The gulf between local government and the business community was on full display last week at the Van Nuys State Building Auditorium.
That’s where the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority held a meeting Oct. 10 to hear from businesses that stand to be evicted because Metro wants to clear land northeast of Oxnard Street and Kester Avenue to build a train maintenance yard to serve a new rail line.
The message from businesses seems simple and clear: Can’t you find a better place for your maintenance yard? Maybe one that doesn’t oust a train load of businesses – 186 of them, by one count.
The message from bureaucrats also seems simple and straightforward: Yawn.
Whether they know it or not, that’s the memo they sent to businesses. To Metro’s credit, it did hold the so-called informational meeting after it became clear that businesses were growing restive. On the other hand, Metro’s temper at the meeting was vaguely brusque and at times dismissive. To at least some of the businesspeople in attendance, it all came off as if Metro’s imperial overlords had been forced to travel to Van Nuys to sit through another dull meeting in which the plebian supplicants had to beg for their survival. (For more on businesses’ reaction, see the article on page 1.)
Here’s an example. The business group proposed an alternative site for the train yard. It seemed to make sense because it would only displace one business, an auto salvage yard, and a facility with some vacant land that’s owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, better known as the DWP.
But at the meeting last week, Metro Senior Executive Officer Manjeet Ranu announced: “Late this afternoon we got a letter from DWP that says they have specific plans and a construction timeline for use of that property.” So, no deal.
Well, excuse me, but are you seriously saying that DWP’s single plan is more important than the plans of 186 businesses?
Ranu did explain that eminent domain against a government entity like the DWP was difficult, you see.
Well, excuse me again, but isn’t this where we can count on our elected officials to step in and make the DWP yield? Maybe work out some compromise? Surely the DWP’s needs can be met while saving 186 businesses.
Alas, apparently not. The 186 businesses are in Councilwoman Nury Martinez’s district and she did not bother to attend the meeting. No representative from her office was announced at the beginning of the meeting, although her chief of staff said someone from the office later showed up.