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Burbank, Duarte, El Monte among areas where Metro plans to build affordable housing

Sunglasses for sale on Alvarado Street across form MacArthur Park.
Ken Scarboro/KPCC
FILE: A vibrant community draws shoppers to Alvarado Street across form MacArthur Park.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority picked seven locations in Los Angeles County where it wants to see affordable housing and commercial development connected to nearby transit lines.

The agency points to communities like MacArthur Park and Hollywood where it says transit and the surrounding neighborhoods work well together; they are dense areas with high concentrations of attractions and affordable housing that allow those who depend on transit to live nearby.

Now Metro wants to replicate that environment at other stops. The agency picked locations in Burbank, Duarte, Willowbrook, Crenshaw, El Monte, Union Station and North Hollywood where it has land parcels to develop. The agency will seek to work with local governments, community groups and private developers to expand development goals in a two-mile radius of transit stations.

Interest in neighborhood development, rather than just running transit, has recently become a bigger part of Metro's mission. Agency officials see the broader focus as a way to boost ridership, which has been dropping in recent years, and protect vulnerable communities from getting priced out by gentrification near transit.

In March, the agency adopted a new policy requiring that 35 percent of housing on Metro property be affordable. It established a grant program to encourage developers to build more affordable units.

The new proposal aims to expand that effort further into neighborhoods beyond Metro's properties, creating what Metro CEO Phil Washington has dubbed "Transit-Oriented Communities." 

Metro will discuss the new development program at committee meetings this week and a board meeting next Thursday.

The effort could win support from passengers like Maria Bryant, who took the Metro Tuesday to MacArthur Park to go shopping. There's a lot to like in the bustling community — street vendors, mom and pop stores and restaurants, plus affordable housing.

“Everybody’s got something that they’re doing, everyone’s busy — it’s alive,” Bryant said.

The development initiative could hit some bumps: Metro doesn't have the power to change city zoning laws nor the money to develop real estate itself. But officials said the program is the beginning of a years-long process to tie together tranportation and communities and ensure people who rely on transit have easy access to it.