Scared of the Subway: Beverly Hills Slams Proposal to Put Subway Under the City (Updated: 1:00 P.M.)

Members of the Beverly Hills High School School Board present a resolution asking that the Subway run below Santa Monica Boulevard
Members of the Beverly Hills High School School Board present a resolution asking that the Subway run below Santa Monica Boulevard

There is one thing that is clear about the position of the residents of Beverly Hills when it comes to the future Westside Subway.  No matter how many guarantees they receive about the negligible impacts of tunneling ninety to one hundred fifty feet below the ground, they don’t want it to run underneath their residential area nor their schools of their city.

Last night in Beverly Hills, Metro hosted the fourth of its five public hearings on the Westside Subway Extension’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement.  After a fairly brief presentation, where the depth that subway drilling would occur at was mentioned an even dozen times; the staff turned the floor over to a parade of homeowners, renters, doctors, School Board Members, City Council Members, grade school students, business owners, homeowner’s associations, civic groups and even a Monsignor ready to condemn even the suggestion that the Westside Subway should run underneath the homes and schools of Beverly Hills.

For Metro, there are two issues that need to be addressed along this corridor.  The first is which corner of the intersection of La Cienega and Wilshire to put a rail station.  The second is whether it makes more sense to tunnel under Beverly Hills for a station at Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Avenue or Avenue of the Stars and Santa Monica Boulevard.

Metro tried to make the case that tunneling undergroud is safe and will not effect air quality.
Metro tried to make the case that tunneling underground is safe and will not effect air quality.

Wearing red buttons that read “No Subway Under BHHS” a parade of speakers took to the microphone to castigate the study of the “Constellation Avenue” route and stop.  The most common themes of the testimony were the fear that the pollution that would come from tunneling 50 to 100 feet below the earth’s surface, the feat that the vibrations or construction would cause buildings to sink into the ground or collapse, or that construction would cause a significant impact to the quality of life.  Speakers went out of their way to claim they weren’t N.I.M.B.Y.’s because they liked the routing that took the subway farther away from, uhm, their back yards.

While fear was a staple of the impassioned speeches heard last night from residents, science was not.  Only one speaker, Ken Goldman, bothered to take on Metro’s assertion that the fault line under Santa Monica Boulevard should be considered active.  Metro points to this fault as a reason to tunnel farther south along constellation, but the state doesn’t consider this fault to be active because it will only yield a major earthquake once every 7,000 years.

Another speaker took on Metro’s ridership projections, which show a small bump in ridership if the Constellation Avenue stop is approved.  Kathy Reeves noted that if the .2 miles difference between the proposed Avenue of the Stars stops is the difference maker in choosing the route, than Metro needs to look at the stop planned for Westwood which is a full .8 miles from the UCLA campus.

Other than that, the testimony may have been emotionally satisfying, but is unlikely to produce any change between the Draft EIR and the Final one due next year.  Metro has already studied the air pollution that will be caused by tunneling scores of feet below the ground, and found it to be negligible.  Metro has already weighed in on whether or not they can tunnel safely under Beverly Hills’ residential areas and schools.  Just testifying that one doesn’t believe them isn’t going to change their minds or even merit more than a cursory response.  Goldman and Reeves at least raised valid queries that have to be addressed.

I was also somewhat surprised by the raising of Rosenfeld’s $1.5-billion proposal for two 46-story skyscrapers holding hundreds of condominiums and offices to be built on Avenue of the Stars as a bogeyman.  While they were careful not to mention Rosenfeld by name, the “well heeled developers of Century City,” as Beverly Hills City Councilman John Marsh referred to him, was a constant punching bag.  The argument is that Metro has bowed to political pressure to put the stop near this development to increase its value.  Whether that’s true or not hasn’t been proven at this point, but this argument does little to make a case for a change in environmental studies unless, as Msgr. Thomas Welbern predicted, the towers aren’t built reducing ridership at the stop.

Personally, I agree with the people of Beverly Hills that it makes the most sense to build the Subway stop at Santa Monica and Avenue of the Stars and not on Constellation Avenue.  The Westside Subway is going to be an iconic part of Los Angeles for generations and it should be in a place that will attract maximum visibility and maximum ridership.  How it’s going to do that on lesser used, and lesser known Constellation Avenue, unless we are building a subway stop just for Rosenfeld Towers is beyond me.

But that being said the arguments heard over and over again last night were the environmental hearing equivalent of putting on a mask and yelling “boo” at children and claiming they’ve seen a ghost.  On my way out of the hearing I asked one speaker if she was worried about the impact construction of the subway would have on traffic patterns on Santa Monica Boulevard and got the response that people aren’t that worried because most of the construction would be underground.  That was one of the more logical points I heard from speakers that night.

Update:

A couple of commenters have pointed out that my assertion that the Santa Monica/Avenue of the Stars stop would be the better of the two stops is complete crap.  Here is a google picture of the intersection:

Iconic?
Iconic?

Ok, looking at that picture, I’m not sure what I was thinking.  Point taken everyone.  The subway stop should be at Constellation and Santa Monica.

36 thoughts on Scared of the Subway: Beverly Hills Slams Proposal to Put Subway Under the City (Updated: 1:00 P.M.)

  1. It’s a shame that these people are acting like such NIMBYs because the whole NIMBY smokescreen completely obscures the real question.

    It does seem like putting a station on Santa Monica Boulevard might make sense. I keep hearing how Westfield wants to work with the subway project and I’m curious to see how far that would go. An underground entrance to the shopping center? Turn the mall into a TOD?

  2. I happen to work across the street from the Constellation site. The stop is really not about naming rights — it’ll be the “Century City” stop anyway, not the “Santa Monica Blvd.” stop — but about proximity to potential ridership. My building alone has about 3,000 workers, and within the radius of a long-block there must be 20,000 more. The Constellation site is far-and-away a better choice. And, incidentally, I also happen to live above or near where the tunnels are to be dug in Beverly Hills. I support the Constellation option.

  3. The center of Century City is Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Boulevard…not Avenue of the Stars and Santa Monica boulevard. I disagree that this station will be more “iconic” than any other station. Santa Monica boulevard is a 8 lane superhighway at this intersection..does it make sense to have people take the subway and then cross 8 lanes to their destination! There is nothing north of Santa Monica boulevard, but a golf course. Those people won’t take the subway. We have a chance to build the subway right and it has to be in the center of Century City; not on the outer edge.

  4. I fully agree with LA of Anaheim in that Century City is a critical stop and this station needs to be in the center of it to get full benefit out of it. Damien, I think these NIMBY’s may have gotten to you if you think it should be out on the edge of Century City at SM Blvd.

    The difference between Westwood and Century City is that at Wilshire/Westwood, you are largely in the center of Westwood Village and the large highrises on Wilshire. Also, there will likely be a stop at UCLA on the 405 line that is part of Measure R. For Century City, the SM stop is really just closer to the golf course, so there is no added benefit there. I really hope the MTA does not give in to these people and puts the station in the right place.

  5. There’s no advantage to the location on the congested highway that is Santa Monica Blvd. The Constellation location is surrounded by high-rise office towers and well-trafficked businesses, with or without of this proposed development. Constellation has better proximity to the majority of businesses in Century City. The Santa Monica Blvd. stop has better proximity to a dangerously designed road, a golf course and a neighborhood of single family homes.

    If I were new to the city or a tourist, I’d find that Santa Monica Blvd. location a pretty depressing destination, despite the “iconic” status of the boulevard. Fewer people know Constellation, because fewer people drive on Constellation, but that doesn’t seem like the sort of argument a Livable Streets advocate would promote. You’ll never get traffic calming or nice pedestrian amenities installed on that part of Santa Monica Blvd, but you might stand a chance of getting them on Constellation.

  6. To give Damien the benefit of the doubt, I assume that when he talks about a Santa Monica/Ave of the Stars station he’s thinking it will have a portal on the south side of Santa Monica, which would avoid having to cross 8 lanes/2 light cycles of traffic. Nevertheless, I think that a Constellation station would be ideal. It provides a shorter walk for everyone who works south of Constellation, whereas a Santa Monica station is farther from nearly everything in Century City with the exception of the golf course. I’m assuming very few golfers will be riding the Purple Line.

  7. I’ve seen the update, so I’m not trying to beat a dead horse. But another advantage to Constellation is that if you put it in the middle of Century City, I think you can make a stronger case for taking away car lanes on the unnecessarily wide Avenue of the Stars (6 usually empty driving lanes) in order to put in bike lanes connecting Santa Monica Blvd and it’s bike lanes to Pico Blvd.

  8. I was the one speaker last night who spoke in favor of a Constellation route. And I said that as someone who lives in Beverly Hills within approximately 1000 feet of the route under Beverly Hills Homes that would be required for a Constellation stop. I personally welcome the subway tunnel under the area around where I live, and believe that the Constellation stop makes the most sense, being more accessible to southern Century City workers at Fox studios, Fox Plaza, Century Park, the Medical Centre of Century City, etc. etc. We want to make it as easy as possible for all of these folks to get out of their cars and off our roads, and to take the subway to meetings downtown or to commute home. Not to mention the buildings in Century City have parking for rent – one could imagine a potential park and ride arrangement, even. On the other hand, the Santa Monica Blvd. stop would have Los Angeles Country club fence on one side – ie, no one would come from that side.

  9. Huh. Wow. Okay, so the Constellation location is better. I was looking strictly at the south side of Santa Monica Blvd. and not even thinking about the north side.

    I haven’t seen what sort of design they have in mind for this station. Ought to be plenty of entrances, maybe a few pedestrian tunnels, too.

  10. One other quick correction, it’s Thomas Welbers, not Welbern. I would imagine that there could be direct entrances to the subway from a number of buildings in the area if they did this right.

  11. James,

    Metro has already detailed where the Constellation station will be located and how the portals will be integrated with existing structures in the DEIR. You should seriously consider reading it before commenting further on the subway issue (I read your posts in the other websites too… you seem ill-informed about this station issue but otherwise well informed on transit issues).

    As someone who works (and walks) in Century City, I can’t imagine putting the station any where but at Constellation and Ave of the Stars. The central location is ideal and about equal distance to both Santa Monica Blvd and Pico Blvd. A key consideration here is that 4,000 people work in Fox Studios lot everyday. They are much more likely to take the subway if the station is at Constellation. If you just convince 10% of Fox employees to take the subway, you take 400 cars off the road. That’s 800 less car trips through Beverly Hills. 800 less cars clogging the intersections on Olympic. It will make a significant and noticeable difference.

  12. @bzcat…..no cars will be removed from the streets. It just gives space to 400 more cars. It’s not like New York has “6 million less cars trips”, or Chicago with “1.5 million less car trips”. It just gives more people access to Century City with an alternative method.

  13. Thanks for covering the meeting and we appreciate everyone’s comments here. We’d love to count them “on the record” for the Draft EIS/EIR but we need you to send them to us “officially.” Other than showing up and speaking up at our 1 remaining hearing, here’s how to send them to us:

    1. Go to the website (www.metro.net/westside), go to “Contact Us” on the right hand side of the screen and fill out our online comment form.

    2. Send us an e-mail to WestsideExtension@metro.net.

    3. Send us a letter via US Mail to:
    David Mieger, Project Director
    DEO, Countywide Planning & Development
    Metro
    1 Gateway Plaza, 99-22-5
    Los Angeles, CA 90012

    Thanks,

    Jody Litvak
    Metro Westside Subway Extension Team

  14. @bzcat My apologies if I have offended. Thank you for the link. I have been trying to keep up with the Regional Connector and was not aware that Century City was this far along.

    In general, I feel that subway stations ANYWHERE should have as many entrances as possible (keeping in mind cost and engineering considerations) and with the existing buildings in mind. Integrate subway stations with lobbies, basements, shopping, etc.

    By Los Angeles “big round hole” standards, four entrances (at Constellation) seems like a revolution in design. I approve. *nods*

  15. I support the option to eliminate the station at Wilshire/Rodeo, and instead build a 12-foot-high brick wall around Beverly Hills. To whom do I speak to have this option included in the EIR?

  16. Several homeowners showed up at the Westwood subway meeting I attended last Tuesday. In a similar vein their comments contained lots of angst and emotion, made all the while clutching the outreach materials from Metro that addressed their worries. One lady announced the EIR summary versus the material in the main document had some minor emphasis discrepencies that she acted as if that was a smoking gun of some sort. It was sad spectacle to witness such immature behavior by alleged adults…

  17. The one reason for a Santa Monica Blvd. location I’ve wondered about is for easier transfer to buses heading west on Santa Monica Blvd. toward Westwood, West L.A., and Santa Monica. Comments by others?

    But given that either station location will tunnel under houses between Century City and Westwood, are Beverly Hills homeowners claiming they’re more special than Westwood homeowners?

  18. Also, LA Country Club could, at some point, be redeveloped. Right now any major development would go through approval hell, but at some point the cost/benefit of a development there would be worth it. Basically you need to stop assuming that the green space there will be there permanently.

  19. As a life long Angeleno. I worked and enjoyed the Century City Mall in Highschool along with the cultural attractions over many years. Professionaly as an architect with JFP I worked on 1999 Avenue of the Stars and Fox Plaza. The spectacular arrogance of the auto centric density and planning speaks to another era RIP.
    After reading and contemplating the context of the this discourse it is just plain COMMOM SENSE to locate the station at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars.
    I understand some local trepidation to this albeit the clear overall benefit to the city of the Constellation location clearly trumps the flawed and what increasingly appears self-serving thesis of environmental catastrophe. So what up with the Draft EIR? Apparently chopped liver to some in BH.
    The viability of the Santa Monica Blvd. location is superficial. Looks good on satellite imagery but innefficient to distrbution and service.

  20. David Murphy said:
    “On the other hand, the Santa Monica Blvd. stop would have Los Angeles Country club fence on one side – ie, no one would come from that side.”

    To which I reply:

    Ah yes! But the subway station will put tremendous pressure on finally redeveloping the LACC into a publicly accessible TOD.

    “Falling Down”‘s William “D-Fens” Foster would be very pleased!

    “You should have children playing here, you should have families having picnics, you should have a goddamn petting zoo. But instead you’ve got these stupid electric carts for you old men with nothing better to do.”-quote from movie.

    Keep in mind everyone, that Century City was built to be connected to the planned SR2 Beverly Hills Freeway. It is supposed to be an auto-oriented-development and has been starved by the non-existence of that promised freeway.

    And frankly, if the Westside Subway Extension is somehow stopped, pressure must be put on CalTrans to finally build out that necessary alternative.

  21. P.S. The subway from Century City to Civic Center (and the downtown courthouse) will be packed with lawyers trying to meet filing deadlines.

  22. Everybody: take a minute, write 1-2 sentences stating your preference, and put it in an email to WestsideExtension@metro.net.

    Here, I’ll even write it for you:

    Dear Metro,

    I support the subway.

    Please put the Century City station at Constellation, not at Santa Monica.

    Thank You,

    xxx

    Metro is more interested in numbers of supporters for each option, not how loudly they scream. If all 20 or so people who commented on this board were to send an email, it would have a huge effect.

  23. @Erik G: A bit off topic, but I wonder how much it would cost the city to condemn LACC land. A two acre plot at 10000 Santa Monica (roughly across the street) sold for $110M during the height of the boom; perhaps it would sell for at least $50 million now. I don’t know that the city would have to buy two acres, but whatever the case, it wouldn’t be cheap.

  24. No wonder it’s taking 50 years to build this rail linein LA! I can’t imagine a single politician in LA County that would want to deal with this hell!
    Folks in Beverly Hills, I can understand your concern. But the subway will be over 70 below! The chances of detecting vibrations are minimal. You won’t know it’s there!
    We’re finally starting to build a subway line that we needed 50 years ago! What a concept!
    Let’s plan the stations where the ridership is, not where the NIMBYs want it to be…

  25. What plans are there, if any, to improve walkability within Century City to reach the subway station? I certainly agree with the consensus here that the station should go at the center of gravity for Century City, not on the periphery (that’s a bird in hand for ridership, as opposed to the bird in the bush of maybe sometime redeveloping the country club).

    Century City has sidewalks, but they’re often not very pleasant places to walk along. For most stations on the Westside subway, this doesn’t seem to be that huge an issue, but for Century City it definitely is. Pedestrian improvements are in order.

  26. Even if the LACC is rebuilt as high density development, a Constellation station would still be reasonably effective. Constellation is roughly the same distance from both Pico, the southern end of Century City, and Wilshire, the northern end of this hypothetical redevelopment. Granted that the course extends a bit farther north, but realistically speaking, what are the odds that the entire course would be built as high density? And if it does end up happening, maybe a two stop shuttle/people mover could be built, along with a bridge over Santa Monica à la the one that already exists over Ave. of the Stars.

    Realistically speaking, how likely is it that the LACC will be built over? As long as we’re dealing in hypotheticals, why not consider changing the golf course into a large public park? And while we’re at it, why not build over one of the golf courses on the south side of Century City as well?

  27. It is true that there is nothing north of Santa Monica Blvd. but a golf course. While Santa Monica Blvd. does hold several extremely well used bus lines, and a Purple Line station could have a large bus station where riders could transfer for the journey further east instead of having to board at Westwood and/or VA Hospital, there does remain the problem of the golf course north of Santa Monica.

    Therefore, if that Santa Monica station location is chosen, I would recommend that the city (or county) take that land by eminent domain and build some huge residential skyscrapers (40-50 stories) on that parcel. Right now, the land is extremely underused. The only other good use would be as a public park, but right now only elites get to enjoy it. Skyscrapers in that location would FIT RIGHT IN since they surround the parcel on both sides at Century City and along Wilshire Blvd.

    I think it’s an idea worth considering.

  28. I agree that each station needs to have entrances and exits at each end of the platform and on each side of the street.

    The Consultation location is the right place for the Century City station innless there is a development on the Gulf Corse site equal to Century City and or some kind of a people mover or circulator that would run from the station to serve the many large developments.

    I can sure understand the fear of the bored subway 70 feet below the surface. Look how dangerous the Red Line board subway is for all of the downtown businesses and residents as well as all who live and work above the subway tunnel between Hollywood and North Hollywood. Are they experiencing noise vibration and all of the dangers that this “terrible” tunnel would bring?

  29. Oh, boy. If you think the BH folks have gone wild over the subway going under their homes you have seen nothing if they ever heard even a hint of the sort of development being bandied about in this thread. Oh, boy.

    Beverly Press had an excellent piece recently which gives a flavor of the type of anti anxiety undergirding this reaction in BH. Very westside type of behavior. The article is about parking and restaurants but it illustrates the mind-set that also applies to any construction or development.

    http://parklabreanewsbeverlypress.com/news/2010/09/3rd-street-battle-being-waged/

  30. @LAofAnaheim

    Fox Studios has a maximum cap of vehicle trips per their development agreement with the City and result of lawsuits from the neighborhood homeowners associations. That’s why they are only allowed one main entrance to the studio on Pico: they have to report the number of vehicle trips to the studio lot to the LADOT every quarter. Believe me… they are VERY interested in having 400 employees take the subway instead of driving.

  31. Just to chime it with what others have said here: If your goal is an “iconic” station with “maximum visibility and maximum ridership”, then Constellation is the obvious choice. It’s in the heart of Century City within easy walking distance of all the major destinations. Santa Monica Boulevard, on the other had, is a car-dominated multilane highway, that’s bordered on one side by an exclusionary country club and a forbidding barbed-wire fence.

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