The first of several major issue scheduled to be addressed by the Metro Board of Directors was the approval of the environmental documents for the Westside Subway. After the Beverly Hills City Council formerly requested a hearing earlier this week, Metro staff recommended that the Board split approval for the Subway into two parts so that part could be approved today and part could be approved after another hearing was held. The first part would cover the extension from the current Wilshire/Western stop to Wilshire/La Cienega. The route approved would be 3.9 miles of the 8.6 mile route that was proposed by Metro staff.
Despite news that Metro wouldn’t vote on the subway route under Beverly Hills or the location of a Century City station, dozens of speakers from Beverly Hills shared comments that tunneling under the high school would be unsafe and a smaller but still significant number of speakers testified that such a route is perfectly safe and that opposition from Beverly Hills is a waste of time and resources. The majority of the comments addressed the routing through Beverly Hills. Because Metro made clear before testimony that they would not vote on the issues regarding Beverly Hills, we’re not going to cover that part of the conversation.
Support for the Subway was overwhelming among the speakers. Only two speakers spoke out against the proposal to extend the Subway from the Wilshire/Western Intersection all the way to La Cienega Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard. Of the three speakers who spoke against the Subway in general terms, only the Bus Riders Union’s Sunyoung Yang made the case that the Subway was a waste of funds. “There is nothing sustainable or economically justifiable about this project when you are blowing $6 billion on a nine mile project,” concluded Yang. Oddly, Yang’s comments were greeted by applause by many people who previously testified that they supported the subway and transit before hitting on some concerns unrelated to today’s vote.
Other than limited opposition, public testimony kicked off with testimony from three Los Angeles City Council Members who hit on vital points. Councilman Bill Rosendahl noted the long timeline for the project, “It is a total no-brainer to me to get that subway going yesterday, but we’re doing it today and building it tomorrow.” Councilman Paul Koretz noted the strong support in his district for continuing the Subway into Westwood and Century City at a future board vote that could come later this Spring. Councilman Tom LaBonge noted that we are all in this together and that we are all Angelenos when he noted that he and Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents many of the rural areas of L.A. County, share a special bond, “Mike, we went to the same high school.”
What followed were a parade of speakers who all voiced support for the subway. “I support the subway,” most public comments began. Many of these comments went on to discuss matters not related to today’s vote, and I assume the only reason they weren’t ruled out of order was because of their support for the project voiced at the beginning. Others offered unconditional support for the project.
When it came time for the Board to discuss the issue and vote, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky led off with a long discussion of issues not related to today’s vote sprinkled with occasional support for advancing the project as quickly as possible. Board Member Don Knabe clarified with Metro staff that any changes required to the proposed subway route through Beverly Hills would not impact routing to La Cienega Boulevard. Director Richard Katz ended the Board discussion with a call for jobs and mobility.
Public comment took over two and a half hours. The motion passed 11-1.