Bill Boyarsky
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The city comes to suburban Dodger Stadium

bill-300.jpgWhen Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, it was perfect for the auto age, surrounded by parking lots and near the freeway, not unlike the suburban malls so popular in those days.

Dodger Stadium could have been built anywhere in the suburbs. It had little relation to the city around it, even though Chinatown was nearby and downtown not far away. But public rail transit and the development that is accompanying it may change that.

Heading up to the stadium by car for a playoff game, I saw how urban Los Angeles is creeping up to the stadium.

The Gold Line train from Union Station through the San Gabriel Valley is giving a new look to Chinatown. College Station, a development planned for Spring and College streets, will have 770 residential units, plus a big grocery store and other retail. Another is a 355-unit development on North Broadway in the Hill, Broadway and Spring areas. These aren’t far from the stadium.

Farther north, the Gold Line station at Avenue 57, near Figueroa Street, is one reason for proposed housing and commercial development, and gentrification in Highland Park, just a few miles from the stadium.

Here’s how such development could change the Dodger Stadium scene: The 1.9-mile regional connector, a rail line underneath downtown, will link various transit lines to the Gold Line. Bus shuttles to the stadium, now limited, could be expanded, bringing many fans directly from the Gold Line station in Chinatown to the ball park. Urban life would be expanded even more if the Dodgers develop the land on the edge of the parking lots for residences, stores and restaurants and bars. The formerly isolated stadium would be in the heart of the city.

These development plans, and others around the Southland, are one reason for the support for Measure M, a proposed sales tax increase on the November ballot that would raise $860 million the first year and more in later years to fund construction of more transit rail lines and other transportation infrastructure projects. It would raise the sales tax by a half-cent at first, and then double it in future years. It has no expiration date, prompting critics to call it a forever tax.

The construction industry can’t wait. Laura J. Nelson reported in the Los Angeles Times that supporters have contributed more than $4.5 million this year for the pro-tax campaign. “More than three-quarters of that amount came from developers, organized labor, engineering firms and other firms that could see financial gains from the Southern California building boom that Measure M would create, a Times analysis found,” Nelson wrote.

Over the years, the rail lines, along with bus improvements, will help Southlanders to get around without the help of motor vehicles. That’s good. But as the campaign unfolds, remember Measure M is as much about putting up big buildings as building railroads.

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