Sunday's Los Angeles Times carried a piece that largely rehashed a few low-boiling controversies about the planned high-speed train line that, when eventually completed, will connect Anaheim and San Diego to San Francisco and Fresno. Depending on who you talk to, the project is either California's savior–or a boondoggle (anyone else get a mental image of Steven Greenhut whenever that word appears?) marked by blinding optimism on the issues of cost and ridership.
Set that all aside for a second. The more interesting revelation in the Times piece came towards the end:
In Buena Park, city officials recently learned that part of a new
award-winning transit-oriented residential project tied into the city's
3-year-old Metrolink station may have to be ripped out.
A high-speed rail representative told local officials, “We either take
the condominiums or we take your station,” recalled Councilman Art
Brown, who has generally supported the bullet train. Planners are
reexamining the issue, but it remains unresolved.
If the words “SB 375” mean anything to you–and yes, we realize they probably don't–then you know that “transit-oriented development” is quite the buzz-catching term. Building communities around public transportation corridors to cut down the use of cars isn't merely a nice idea; California law mandates that local governments start implementing that idea.
And so here we have little-ol' Buena Park, building a transit-oriented community that wins an award for taking “bold action to develop a true transit village by acquiring surrounding
property and converting it from industrial use to moderate and
affordable housing, including transit oriented development and open
space.” And now that “village” might get carved up by another buzz-catching public planning concept: high-speed rail.
Robert Cruickshank of the California High Speed Rail blog, in slamming the Times article for allegedly focusing on controversy instead of facts, points out that there's a similar conflict between transit-oriented development and transit arising in San Carlos.
While there's not much more information out there about the potential Buena Park transit-development dilemma, the minutes (PDF here) for Buena Park's Sept. 8, 2009 city council meeting show that the issue has been vetted publicly. At the meeting, the council was informed that the rail authority's planned alignment could take up to “25 dwelling units” from the city; according to the minutes, council members weren't happy and urged the rail authority to consider alternatives. The city attorney apparently told the council that if acceptable alternatives weren't included in the project's final environmental impact report, then, well… you know. The city can sue.
Who could have guessed that building a 700-mile bullet train through one of the most densely populated regions of the world would lead to lawsuits?