Property Acquisition Fact Sheet - Printable Version (207KB)
Since 2007, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has been conducting a thorough environmental review of the Westside Subway Extension Project (Project). This effort began with the initial Alternatives Analysis (AA) in 2007-08 and was followed in 2009-10 with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIS/EIR). Metro is currently close to concluding the Final EIS/EIR. These combined efforts have included in-depth study and analysis of various transportation modes, alignments and many other technical issues.
Why Metro Needs Property for the Subway
The Westside Subway Extension will travel underground, mostly below public rights-of-way. Metro will, however, need to acquire or secure use of some private property in order to build and operate the subway. In some cases the property will be acquired on a permanent basis. In other cases, Metro will only need the property temporarily. Property will be required for primarily three purposes:
- Construction staging
- Station portals (entrances)
- Below ground easements (subsurface easement)
Currently Metro owns two pieces of property along the proposed alignment – the parcels at Wilshire/Crenshaw and Wilshire/La Brea. Those properties were purchased in the 1980s for potential future transportation projects. The La Brea site currently houses a Metro Customer Service Center, some commercial uses and a metered parking lot. The Crenshaw property consists of a surface parking lot.
This fact sheet explains the property requirements for the Project in more detail, the various ways Metro could acquire needed property interests, and the likely timing and process for property acquisition.
During Project construction, property will be necessary for construction staging areas. Land for construction staging is needed where building the Project requires excavating from the street level down, typically where subway stations are located. Staging space includes areas for active construction activities, storage of equipment and materials, field offices, parking, and other related construction activities. Some construction staging locations will also be used to insert, launch and eventually extract tunnel boring machines (TBMs), as well as for earth removal.
Staging locations should ideally be located off-street and immediately adjacent to where the underground station “box” will be built. Two staging areas are preferred at each construction location for a combined area of about 1 acre. For station sites that will also be used to launch TBMs, a larger staging area of approximately 3 acres is required. (Please see our Construction fact sheet for more information.)
The Metro-owned property at the northwest corner of Wilshire and La Brea will be used for construction staging to support the Wilshire/La Brea Station and as a launch site for TBMs. Although no station is planned at Wilshire/Crenshaw, it is likely that the Metro-owned parking lot on the southeast corner at this location will be used for additional construction staging purposes. Metro will need to acquire property at other locations where construction staging will be required.
Metro may purchase a “fee interest” in order to become the owner of the property required for construction staging. Alternatively, Metro could lease the property from the current owner and return the site after construction is completed. In either case, the property could be developed at some point following station construction, or in some cases, developed at the same time that Project construction is concluding. Whether these sites are developed by Metro or a private entity, the plans would need to be consistent with existing zoning and codes, and would have to go through any required approval processes.
While the specifics of each location will differ, construction of each station is estimated to take five to seven years. Construction staging locations would be needed at each site for this period of time.
The Project may also require the acquisition of a portal easement at station locations. The entrance to the station from the surface is called a portal and is located off-street. The portal entrance provides access to the station concourse and boarding platforms, and allows passengers to enter and exit the station. The Project is being planned to have two portals at the Westwood/UCLA station and one portal at each of the other six stations along the alignment. The station boxes will also be designed with “knock-out panels” to allow other property owners to provide additional portals for the stations at their cost either during subway construction or in the future. When possible, the station portals are located at the construction staging site in order to keep the construction impacts contained to a central area.
Each station portal will have escalators, staircases and elevators for passenger access. Additional portals may not require all these elements. Metro is considering using the property it owns at the northwest corner of Wilshire/La Brea for that station’s entrance. Property and/or easements for station portals at other station locations will be acquired from private or public property owners. Portals can be located in open plazas, incorporated into a development during construction, or a subsequent development could incorporate a station portal.
Metro may purchase the fee interest in property thereby obtaining ownership of the portal entrance area or alternatively purchase an easement from the property owner. In some cases, where an existing building is already constructed on the property, it may be feasible to integrate the portal into the existing building. In this situation, Metro will acquire a portal easement and work with the owner to modify the building to accommodate the station entrance.
In some areas, project tunnels will need to pass underneath existing homes and businesses. Portions of subway stations and other underground facilities may also need to be located beneath private property. In these cases, Metro will purchase a subsurface easement from the property owner. This is accomplished through a one-time payment and the easement deed is recorded. A subsurface easement for the Project would be similar to underground easements that a utility or cable company obtains for fiber optic cables, water lines, gas lines, etc. Between stations, tunnels are generally 50-70 feet below the surface though they are anticipated to be much deeper in certain areas for this Project.
In the majority of cases, there will be little or no impact to the surface of the property from subway operation. The subway tunnel is generally constructed below existing utility easements and will not affect existing oil rights or other easements associated with the property. If existing utilities are impacted, they will be relocated prior to construction.
Compensation to Owners for the Acquisition of Real Property and Easements
During the environmental clearance and preliminary engineering phase of project development, Metro is identifying the majority of properties that may be needed for construction and operation of the Project. Preliminary discussions may be held with some property owners during this time to ascertain specific information about their property. However, final identification of the properties needed for the Project will not be confirmed until after the Metro Board certifies the Final EIS/EIR and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) concurs in that certification by issuing a Record of Decision (ROD). This is expected to occur in late 2011. At that point, Metro’s Real Estate Department will contact property owners to initiate the process for acquisition of the property and/or easement.
Metro is required by State and Federal law to offer just compensation to property owners for the purchase or use of their property, including temporary and permanent easements. Just compensation is defined as the fair market value of the property or easement as determined by an independent real property appraiser. Metro will obtain an appraisal for each property based on the specific impact to that property and the requirements of the Project at that location. The appraisal will consider a variety of factors to determine the value of the property including location, size, the highest and best use of the property consistent with current zoning, the affect of the Project on future development potential, the depth of the tunnels below the surface, etc.
Once the value is established and approved by the approving authority at Metro, staff or a hired consultant will make an offer to the owner to acquire the property interest required. Metro will seek to reach a negotiated agreement with a property owner wherever possible. Ample time will be allowed to permit the owner to obtain their own appraisal if desired, and to have a full discussion with Metro regarding their opinion of the value of the property interest to be acquired. If a negotiated agreement cannot be accomplished, Metro may exercise its power of eminent domain to acquire the property interest.
Disposition of Property after Construction
Following completion of Project construction, Metro will return leased properties to the property owner who may then develop the property in accordance with local zoning regulations. If there are portions of real property owned by Metro that are no longer needed after construction is completed, the land may be sold or made available for Transit Oriented Developoments (TODs). If a TOD project is feasible, Metro will typically issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking development proposals for the particular property. Through a competitive process, Metro selects what it feels is the best development option for the site that will also generate revenue to Metro to off set Project expenses.
There are many examples of TOD projects that have occurred around Metro rail stations over the last ten years – most notably, the W Hotel and condominiums at the Metro Hollywood/Vine Red Line Station, the Wilshire/Vermont apartments and LAUSD Middle School at the Wilshire/Vermont Station, the Hollywood/Highland Center at the Hollywood Highland Station, along with the Kodak Theater and the Renaissance Hotel.
How to Stay Involved and Give Input
Metro invites you to stay involved throughout the study. You can keep up with developments on our website, metro.net/westside, where you can find information as work progresses, leave comments, and let us know how to contact you so we can keep you informed of upcoming meetings and other milestones.
One Gateway Plaza, 99-22-5
Los Angeles, CA 90012
- November 2010 – Commence work on the Final EIS/EIR
- January, March, Summer 2011 – Community Update Meetings
- February, April, June 2011 – Station Area Advisory Group Meetings
- Fall 2011 (estimated) – Anticipated Release of Final EIS/EIR
- Fall/Winter 2011 (estimated) – Metro Board Approval & Certification of Final EIS/EIR