Private tunnels, San Francisco skyscrapers: HWR, April 17

Art of Transpo

Plane over DTLA Arts District. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.

Elon Musk Boring Company Test Tunnel Could Get Fast-Tracked, Blocking Metro’s Sepulveda Rail Project (Streetsblog LA)

We wrote about this yesterday. The Boring Company, owned by Elon Musk, wants an exemption from conducting an environmental review for a 2.7-mile tunnel between West L.A. (near the Expo Line) and Culver City the firm wants to build. An L.A. City Council committee is scheduled to consider the matter this week.

Streetsblog’s Joe Linton writes:

For a comparison, take a look at Metro’s Regional Connector subway project. The Regional Connector is a 1.9-mile subway under construction in downtown Los Angeles. Metro’s Regional Connector project features only two miles of bored-tunnels. That is less tunnel mileage than The Boring Company’s proposed proofing tunnel (though Metro’s tunnels are 21-feet diameter and Boring’s are 14-feet diameter.) Metro did an extensive multi-year full CEQA environmental analysis (plus its concurrent federal equivalent), which was then challenged and upheld in court. Can anyone imagine Metro trying to declare a couple miles of subway tunnels categorically exempt from CEQA?

Excellent point. More at yesterday’s post and here’s a letter from Metro that is part of the city of L.A. file. If you’re wondering exactly how the Boring Company’s tunnels would get cars/people around, that is not entirely clear yet. Boring Company officials have told Metro that they plan to coordinate with Metro on coordinating their project with Metro’s Sepulveda Transit Corridor project that will build a rail line between the Orange Line and LAX.

Not entirely related but: Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, says that Tesla under-reported injuries at its factory.

San Francisco’s big seismic gamble (NYT)

The Salesforce Tower is the new big building in S.F. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.

Urban density has been in the news a lot lately. With the 112-year anniversary on Wednesday of the 1906 quake and fire that destroyed more than 25,000 buildings in San Francisco, the NYT writes:

Experts are sending this message: The building code does not protect cities from earthquakes nearly as much as you might think.

Hmmm. The LAT also has a story about a new U.S. Geological Survey report the Hayward Fault that runs under Oakland and the threat it poses to the Bay Area.

East Side Access price goes up again, now stands at $11.2B (amNewYork)

The project that will bring Long Island Rail Road into Grand Central Terminal is now 2.5 times its original cost. Long story short: Lots of fingers are out and they are pointing.

SB 827 Amendments: Affordability, Transit Lines, Height, Ellis Act Protections & More (Medium)

State Sen. Scott Wiener has amended his bill that would pre-empt local zoning codes and allow bigger, multi-unit buildings to be constructed near frequent transit lines. The size of buildings allowed has been downsized but the bill would still allow multi-unit buildings in neighborhoods currently zoned as single-family homes.

The bill has inspired vigorous debate and has its share of proponents. It also has its share of opponents with many cities having taken formal positions against it, fearing gentrification that prices out current residents and the loss of local control over land use.

My take: clearly more housing is needed in our region. But, as I’ve written, a state bill that changes the zoning of single-family neighborhoods faces a tough uphill climb under any circumstance. And a bill that fails to pass doesn’t, by definition, produce any housing.

Your thoughts?

Update: The bill died Tuesday afternoon.

Transpo Tweets

Just a short stroll from the Expo Line’s Expo/Vermont Station, btw.

Dept. of Big City Con Men: 

Try that on your work colleagues and let me know if it works. RIP, Harry Anderson.

11 replies

  1. Nothing new about METRO throwing CEQA “under a bus”. The new Union Station commercial bike “kennel” avoided CEQA by METRO declaring it exempt account it was a “temporary building” even though the construction folks said that it was “permanent building” set in concrete.

    • As long as its on the property of the entity trying to get the exemption and it does not expand beyond that property, it should be considered as proper. In fact, Boring Co’s tunnel in Hawthorne got an exemption and no one put much more than a comment up about that. In this case, however, the tunnel will be extended beyond Boring Co’s property and use a right-of-way that there are several stakeholders, including Metro and, frankly, the entire population of the county of Los Angeles. I think in this case, an exemption is not proper, as these stakeholders will want to know how their plans will be affected by this “proof-of-concept”.

      • Au contraire. I’m not a lawyer, I don’t even play one on TV, but I have read the CEQA law and it is clear that the automatic CEQA exemption on METRO transit property is only valid if the building in question–for instance Union Station’s new, modernistic, non-Hispanic style, bike barn eyesore–is non-commercial. However, the bike barn is a private commercial enterprise and thus subject to CEQA–even though it leases space from METRO. So, if Musk’s Boring Tunnel “pie in the mud” project is turned over to METRO to operate, it would be be exempt from CEQA. However, if Musk’s Boring Tunnel is run as a private commercial enterprise it would NOT be exempt from CEQA. Sorry, neither METRO nor Musk can have it both ways! Although METRO and Musk can try–that’s called “politic$ as u$ual”. The law is clear as mud on that issue!

  2. The state has already messed with low density zoning through the new law on accessory dwelling units. Another question is, why should the state bother to subsidize transit lines that will be underutilized because they are surrounded by detached houses and strip malls? It’s not a very efficient use of tax dollars.

  3. Metro should definitely take a stand against the Musk tunnel. The tunnel won’t last as an experiment. Perhaps they should work together to accommodate each other.

  4. Sorry if off topic, but just want to have a quicker answer. I have been trying to reload my TAP online since last night. All my attempts resulted in “transaction failed”. Is the site itself having problem in processing purchases?

    • Hi Jason,

      We have not been told of any issues with TAP website. If possible please email screengrab of the issue you’re encountering to or call 866.727.8646 for assistance.

      Thank you,

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source

  5. The author of the Boring Co. article posted a message from Phil Washington confirming that Metro should have the right to approve such a tunnel. Could that mean Musk’s plans might get shut down or tangled up in a legal battle?

    • Hi Joe and Pat —

      Thanks for heads up and link! I added link to the Source post.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source