The Van Nuys Neighborhood Council has come out against a highly controversial potential site proposed in its community as a light rail system storage yard.
The council almost unanimously approved a motion at last week’s council meeting to send a letter to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority opposing one of the locations the agency is targeting to redevelop into a railcar maintenance and storage facility to serve a new rail line that would run from Oxnard Street in Van Nuys to Sylmar.
In the motion, the council says it “strongly opposes” the site referred to as Option A, which straddles the existing Orange Line bus service between Kester and Vesper avenues. Specifically, the site is bounded by Kester Avenue, Oxnard Street, Calvert Street and just past Cedros Avenue.
The 58 parcels hold industrial buildings occupied by 1,500 employees and 186 businesses, according to the Valley Economic Alliance. Should Metro decide to move ahead with the rail system and redevelop the site into the storage yard, which it reportedly needs to operate the line, the businesses would be evicted.
“This is a thriving Industrial and artisanal area that if chosen would displace at minimum 200 small businesses and hundreds of workers that add tremendous value to the area and the community,” the letter read, according to the motion.
Jason Ackerman, vice president of the council and the motion’s author, said the businesses came to a planning and land use committee meeting to voice their opposition to the site. He also attended another meeting in which the issue was discussed.
“It was very apparent that very quickly we had to do something about this,” he said. “It’s too hard to create more industrial zone areas, particularly the medium manufacturing zone areas,” which most of the businesses would require to operate in.
He said the original environmental impact report for the site from three years ago stated there was sufficient industrial space within a mile to move the businesses.
“But now there’s no space within (even) two and a half miles,” Ackerman said. “The automotive-related businesses would be especially hard to relocate. Plus, there’s a need for older industrial buildings that have already been paid for (because) they don’t have to have high rent and can act as incubators. Older industrial areas are very crucial to the health and growth of a community.”
The motion recommends Metro seek other options, including 7600 Tyrone Ave., or Option D, that the businesses had suggested. But the site’s property owner, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, informed the group last week that it plans to transform the vacant site into the Mid-Valley Water Facility Project, which it expects to break ground on in 2019.
Ackerman said he and others may suggest to Metro that it buy that parcel but also the parcel next door because the two total 47 acres.
“There would room for both the DWP and Metro,” he explained, and he added, while one business operates on the second lot now, “it’s better to relocate one business rather than 150 to 200 businesses, and we don’t have to lose more industrial space.”
Also last week, land use and planning expert Robert Scott, executive director of the Mulholland Institute in Calabasas, sent out a public statement opposing the Option A location, saying industry – as opposed to retail or hospitality – supplies high-paying jobs that allow for a balance between jobs and housing.