Leimert Park Eagerly Awaits Their Train Station

By Fernando Stepensky

In 2008, Los Angeles County voters approved Measure R, a half-cent sales tax, which paved the way for 12 transit projects in the county, according to Metro Los Angeles. One of those projects is the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, which will essentially connect Leimert Park, Hyde Park, Inglewood, and Westchester to the rest of the Los Angeles rail system, and it is expected to open toward the end of 2019. Not only that, but a few years after its 2019 opening, the line will lead up to and connect the Los Angeles International Airport to the rest of the city.

We are 70 percent complete, Jose Ubaldo, communications manager for Metro Los Angeles, said. Which means we are moving really fast, all of the stations are in progress right now, and we have even started installing the canopies at some of them as well.

While the project is widely perceived to benefit the traffic-congested LA, one community along the new line has much more to gain than just skipping traffic: Leimert Park, which lies right next to Crenshaw, fought hard to get a station along the new line, and their community leaders are already planning out how to maximize their potential.

Initially there was not going to be a station in Leimert, so it took a lot of community support, effort, and energy, to make sure there was a station, Leimert Park Metro Leadership councilman Johnnie Raines said. The community is very, very pleased that there is going to be a station, everybody’s happy.

Although, Raines did admit that a few residents were originally skeptical about the proposition due to fears of gentrification or rising housing prices in the 80 percent African-American community. However, he and Clint Rosemond, who have been leading community meetings called the Leimert Park Village Stakeholders since 2001, say that most people quickly realized the tremendous upside the station could bring.

The mood of the community at the time was generally very positive and happy that we were able to prevail to get the stop, Rosemond said. It’s not often that the community is able to prevail on matters of that kind of significance.

Through community activism, the savvy of Leimert Park leaders with transportation experience, and constant communication with council members and project advisors, Leimert Park finally got approval from the board at Metro Los Angeles for a stop in the center of their neighborhood.

The new station will be right across from the current bus stop.

We’ve kind of become the default authority on community and Metro involvement, Raines said. What made this possible was making sure that everybody knew that they had a voice and directing their input to the proper people to make sure that the community is completely aware of what’s going on.

Sherri Franklin is the founder of Urban Design Center, which provides technical expertise and strategy with regard to urban environments to government agencies and non-profits. UDC was involved in helping both Leimert and Metro Los Angeles in the Crenshaw/LAX line planning.

Literally and figuratively, it creates access to a community, and we know that transit connectivity helps these communities thrive, Franklin said. If you want to be viable you want to be along that transportation node that connects people to the beach, the Staples Center, USC, and it moves people to jobs and other points of interest. Where Leimert Park is located can be considered the center of this system.

Now that the station is well on its way to opening, Leimert Park’s focus has shifted. James Burks, who is the director of the famed Leimert Park Vision Theatre that will complete its renovations around the time the new station opens, believes all of this work will have been for nothing if the community doesn’t capitalize on its success.

Our concern now is how do we leverage the issue to get what we want? Burks said. There’s an opportunity to redefine our community and surrounding areas.

There are motions in place already, according to Burks, such as the Leimert Park Village Stakeholders creating a 35 person group with event producers to help make a neighborhood event calendar, establish event protocols, and have everything more organized so that it doesn’t benefit the individuals putting on the event, but the entire community. This level of coordination is expected to continue up until the station opens in the fall of 2019 as well as afterward, so Leimert Park can provide the best experience for the increased foot-traffic it is bound to have.

Once the rail is completed, Franklin said, people will be able to come and hang out in Leimert’s whole ecosystem around African-American centers, culture, and art that needs to be fully developed so that Leimert can take full advantage of this asset they’re going to have with the train system.