councilmember.

We are hopeful that METRO will not wish to antagonize our community by pursuing this matter further.

Sincerely yours,

(Signature)

James O’Sullivan, President

Miracle Mile Residential Association

P.O. Box 361295

Los Angeles, CA 90036-9495

CC:

Los Angeles Police Department

Board of Police Commissioners

100 W. First Street Suite 134

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District

Los Angeles City Hall

200 N. Spring Street

Room 480

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Councilmember Paul Koretz, 5th District

Los Angeles City Hall

200 N. Spring Street

Room 440

Los Angeles, CA 90012