LA City Council puts Dodger Stadium gondola project on hold for further study

The council approved a motion to halt approvals for the project until further studies can be conducted on its potential impacts.

City News Service
Saturday, March 23, 2024
Dodger Stadium gondola project on hold for further studies
Opponents contend the project will exacerbate gentrification, create privacy issues and negatively impact their community, but others say it could reduce traffic congestion and emissions by allowing for fewer vehicles on the road on game days.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The Los Angeles City Council approved a motion Friday to halt approvals for a gondola project that would provide access to Dodger Stadium until further studies can be conducted on its potential impacts.

Councilmembers voted 11-2 in support of the motion introduced by Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez, who represents the First District, where the gondola would be located. As part of the action, council members approved $500,000 for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to hire a consultant to conduct assessments.

Approximately $50,000 would come from a Street Reserve Fund and the remaining $450,000 from the city's General Fund -- money that was already designated for the First District.

Councilmembers Tim McOsker and John Lee voted against the motion, and Council members Monica Rodriguez and Kevin de León were absent during the vote.

Hernandez, who opposed the project, is calling on the LADOT to examine policies and procedures at other stadiums and high-capacity venues throughout the region, such as the Rose Bowl, Hollywood Bowl, SoFi Stadium, BMO Stadium and the Coliseum with an eye on possibly finding alternatives to consider alongside the gondola.

Prior to the vote, Hernandez said the project -- known as the Los Angeles Aerial Rapid Transit Project -- would travel 1.2 miles over the homes, businesses and historic resources in the communities of Chinatown, Echo Park, Solana Canyon, Elysian Valley, Angelino Heights and Lincoln Heights.

"This motion is born out of the overwhelming number of concerns that my constituents have raised about this proposal,'' Hernandez said. "Anyone who has attended a Dodgers game knows that traffic, parking and accessibility are serious issues around the stadium, and many of my constituents in Solano Canyon, Elysian Park and Echo Park bear the brunt of those issues,'' she added.

She said there has not been a "comprehensive and community-driven study'' of Dodger Stadium traffic and access since 1990.

Hernandez called the gondola an "unsolicited, $500 million first-last mile project that will require the use of public land and airspace, including 20% of the L.A. Historic Park.''

"It took us decades to create and before that it was just a lot with tracks on it, with trash, and took a lot of community investment and government investments to make it happen,'' Hernandez said.

She warned the project could also take away city time and resources at a time when leaders are facing a budget crisis.

"We owe the public a real analysis of the issues and evidence-based solutions around Dodger Stadium,'' she said. "I think we owe them a credible analysis before the city takes up a project that has not demonstrated a credible funding plan or provide a guarantee that taxpayers won't be on the hook for this project.''

Hernandez introduced an amendment, which was also approved, to clarify that the city will consider the recommendations of the studies before taking actions such as the issuance of permits, entitlements, land use changes and general plan amendments related to the gondola.

"We are grateful the motion was clarified to ensure the project will continue processing,'' Nathan Click, spokesman for Zero Emission Transit, the non-profit organization in charge of the gondola project, said in a statement.

"City agencies have been diligently involved from day one ensuring the project meets city standards, and we look forward to that continued collaboration as the project moves forward.''

Former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt proposed the private project in 2018, with costs initially estimated at $300 million, though updated estimates put the cost closer to $500 million.

ZET has billed the project as privately funded, and LA Metro has also stated it would not be providing funding for the project.

The idea has drawn opposition from some area residents. Opponents contend the project will exacerbate gentrification, create privacy issues and negatively impact their community with construction, as well as increase noise and traffic.

Environmental concerns have also been raised, with some saying the project will result in the loss of green space, among other issues.

However, the project has garnered strong support from many Dodgers fans, some businesses and residents who hope it would reduce traffic congestion and emissions by allowing for fewer vehicles on the road on game days.

Supporters also believe the project could revitalize Chinatown and bring in a "much-needed'' economic boom.

LAART proposes a station at the southernmost entrance of Los Angeles State Historic Park, running above Chinatown, Mission Junction, Elysian Park and Solano Canyon. It would also include pedestrian and landscape improvements to the area.

In 2023, McCourt gave the project to Zero Emission Transit, which is now handling potential building, financing and operation of the gondola.

David Grannis, executive director for ZET, said the zero-emissions project would provide a free, seven-minute ride from Union Station to Dodger Stadium. The ride would only be free for fans who buy tickets to a game, according to documents. Others would have to pay a fee.

"The project would reduce car trips, alleviate congestion, enhance safety and improve accessibility to the most visited venue of Major League Baseball,'' Grannis said.

He also highlighted last month's approval from Metro's Board of Directors. The transit agency certified the environmental impact report for the project, as well as an extensive community benefits agreement intended to address the concerns of impacted communities prior to any construction.

Grannis described the agreement as setting a "new standard'' for community investments by a transit project. He also claimed each councilmember received evidence of 15,000 residents who support the project.

Residents of Chinatown and other stakeholders have formed the Stop the Gondola Coalition in an effort to fight the project, and several members spoke in favor of Hernandez's motion at Friday's meeting.

Phyllis Lane, founder of the coalition and the chair of the Historic Cultural North Neighborhood Council, said residents need further study and urged council members to put a hold on the project.

"The London gondola and Portland Tran are just two examples, and those were dirt cheap compared to this $500 million boondoggle,'' Lane said. "And don't be complacent, Metro's conditions of approval don't guarantee that public funds won't be used.''

The project requires further consideration from the Los Angeles city government, Caltrans, the California State Department of Parks and Recreation and the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health before it comes back to the transit agency for construction approval.

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