By Emilie St. John
INGLEWOOD — Local business owners and residents were stunned at the projected impact the Inglewood Transit Connector project will have on the community as they learned of possible closures after city consultants unveiled the relocation plan Feb. 1.
A couple of residents attended the City Council meeting Feb. 14 to voice their concerns.
“I would like to request a report of the financial and environmental benefits of the Inglewood Transit Connector because this will not help the community, it will harm it, businesses will be uprooted and residents will lose their homes,” said Kayla Valentine, an Inglewood resident.
Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. then interjected, saying “no homes are slated to be acquired for the project” which is factually correct. The plan does not call for multi-family properties along the route to be acquired through eminent domain, however, many of the businesses slated for displacement and the accompanying job losses would have an impact on those affected personal finances as a direct result.
The relocation plan currently doesn’t have provisions for loss of revenue; it only covers costs of relocation and fair value of equipment that can’t be moved.
City Councilman Alex Padilla dismissed the woman’s concerns as he said this project has been discussed for at least five years and has been written about in the local newspaper “ad nauseum.”
“We’ve been talking about this for how many years?” Padilla asked. “How many presentations have we done in the community? How many articles have been written in the local newspapers? I mean that information is out there.”
“Some people just want you to come and bring it right to the front doorstep and read it to them. Haters are just gonna hate,” said Padilla.
Padilla’s assertions did little to squelch public dissent as businesses owners, their employees and residents took to social media to blast the city for displacing dozens of small businesses and providing minimal outreach to the community on the project’s true impact.
The news of the relocation plan drew harsh criticism from the business community, including the Inglewood Airport Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Halimah Ginyard.
“The Inglewood Chamber of Commerce has asked for two years or more to host ongoing discussions regarding the Inglewood Transit Connector project,” wrote Ginyard in her social media group. The chamber puts out weekly emails to its members and it has never been a topic of discussion to the business community.
Antojitos Martin, a juice bar owned by the family behind the popular Fiesta Martin restaurants also chimed in as two of the family’s businesses will be disrupted by the project.
“The 454 number is way off. It is more like double or triple the number of families that will be impacted,” said the company.
Others found humor that the very people who were bused up to Sacramento in the early planning stages of the Intuit Dome are the same businesses being displaced by the transit project.
“Me laughing at everyone who was excited about the damn stadium and couldn’t see this happening right after. #YouGotPunked,” wrote Shesloveydovey on social media.
The relocation plan calls for nearly 50 businesses to close beginning at Florence Avenue and Market Street, traversing to Manchester Boulevard and Hillcrest Bouelvard, and ending at Prairie Avenue and Hardy Street.
“This is sad,” wrote Lita_soul. “It’s taking away the community that people worked hard for through the years.”
All of the businesses surrounding the CVS shopping center will close. Selwyn Jewelers is slated to move again after being uprooted by the city years ago from their original location on Market and Queen Street.
At Manchester and Hillcrest boulevard, employees at Vons grocery store learned about the store’s closure after reading about it in the Los Angeles Wave newspaper. Vons is expected to lose the most jobs due to the project, with estimated losses at nearly 250 jobs.
Employees were seen passing around the paper in disbelief that their employer didn’t tell them about the impending closure and instead having to learn about it in the paper.
“So when were they gonna tell us?” asked an employee who refused to be identified for fear of retaliation. “We come to work everyday and to read this is upsetting and stressful.”
Vons has an agreement with the city that will see the store rebuilt with some of the existing businesses being invited back.
The city purchased land at Manchester Boulevard and Prairie Avenue that was approved for a Raising Cane’s restaurant but those plans were scrapped to make room for the transit connector.
All of the businesses located in the shopping center at Prairie and Hardy will also be impacted, including the plaza’s owner.
In total the project is projected to displace 44 small businesses and eliminate close to 500 permanent part-time and full-time jobs.
The relocation plan indicates each business will be assigned a relocation specialist to ensure as smooth a transition as possible with hopes space can be found inside city limits for existing businesses to relocate.
The relocation plan intends to compensate business owners for verifiable moving and relocation costs, but doesn’t include loss of revenue.
The city has assembled two-thirds of the funding needed to complete construction through a combination of federal, state and local funds and is awaiting approval of the remaining federal funds needed by the end of this year.
Once that funding is confirmed, the city will begin to issue notices to vacate beginning next year.
The city has not released any plans on how they intend to pay for maintenance and operation costs for the 1.6-mile transit connector that will only connect riders from the Crenshaw/LAX (K-Line) to the sports and entertainment district.
Lead consultant Lisa Trifiletti, with Trifiletti Consulting, says multiple options are on the table.
“We are looking at a fare box, advertising and transportation impact fees to fund the maintenance and operations,” Trifiletti said.
Trifiletti has not gone on the record on whether taxing Inglewood residents is an option after two previous attempts failed.
The city initially wanted to create a special taxation district that covered the entire city through an application that was filed with the Los Angeles Local Agency Formation Commission, but those plans were put on hold in late 2020.
The following year, the city declared a fiscal emergency in August that allowed officials to call for a special election to raise taxes despite Butts calling the city “fiscally solvent” a few months prior.
Voters approved an increase of the transient occupancy tax from 14% to 15.5% and rejected a proposed real estate transfer tax that would have created a sliding scale tax based on the selling price of properties in excess of $1 million.
Buried in the staff report calling for the election was the discovery that the tax proceeds from the real estate transfer tax would go toward the transit connector project.
The increase of the real estate tax was expected to bring in annual revenue of nearly $4 million.
The City has set a public hearing for March 14 at 2 p.m. where businesses and residents can give public comment either in person at the Main Library Lecture Hall located across from City Hall or telephonically by calling in to the numbers provided on the city council agenda which can be found online at https://www.cityofinglewood.org/AgendaCenter/City-Council-3.
Emilie St. John is a freelance journalist covering the areas of Carson, Compton, Inglewood and Willowbrook. Send tips to her at email@example.com.