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Santa Monica Writer Says Her Elitist Anti-Expo Line Story Had 'Best Of Intentions'

Explore Santa Monica from the Expo Line. (Photo by Annie Lesser/LAist)
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Over the weekend Angelenos celebrated the opening of the Expo Line extension that would connect downtown Los Angeles with the beach for the first time in over 60 years. Finally, we could visit the beach in Santa Monica without having to find parking in one of downtown Santa Monica's terribly crowded parking structures!Not everyone shared this sentiment, however. Over at Thrillist L.A. in a now-deleted post titled "Unpopular Opinion: The Subway To Samo Is A Bad Idea" (you can read a cached version here), "born and bred Santa Monica local" Alexandra Cheney wrote that while she was a big supporter of Metro's expansion, she's beginning to have second thoughts:

The arrival of the metro marks the first time that passenger trains have traveled the 15 miles between Downtown Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean in nearly 65 years -- and I think we can all agree, a lot has changed in LA since the early 1950s, including an influx of crime in areas that seemed at one time to be totally safe. There's no question that this new train is going to be bringing new people to Santa Monica -- and that raises the possibility of crime, accidents, and the pitfalls of mass amounts of tourists with access to a part of the city that was at least geographically difficult to access before.

"New people," huh?What used to be Cheney's "semi-private quiet beachside hamlet" (hah) is now under assault from outsiders thanks to the Trojan horse that is the Expo Line. At the very least, Cheney's opinion is elitist. Using terms like "geographically difficult to reach" and "semi-private" to describe an entire city is laughable, particularly one that was already connected to neighboring cities via buses and also served by one of the busiest freeways in America. Despite what some of its residents like to think, Santa Monica is an open city, not a fenced-off country club.

At its worst, opinions like Cheney's are classist and racist. When talking about a city that is 78 percent white, it doesn't take too many mental hurdles to figure out what the phrase "new people" is a dog whistle for.

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Simply being a law-abiding black person in Santa Monica can lead to an outsized police response or, even worse, violent arrest. Santa Monica's segregated beach doesn't seem like all that of a distant memory. This kind of coded language sadly isn't anything new: Westside opposition to public transit has long been tinged with racism.

Cheney continues:

The [Santa Monica Police] department has reconfigured its beats, or areas of patrol, based, in part, on the increased traffic expected from the new train -- and according to Saul Rodriguez, a lieutenant for the Santa Monica Police Department media relations team -- the two crimes police are most expecting to increase are bike and car burglaries, followed by a rise in traditional traffic accidents as well as train to car accidents.

Rodriguez says he was misinterpreted. "I said we have no idea what to expect at this point," Rodriguez told L.A. Weekly. "At no point did I ever say we can attribute an increase in crime to the train."But what about other cities in Los Angeles County that also had new rail lines connect them to the rest of the world?

I talked to Detective Sergeant Robert Bartl of the South Pasadena Police Department, and he told me, although he lacks any "hard stats that would show the train has brought in more crime," his department has apprehended several alleged criminals, who, when questioned, admitted the Gold Line -- which opened in 2003 between DTLA and Pasadena -- played a part in their crimes.

(What "part" the Gold Line plays in these crimes is unclear. Perhaps it can be considered an accomplice. I hope Metro has a good lawyer.)When Bartl says he lacks any "hard stats" that would prove Cheney's point, it's because they simply don't exist! Cheney even quotes an expert, UCLA professor of urban planning Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, who tells her that decades (decades!) of research determined that "crime doesn't travel." Simply put, Loukaitou-Sideris says, "You're not going to see any stolen big screen TVs on the train."

But Cheney is scared anyway—forget what these so-called experts say.

Naturally the piece received an intense backlash, which we presume led to the piece getting taken down from Thrillist.

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Cheney finally responded on Tuesday night:

We're curious to know what was lost in the editing process. Send us your original, unedited story to!

As for the rest of us, don't let bad NIMBYs like Alexandra Cheney keep you from exploring Santa Monica. If you want some tips, check out our guide to exploring Santa Monica via the Expo Line.

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