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MB Residents React to Downtown Bullet Train Plan

Apr 01, 2016 06:55AM ● Published by DigMB Staff

Some Manhattan Beach residents are excited by new plans for downtown, which will soon feature an 8-story “Vertical Downtown” building full of new parking and a bullet train station stop. (The news broke first in this post on Manhattan Beach Confidential.)

Annabelle Patrick, who lives just two blocks from downtown Manhattan Beach in the Sand Section, said, “I’m excited to be able to walk out my front door and to be in San Francisco in two hours, all without ever getting in a car. I know the train will cause some headaches, but it’s worth it.”

Making It 'Simpler'

Another resident, James Ferbin, lives with his family in Manhattan Village, and says the new downtown plan will make it easier to come to the beach and to visit shops and restaurants downtown.

“It can be intimidating to come west of Sepulveda and try to park,” Ferbin said. “This massive new parking structure will make it simpler for people like us. We just want to enjoy our downtown and our beach without needing to impose on our neighbors, or risk parking tickets.”

Local leaders see the bullet train-related infrastructure development as a clear plus.

Mayor Mark Burton, posing for a photo with the bullet train's #Iwillride hashtag, lauded the train stop and the associated downtown structure.

“People want to be in downtown Manhattan Beach, more and more,” Mayor Burton said. “With this plan, we solve our parking problems and we literally get more downtown real estate out of the deal.”

The project will add about 1,000 new downtown parking spaces in 4 underground levels and in some of the 8 stories above ground. Almost 25,000 square feet of new downtown retail and restaurant space will be part of the towering structure, featuring panoramic ocean views.

High-Speed Rail: A Natural Evolution

Mayor Burton said the project will solve many of downtown Manhattan Beach’s current problems, while boldly bringing the city into the 21st century. He also said the plan represents a natural evolution for Manhattan Beach.

“Our first generation of residents and visitors came to Manhattan Beach on trains, the old trolleys and red cars,” Mayor Burton said. “Now we will enjoy the benefit of a rail connection to the whole state, at a time when the car culture is going by the wayside. This truly prepares us for the next 100 years.”

Bye Bye, Beach Vons

Despite those positive reviews, some mixed emotions greeted the surprise announcement that Manhattan Beach had been selected for a coveted station stop on the revamped California bullet train line. 

While the city gains parking and retail space, it will lose the treasured “Beach Vons” supermarket and an adjoining Union Bank branch. The parcels were acquired via eminent domain by the California High Speed Rail Authority to house the necessary parking for bullet train users. The project later grew from there to include the retail components on upper levels.

Standing in front of the Vons, Percy Jameson, a Tree Section resident, said, “Who even knew there was a bank right there? Wow. That’s prime turf that was being wasted. But yes, I will miss the Vons." 

"Luckily," Jameson continued, "they’re building the Gelson’s up at Sepulveda. We’ll just drive there. There’s plenty of parking in the neighborhood around that spot.”

'Behemoth,' 'Permanent Stain'

Opposing the new project, downtown resident Amelia Wales called the proposed new structure "Metlox on steroids" and “a Beverly Center-by-the-sea.” 

She added, “This behemoth will be a hideous, permanent stain on our little beach town. I have already called my Realtor. We are getting out of here, and fast.”

Opponents like Wales don’t have much chance of derailing the project, though. 

A tangled web of federal law, state laws enacted by the original bullet train ballot initiative and local ordinances have all but eliminated residents’ say-so on the plan. The state rail authority now controls the greenbelt, where the new high-speed train will revive the old trains’ right-of-way (now a jogging path), in addition to the downtown plots where the parking and retail structure will be built starting this Fall.

Rumors of 'Secret' Plans Were True

The announcement of this major new development comes after rumors had been bubbling up about a “secret chapter” to Manhattan Beach’s new Downtown Specific Plan. Turns out, those rumors were entirely true. 

In fact, in executive session, City Council has already enacted ordinances pertaining to the Vons/Union Bank location and various traffic-related mitigations around the new parking structure. Homeowners whose properties will be affected will be getting letters from the city today.

Marc Sedona has been railing for months on his blog, MB Watchdog, that the pending Downtown Specific Plan should be called the “Downtown Suspicious Plan.” He was the first to raise concerns that the city was up to something that wasn’t being publicly discussed.

Reached by DigMB, Sedona said, “Now you see. People dismissed me as paranoid, or a gadfly. They said, ‘Oh, this is just like your theory about the Skechers people buying the pier Roundhouse for themselves.’ But today I’ve gotten so many calls: ‘Oh, shoot, you were right, Marc!’”

“Sure, I’m amazed,” Sedona said. “It turns out that the ‘secret chapter’ was much bigger than I had ever suspected. They were hiding a 12-story building and a statewide train line. How did they keep this quiet for so long?”

However, Sedona says he’ll ride the rails.

“I don’t have a car and I don’t want one,” Sedonda said. “This is my ticket to any part of the state, any time. I’ll be sure to remember the day they announced this. I will ride on April 1st each and every year.”

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