Metro and Los Angeles County staff are proposing to enter a six-month negotiating period with the developer Watt Companies to build 492 residential units and about 47,500 square feet of community-serving space on two parcels at the intersection of Exposition and Crenshaw Boulevards. The development — which includes commercial and retail units — is literally steps away from stations for the Expo Line and the future Crenshaw/LAX Line, which is scheduled to open in fall 2019. Here’s the staff report.
Under the proposal, 73 (or 15 percent) of the 492 residential units, will be affordable units for households earning 50 percent or less of the area median income. The community-serving space is envisioned to include a grocery store and restaurant space targeted for locally-owned and operated businesses. A business incubator-type space would be part of the development, as well as a mobility hub to provide bicycle and carshare connections for Metro riders.
The proposal also includes nearly three acres of public open space that will also host community events. During the six-month period, Watt Companies will offer opportunities to the community to provide feedback on the proposed project. Watt will also seek out a community-based organization who can add additional local participation on their team.
Some quick background: Metro Joint Development is a program in which Metro partners with private developers to build transit-oriented development on Metro-owned properties. These are often parcels of land that were used for transit line construction. The idea is to create transit-oriented communities (TOCs) that are more walkable and bikeable with easy access to transit. TOCs also aim to include high quality urban design and promote equity by providing a mix of uses that support housing at different income levels. To date, more than 2,000 residential units have been built as part of Metro joint developments.
The proposed development at Exposition and Crenshaw Boulevards would be on two parcels. The southwest corner of Exposition/Crenshaw is owned by L.A. County and is 1.66 acres – it’s currently a probation office the County will vacate. The southeast corner of Exposition/Crenshaw is a 1.77-acre site and is owned by Metro. It is now used for Crenshaw/LAX construction staging and will be the location of the future entrance to the Expo/Crenshaw underground station.
The location is, of course, extremely transit-friendly. There will be east-west transit access on the Expo Line to the Westside, Culver City, Santa Monica, USC, downtown L.A. and beyond. The Crenshaw/LAX Line’s underground Expo/Crenshaw Station will offer service south to Leimert Park, Inglewood, Los Angeles International Airport and connections to the Green Line.
It’s also worth remembering that Measure M will fund a northern extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the Red Line in Hollywood. Under current plans, that project wouldn’t be built until the 2040s, but Metro continues to seek ways to accelerate major Measure M projects.
The Metro Board of Directors is scheduled to consider the Expo/Crenshaw joint development proposal as part of their November round of meetings, followed by the County Board of Supervisors in December. The six-month negotiating period gives Watt Companies time to conduct community outreach and refine the project.
Four development firms competed for the rights to build the project. More about the selection process is in this Metro staff report. Watt Companies was formed in 1947 and is Southern California-based. “The proposed team includes firms exceptionally accomplished in architecture, engineering, urban design, and community engagement” and will “bring a number of best practices from other notable transit-oriented development projects,” wrote Metro staff in their report to the Metro Board. Metro and the County held a number of community workshops last year, which led to Development Guidelines for the site. The Watt Companies proposal was found to be the most responsive to the community priorities and vision expressed in the Guidelines.
Through another partnership between Metro and the County, a joint development is planned adjacent to the Fairview Heights Station in Inglewood on 1.44 acres of County-owned land. More about that project here.
Here is the joint development page on metro.net that explains how Metro works with the private sector to development land adjacent to transit lines. Also, check out this interactive map showing Metro joint developments completed and in the pipeline.