Nearly two dozen Santa Monica residents and stakeholders voiced opposition at the July 14 City Council meeting to a new “split site” variation of a proposed maintenance yard for the Expo line. The new proposal by the Expo Construction Authority includes two facilities, the first of which would be used for most maintenance work on the trains, at 1800 Stewart Street, and a second location, east of Stewart Street, for storage and train washing. Expo Authority’s aim with the split site plan is to make available a patch of land that they say could be used for a mixed-use development that would create a buffer zone between the maintenance facility and the neighborhood, but residents overwhelming stated that the buffer zone would not be a solution to their potential decreased quality of life.
Representatives of the Pico Neighborhood Association, Bergamot Station, and Santa Monica College were among the opponents of the newly proposed facility. They cited noise, environmentally damaging, unhealthy fumes, and myriad reasons why the facility would be harmful.
According to the staff report, the maintenance shop will be in operation 24 hours a day. The work inside the shop includes using computers to run tests, changing brake shoes, cutting and bending sheet metal, and painting. Work at the storage yard includes safety inspections that could start as early as 4:00 a.m. and train washing that could occur at 2:00 a.m. It is unclear where train horns will be tested.
A representative from the Expo Authority gave a presentation that outlined several other spots studied for the facility, claiming there are no other feasible sites.
Part of the facility would be enclosed, and part would be an open-air yard. Councilmember Robert Holbrook suggested enclosing the entire project, a suggestion that Expo officials said wouldn’t work. Councilmembers Bobby Shriver and Gleam Davis questioned Expo’s efforts to find another suitable location for the maintenance facility, particularly given Expo’s eminent domain power; Shriver further said the maintenance facility should not be located in Santa Monica. Mayor Ken Genser said the newly proposed maintenance facility site is far superior to the formerly proposed site, which included only the Verizon building, east of Stewart Street. He also said noise pollution seems to be the only type of pollution that would come from the facility. Councilmember Pam O’Connor, who sits on the Metro board, said that no matter where the maintenance facility is built, the Council’s job is to make sure they get the best project they can from City staff and the Expo Construction Authority. A motion directing staff to work with the community and Expo to include the newly proposed alternative site in the final environmental impact report and work with SMC and others going forward passed 4-2; Shriver and Holbrook voiced “no” votes. Councilmember Kevin McKeown was absent.
An ordinance amending massage regulations to comply with state law passed unanimously and was adopted upon second reading. An ordinance amending Santa Monica Municipal Code pertaining to solar energy systems design standards to facilitate the installation of solar energy systems also passed unanimously and was adopted upon second reading. Second reading of an ordinance pertaining to franchising of taxis was continued until the next meeting. Additional items were heard after midnight.
The next City Council meeting will be held on July 28.