CA: LA City Council approves a traffic study for Dodger Stadium gondola project

March 25, 2024
The study does not suspend all work on the project. Developers of the Los Angeles Aerial Rapid Transit project can continue to work with city staff on process issues while the study progresses

Mar. 22—The Los Angeles City Council on Friday, March 22, approved a $500,000 traffic study focused on Dodger Stadium that could delay city approvals needed to construct a 1.2-mile aerial tramway connecting baseball fans to the stadium on skyway gondolas.

The city council on an 11-2 vote backed a motion by Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez of Council District 1 to consider the results of the study and alternatives to gondolas — such as dedicated bus lanes — before making decisions involving permits, land use and general plan changes the project needs to move forward.

"The city will not take any action on these items until the traffic study is completed," said Hernandez in an interview after the vote.

But the study does not suspend all work on the project. Developers of the Los Angeles Aerial Rapid Transit (LA ART) project can continue to work with city staff on process issues while the study progresses, as outlined in an amendment to Hernandez's motion made at the start of the meeting.

"We are grateful the motion was clarified to ensure the project will continue processing. City agencies have been diligently involved from day one ensuring the project meets city standards, and we look forward to that continued collaboration as the project moves forward," said Nathan Click, spokesman for Zero Emissions Transit. ZET is the nonprofit owner responsible for building, financing and operating the gondola project.

The project would consist of a 1.2-mile aerial tramway to transport baseball fans to Dodger Stadium via sky-high gondolas above older neighborhoods in northeast Los Angeles. It would be the first aerial tramway in Los Angeles.

Gondolas would take passengers over or near Chinatown, Solano Canyon, Elysian Valley, Angelino Heights, and Echo Park, to and from the stadium's parking lots — in overhead buckets that can fit 30 to 40 passengers. About 5,000 passengers could be handled per hour on a sky-high, Disneyland-esque ride that would last seven minutes, according to ZET.

The project would include three stations with 13-story towers on Alameda Street across from L.A.'s historic Union Station, at the Los Angeles State Historic Park, and atop Chavez Ravine at Dodger Stadium.

Opponents from the neighborhoods say they fear invasion of privacy from people looking down from the gondolas on their homes and yards. They've also said more cars will park at the skyway stations, adding more traffic, noise and light pollution. They prefer other traffic-reducing methods, such as adding more buses to the existing Dodger Stadium Express run by LA Metro, or building a walkway up to the stadium.

"We are very happy that now we can take a little bit of a break. But I know this fight continues," said Phyllis Ling, who lives in Chinatown and started the group Stop The Gondola more than a year ago. "I feel like more of the City Council members are understanding of the issues."

The Stop The Gondola group gained support of the Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council, which voted to support further study of the traffic near Dodger Stadium. "You wouldn't want your neighborhood to be changed. I wouldn't want that to happen to me where I live," said Robin Greenberg, vice president of the group in an interview on Wednesday, March 21.

Many written comments were filed in support of Hernandez's motion.

"Two of my Toisanese (Cantonese) elder relatives live under the potential route," wrote Juni Wong, who identified herself as a community organizer in Chinatown. "We are all, along with the larger Chinatown community, opposed to this gentrifying development coming through this working-class, historic immigrant community."

Stephanie Jean wrote: "I think the gondola project needs to be reevaluated to make sure that they are actually meeting the needs of the public, instead of creating more issues for the local population. We have a need for proper public transportation, not fancy joy rides."

Many others supported the traffic assessment, saying the stadium area hasn't had a comprehensive study of traffic since 1990. "Residents of the city need to know the full range of options that are available to mitigating traffic and improving access (to) Dodger Stadium before considering the LAART gondola project," wrote Austin Kahn.

David Grannis, ZET executive director, highlighted the project's ability to reduce car trips during the roughly 81 game days each year, not counting any post-season Dodger games. The project would take 3,000 cars off the road before and after each Dodger game, concert and other community event, according to the ZET website, and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental groups are split on the project.

The Sierra Club, Friends of Elysian Park, Los Angeles River State Park Partners and the California State Parks Foundation expressed numerous concerns about environmental degradation to parks and open space. The Coalition For Clean Air is in support of the project.

Hernandez said the project would impact 20% of the Los Angeles State Historic Park due to the station, tower and aerial pathway.

The L.A. River State Park Partners said the developer would have to get the state park's general plan amended to allow a transportation use that consumes park green space. "The impact to the park would be permanent and significant," said Kathleen Johnson, executive director of the L.A. River State Park group.

Many in support of the gondola project felt the city's study was not warranted and favored the skyway.

"We don't need $500,000 spent on a traffic study. It is just a waste of money," Maria Cervantes told the L.A. City Council.

Councilmember Hernandez said the traffic study would examine alternatives such as bus rapid transit that dedicates a lane to and from the stadium for buses. She also wants to look at improving vehicle access to stadium parking lots. "The traffic study would uplift all the possible solutions for this area," she said.

On Feb. 22, the project received the green light from the LA Metro board, which approved the project's Final Environmental Impact Report and determined that the project fits within the state's regional transportation plan.

Approval of the environmental report was a first step. Besides requiring numerous approvals from the L.A. City Council, ZET will need approvals from Caltrans, the Federal Highway Administration. the California Transportation Commission and California State Parks, according to LA Metro.


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