'We Intend to Ride a Streetcar Downtown by 2014'

Streetcar in Downtown Los Angeles
A streetcar in Portland, OR | Photo by pdxjeff via Flickr

Funding for the proposed 3.4-mile downtown streetcar could get a step up on Thursday when the Community Redevelopment Agency is scheduled to vote on giving the project $5 million. The whole project is estimated to cost $90 million with "30% - 50% of that total.. expected to come from the private sector via an assessment on surrounding property owners," reports Eric Richardson at blogdowntown. Other funding could come from Metro and the federal government.

Councilmen Jose Huizar who announced the funding vote in a press release today said “This vote represents an opportunity for the public sector to demonstrate its commitment to bringing a modern streetcar system to Downtown Los Angeles as soon as possible. When we first kicked off Bringing Back Broadway, the streetcar seemed like it would be the cherry on top of the sundae - something we would do much further down the road. But we now realize the powerful effect a streetcar system will have on economic development and revitalization of our entire downtown area. It’s clear we need to do this right away."

A local delegation to Portland to study streetcars back in April proved to politicians and community members the positive economic benefits streetcars played, boosting some property values 300%. Cherry on top of the sundae no more, Huizar and others want to move up the opening date. “We intend to ride a streetcar downtown by 2014."

The full press release

Councilmember José Huizar Supports $5 Million in Dedicated CRA Funding for Streetcar Effort

Huizar's Bringing Back Broadway initiative gaining steam behind engine of proposed Downtown Streetcar

LOS ANGELES (Sept. 30, 2008) - Calling Councilmember José Huizar's streetcar plan, the "major catalytic project" for its City Center Redevelopment Project, the Community Redevelopment Agency Board will vote Thursday on providing $5 million this year to the streetcar effort.
Additional sums could be considered in upcoming years, bringing the total to $10 million.

Part of Huizar's Bringing Back Broadway initiative, resurrecting Downtown's streetcar was once considered a long-range goal but has quickly become one of the effort's driving forces, gaining widespread political, private and public support.

"This vote represents an opportunity for the public sector to demonstrate its commitment to bringing a modern streetcar system to Downtown Los Angeles as soon as possible," Huizar said. "When we first kicked off Bringing Back Broadway, the streetcar seemed like it would be the cherry on top of the sundae - something we would do much further down the road. But we now realize the powerful effect a streetcar system will have on economic development and revitalization of our entire downtown area. It's clear we need to do this right away.

"We intend to ride a streetcar downtown by 2014. I applaud the CRA/LA for bringing this important proposal before the Board."

Huizar's Bringing Back Broadway effort will revitalize the historic Broadway corridor, featuring 12 historic theatres and some of the city's most famous architecture, entertainment and retail history.
The proposed 3.4-mile Streetcar route would carry workers, residents and tourists alike down Broadway, connecting via other streets to Downtown destinations such as LA Live, the Music Center and Grand Avenue.

The CRA funding to be considered Thursday would provide the downtown streetcar effort with seed money for engineering and construction, leveraged with an anticipated benefit assessment district to be proposed and managed by Los Angeles Streetcar, Inc., a non-profit in formation.

Born out of discussion within the Bringing Back Broadway initiative and led by downtown business leader Jim Atkins, LASI will raise private funds to pay for 30-50% of the estimated $90-million streetcar project.
The non-profit streetcar concept and the private funding estimations are based on successful public-private/non-profit partnerships in Portland and Seattle, cities that pioneered modern streetcar systems in the western U.S.

The concept of a downtown streetcar emerged more than a decade ago but has gained tremendous momentum since the introduction of Councilmember Huizar's Bringing Back Broadway initiative, with hundreds attending the largest-ever national streetcar conference earlier in the year and a CRA-funded workshop in August.

Next steps for the streetcar effort include creating the benefit assessment district, determining preferred alignment routes and conducting alternatives analysis with environmental review.

If approved, the initial CRA $5-million streetcar funding will come from about $19 million in tax increment funds within the City Center Project Area, with additional amounts, up to another $5-million, to be identified from the Bunker Hill Project Area in the coming years.

The tax increment funds to be used had been impounded by the courts pending settlement of Los Angeles County legal challenges about the implementation of the Central Industrial Redevelopment and the City Central Redevelopment projects in 2002. Both projects included portions of the former Central Business District. The rulings were predominately favorable to the City and freed up the tax increment funds for use by the CRA/LA.

The CRA/LA board meeting is set for 10 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 2, at 354 S. Spring St., in the 6th Floor Board Room.

Jessica Wethington McLean, Executive Director for Councilmember Huizar's Bringing Back Broadway initiative, is expected to testify in support of the recommendation for streetcar funding.