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Downtowners vote 'yes' on new tax to fund DTLA streetcar

By Hayley Fox
Published: Monday, December 03, 2012, at 09:25PM
Coutesy of L.A. Streetcar Inc.

A rendering of the streetcar in action.

The proposed streetcar for DTLA has gotten the official stamp of approval from Downtown residents. Preliminary results reported Monday night say that 73 percent of people voted in favor of a property tax that will help cover a portion of the streetcar's cost. The turnout surpassed the two-thirds vote the tax needed to pass.

The streetcar mail-in-ballot closed tonight at 8 p.m. after months of outreach and promotion by L.A. Streetcar Inc. -- the central advocacy group for the streetcar, made up of many Downtown civic leaders and property owners.

Only Downtown residents living within an approximately three-block radius of the proposed streetcar route were able to vote on the tax, and it is only the property owners in this area though who will be subject to pay it. The exact cost will vary depending on the size of their land and proximity to the route.

Shiraz Tangri, general counsel for Streetcar Inc., said they're "very excited" by the results and looking forward to beginning the next few phases of the process -- which includes the vote being confirmed at City Council sometime this month.

Tangri said that although the 73 percent tally isn't final, the City Clerk made the "official unofficial" call that the margin was enough to declare that the tax had passed.

The new parcel tax will fund about half of the streetcar's $125 million construction budget; expected to be $62.5 million but not to exceed $85 million, according to Councilman Huizar's office. The remainder of the streetcar's costs are expected to be covered by federal funding, but that is still in the process of being secured.

Although the streetcar will cost property owners a bit of money, supporters of the project say the streetcar will reap extensive financial benefits for DTLA as a whole. Huizar's office reports that according to AECOM studies, the streetcar will bring $1.1 billion in additional development Downtown and $24.5 million in added tourist spending every year.

But KPCC reports that many people think the streetcar's benefits have been overestimated.

"They're overselling this when they talk about development dollars. I mean, that's nonsense," Jim Thomas, CEO of Thomas Properties Group, told KPCC. Thomas is one of the largest property owners in Downtown and feels that residents shouldn't be the only ones who got to vote on the tax.

"This is very aggravating to us, because we don't have any representation but they want to impose this tax on us," said Thomas.

According to Streetcar Inc.'s website, construction on the streetcar is expected to begin next year. Once it's up-and-running, it will travel a loop through some of Downtown's most concentrated areas, and run seven days a week for about 18 hours a day.

This will be the first time since the early '60s that Downtown has had a streetcar.

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