Fearless Prediction: Metro Will Approve the Westside Subway Route under Beverly Hills High School

Update at 1 p.m.: As predicted, the Metro Board has voted 7-to-2 to approve the Constellation Station for the Westside Subway with a routing under Beverly Hills High School. More details at The Source.

As mentioned earlier, I won’t be attending or listening to today’s Metro Board Meeting or the Special Hearing on the Westside Subway because I will be traveling.  However, after four years of public outreach, including a pair of three hour meetings in the last month, I don’t think I need to be there.

You really think this guy doesn't have his ducks in a row? Me neither. Image: L.A. Weekly

Fearless prediction: this afternoon, the Metro Board of Directors will vote to approve a subway alignment that runs from a station at Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard to a station at Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars–and the route will run underneath Beverly Hills High School.  Sometime in June, I’ll write a story about the City of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District suing the agency arguing that they did not meet state environmental laws when examining the subway route.

The approval will follow hours of public testimony.  There will not be any videos played.

Why am I so confident?  Simple math.  Unless a Board Member votes out of character, there are seven votes “in the bag,” which is a majority of the board.  There is one vote that is a certain “no.” There are five votes that are in some question.

First the “no.”  At last month’s board meeting, Supervisor Mike Antonovich voted against even the extension of the existing subway to La Cienega Boulevard, four miles from the current end at Wilshire/Western.  Antonovich’s other public statements point towards another “no” tomorrow.

Next, the “yeses.”  Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is almost certainly a supportive vote.  With his support comes the support of his three appointees, Mel Wilson, Richard Katz and Councilman Jose Huizar.  Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky is a certain supporter.  Diane Dubois voted for the route in committee.  However, there is a real chance that she will miss today’s meeting for personal reasons.

If Dubois is present, then a majority is nearly assured without the support of any other board members.  If it’s not assured, then the Subway route needs one more supporter from the five remaining votes.

Of the five remaining Board Members, four voted for “Phase I” of the Subway Extension (from Western Ave. to La Cienega Blvd.) last month.  Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas abstained from the vote and opponents of the route are counting on a “no” vote from him.  Another “no” that many assume is coming comes from Supervisor Gloria Molina, a long time critic of Metro’s environmental policies and safety record.

If both of those people vote “no” and Dubois is not present, that leaves Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian, Duarte City Councilman John Fasana and Supervisor Don Knabe.  Even if Fasana and Knabe join their Republican comrade Mike Antonovich and both vote no, and Ridley-Thomas and Molina vote no for their own reasons, that still leaves a 6-5 vote with Ara Najarian remaining.

If this perfect storm of Subway opposition were to come to pass, the real winner would be Najarian who has been on a crusade to stop the 710 Big Dig project from going forward.  To stop that project, he’s going to need the support of the City of Los Angeles generally, and the support of Councilman Huizar in particular as Huizar represents communities that will be impacted by the freeway expansion project.

To put it simply, the charges of cronyism and corruption have made this project to personal for Villaraigosa and Yaroslavsky.  If the “perfect storm of opposition” comes together–and I think there’s about a one0-in-ten chance it does–then they’ll horse trade to get Najarian on board.  Worst case scenario, I predict, for subway backers is a 7-5-1 vote in favor of moving forward with the alignment to Constellation and Avenue of the Stars.  I don’t think it will be that close, but I’d be stunned if the vote goes the other way.

Of course, the odds that the Metro Board has the final say, and not a judge or panel of judges, is awfully small itself.  Nevertheless, there will be joy from subway backers and frustration from those in Beverly Hills before today is over.

P.S. – I’m not sure how the vote on locking the fare gates is going to go.  It depends how long the Beverly Hills/Westside Subway debate goes on.  It will either be passed or postponed.  Even though I have yet to meet one person (although Streetsblog does have at least one commenter) that doesn’t work for Cubic, Metro or the Sheriffs office who thinks gate-locking is a good idea, there seems to be nothing that can stop Metro’s embrace of a locked fare gate system, no matter what the cost.

P.P.S. – While I’m predicting: Devils over Kings in 7.