Santa Monica City Councilman Kevin McKeown penned an impassioned commentary on the pending Expo Light Rail (Phase 2) extension from Culver City into Santa Monica in this publication (Your Column Here, “Councilman stands firm on Expo,” Nov. 5).

McKeown hit the nail on the head when he wrote that the Expo Construction Authority has the ability to overrule any land use restrictions City Hall might impose on the property, currently used by Verizon. “We cannot ‘just say no’ to their maintenance yard,” he wrote.

McKeown points out that nothing was mentioned about a maintenance/storage facility in close proximity to homes and apartments on the south side of Exposition until the publication of the draft environmental impact report in February. Had there been advance notice, City Hall could have possibly helped find another location for the yard besides the Pico Neighborhood, he indicated.

Although not naming her, McKeown is referring to our Councilwoman Pam O’Connor who is on both the Construction Authority Board of Directors and the parent Los Angeles County Metropolitan (Metro) Transportation Authority Board of Directors.

So with the yard being a done deal and Pico neighbors still upset about possible noise and pollution generated by such a facility, now what does the Expo Authority recommend? They recently notified City Hall they’re considering adding a rail car repair and paint shop and increasing yard rail car storage capacity to 50 cars from the original 30 plus cars. Nothing like making a bad situation even worse.

The final Phase 2 EIR will be ready in January, 2010. What new surprises will be contained therein for the City of Santa Monica? What else has O’Connor not told us?

Lest you think this is all love and kisses to McKeown for standing up for Pico neighbors, he gets my brickbat for falling short on protecting residents living just feet north of the proposed Expo light rail alignment running down the center of Colorado Avenue from 18th Street to Fourth Street.

Wait until Expo starts operation and the vibration from 200-ton trains, brake squeal and other rail noise interferes with Colorado neighborhood peace and quiet from 6 a.m. until midnight, seven days a week. Neighbors will scream, “Nobody warned us. We’ve been railroaded!”

McKeown concluded his commentary with “… the prime responsibility of local government is protecting the people who live here.” While McKeown advocates for the vocal and well organized Pico Neighborhood Association, how about the Mid-City folk who’ve been mostly quiet — not because they know what’s coming and don’t care, but because they don’t know what’s coming.

A death in Virginia Park<p>

Last Tuesday evening, a 20-year-old Santa Monica man left an art class at the Virginia Avenue Park Teen Center with three friends and was quickly set upon by two young males. Gunfire rang out and Richard Juarez was shot and killed. His three friends ran and escaped injury.

Santa Monica Police Sgt. Mike Federico on patrol a block away deployed and quickly detained two suspects in a vehicle and assisted in apprehending two more suspects who fled down 22nd Street on foot.

Three adults — two black males from Los Angeles and one white male from Lancaster, Calif., ranging from 18 to 33 years of age -— and a juvenile male were charged with murder, attempted murder and promoting a criminal street gang. The Los Angeles Times reported all four were reputed gang members. Other news reports suggested the shooting might be in retaliation for the murder of a young black male in Venice, literally hours earlier, allegedly by Santa Monica gang members.

I was intrigued about the age range of the alleged shooters and was told by SMPD Gang Unit lead Sgt. Joe Gardner that the age range of a gang’s members can go from as low as 14 to well into the 50s and that racially identified gangs often have members who are of different races.

Although he embraced the hip-hop, “gangsta” culture as evidenced by his MySpace page, friends and associates say that Richard Juarez wasn’t in a gang and “was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

How can being next to a youth activities facility in a city park at 8:50 p.m. be “the wrong place at the wrong time?” Comments on Page 1 of this newspaper (“’Brazen’ attack leaves man dead,” Nov. 5) suggested Juarez may have been targeted because of the clothes he wore. That may be an oversimplification. The shooters probably also targeted Juarez and his friends because they were young males, Hispanic, had shaved heads or tattoos and were accessible. How senseless.

I didn’t know Richard Juarez, but I’ve heard he was a gifted artist and a caring young man. His passing, like that of so many young men before him who’ve been cut down in their prime by thugs and gangsters with no regard for human life, is a tragedy. My condolences to his family and friends.

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com