Brown’s AEG Bill Could Help Westside Subway Avoid Lawsuit Delays

I know I promised that we weren’t going to cover the fight over the Westside Subway routing debate until there was actual news, but the Subway won a huge victory earlier this week, and almost nobody noticed.

Changes to CEQA to protect Farmers Field from lengthy environmental challenges will also apply to the Westside Subway.

In paragraph 7 of the Daily News article on the signing of new CEQA legislation, Senator Alex Padilla (D-Van Nuys) notes that a new law will allow for expedited legal review for any lawsuits filed against the subways environmental documents.

That’s right, Assembly Bill  900, the companion bill to  SB 292 which gives Farmers Field protection against legal chalenges, provide the same protection to ANY project costing more than $100 million.  Thus, any lawsuit filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) against the Westside Subway will go directly to the Court of Appeals and be heard within 175 days.  I’m sure the Expo Construction Authority is jealous.

“The subway is a natural from a job-creation standpoint, from an investment standpoint, from an emission reduction and air quality standpoint,” said Senator Alex Padilla, the author of SB2 292, to the Daily News.

The reaction of the Beverly Hills School District, which has filed lawsuits concerning public records request before the environmental documents are even released, was not a happy one.  The School District has been gearing up for a legal challenge against the Subway’s environmental documents because they assume the Environmental Impact Report will claim that a route running underneath Beverly Hills High School will be safer and carry more passengers than a route that doesn’t run under the high school.

I spoke with Aaron Curtiss with the public relations firm Sitrick and Company who emailed me an official response from the School District, “Taxpayers are being asked to spend billions of dollars on a subway designed to serve Southern California for the next century, and a public project of this magnitude deserves careful, deliberate review in a transparent process. The Westside Subway Extension is too important a project to shortchange future generations.”

I expect we’ll be hearing a variation of this argument a lot in the coming years.