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Posts from the Beverly Hills Category


With Legal Challenges Completed, What’s Next in Beverly Hills Subway Drama

Late Friday afternoon, I was already at a dinner meeting when I heard the news. Metro announced that the most recent, and likely last, lawsuit against the Purple Line Subway Extension under Beverly Hills has been completed.

We agree. Pull quote via ## Hills Weekly Issue 808##

We agree. Pull quote via Beverly Hills Weekly Issue 808

Despite some testy language against the transit agency and the Federal Transit Agency which approved the project, the ruling is a clear victory for Metro. The FTA’s record of decision, already upheld by one federal court, stands and the agency can move forward with securing funds to complete the project. The agency will have to redo some of its studies, but it should not impact the final timeline. Beverly Hills interests may appeal, but in the meantime, Metro can award contracts and get construction underway.

Metro wasted little time declaring victory at its news outlet The Source and vowed to continue its work on the project. The future for Beverly Hills is a little more uncertain.

In a case of bad timing, last week the Beverly Hills Unified School District voted to place a bond measure on the fall ballot to fund new construction at its high school. The current bond measure has not resulted in as much construction as originally promised, in part because the District’s legal expenses are among the highest in the U.S., on a per-student basis. From Beverly Hills Weekly (Issue 880):

According to research conducted by Board of Education Vice President Mel Spitz last December, comparative school districts spend $65 per student on legal fees, whereas the BHUSD spends $478.

BHUSD legal fees for the 2015-16 fiscal year totaled $3.2 million.

It also seems unlikely that Metro will be forced to pay for BHUSD’s legal fees, as boardmembers for the School District had promised in previous years. Read more…


Opinion: The Autonomous Future of Public Transportation


Mirisch asserts that autonomous vehicles can do more than just solve Metro’s first and last mile challenge. Google’s prototype autonomous vehicle – photo by Michael Shick via Wikipedia

Applications within public transportation for driverless vehicle technology should be much more than an afterthought. Yet public transit agencies seem to be slow to recognize the potential of autonomous vehicles (AVs) which could literally revolutionize how we think about and use public transportation.

Fortunately, cities around the U.S. are starting to understand the technology’s potential. At this week’s U.S. Conference of Mayors, the assembled mayors from around the country unanimously adopted a resolution I authored to support the integration of AV technology within public transportation. Transit agencies please take note.

At the beginning of last year I proposed for Beverly Hills to work towards developing a Municipal Autonomous Shuttle System (with the nifty acronym MASS), which the city would own and operate, to address our local transit needs. This April our Council unanimously approved a resolution to move forward, and we are now actively pursuing development of our own AV-based local transportation system. The hyper-local solutions which could work in our city would also have much broader applications in a variety of diverse communities throughout the nation.

Public transportation is generally a second-class form of transportation in the L.A. region. You don’t use it unless you have to, and if you have to, you have to go to great pains to adapt to the system. We propose turning that paradigm on its head and developing a system which adapts to the needs of the commuter. Our aim is to develop a first-choice system of public transportation.

Among various applications within public transportation, autonomous vehicle technology could provide an ideal solution to the “first and last mile challenge,” increasing usage of new and pre-existing rail trunk lines and making public transportation a more effective and convenient option for many residents.

A municipal autonomous shuttle system would provide on-demand, point-to-point service for commuters throughout the city or any defined local area. It would take cars of the streets and in so doing would a) reduce traffic and b) save lives. But just as importantly it would increase mobility and serve the function which transit agencies, with their multi-billion dollar budgets, are actually supposed to fulfill.

A MASS system would also allow almost seamless connectivity to existing rail lines, while making public transportation a particularly attractive option for relatively short, local trips. While investment in our road infrastructure has been heavily criticized by certain transit advocates who would prefer for funding to be spent on fixed (and expensive) rail lines, the ability of an autonomous vehicle shuttle system to take full advantage of our road system in providing increased mobility means that road upgrades have been – perhaps unwittingly – one of the best transportation investments we could ever have made.

Why Beverly Hills?

Not only do we want to continue to be on the cutting edge when it comes to applications of technology within municipal government (our own municipal fiber-to-premises project is scheduled to roll out later this year, providing municipal high-speed connectivity to all of our businesses and residents), but we have our own “first and last mile challenge,” which our countywide transit agency has indicated no interest in helping us solve.  Read more…


Today’s Beverly Hills vs. Metro Subway Court Hearing Inconclusive

Early version of possible Purple Line Subway alignments studied through Beverly Hills. Image via Metro

Early version of possible Purple Line Subway alignments through Beverly Hills. Image via Metro

At a federal court hearing this morning, attorneys for Beverly Hills and Metro clashed, but did not arrive at any conclusive outcome. It appears that Metro will likely need to do some additional environmental review (a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement or SEIS) before proceeding with construction on phase 2 of the Purple Line Subway extension, which is planned to tunnel below the city of Beverly Hills with stations in Beverly Hills and Century City.

The plaintiffs include the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District. The defendants include Metro and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). For the purposes of this article, SBLA simplifies the parties to “Beverly Hills” against “Metro.”

The deadlock outlined in SBLA’s February explainer remain. The lawsuit primarily centers on Beverly Hills’ criticism of Metro’s decision to relocate the planned Century City stop from Santa Monica Boulevard to Constellation Boulevard. Metro studied various subway alignments, and chose to place the Century City station at the intersection of Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars. Though Constellation and Santa Monica are one block apart, Metro found that Santa Monica Boulevard would not work due to earthquake faults. The Constellation alignment necessitates tunneling under Beverly Hills High School.

Judge George H. Wu preliminarily sided with Beverly Hills, finding that Metro’s subway environmental studies (Environmental Impact Statement EIS) did not fulfill all the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). In order to comply with NEPA requirements, Metro will likely need to do additional environmental review (a SEIS.)

Metro and Beverly Hills continue to be far from settling the legal dispute.  Read more…

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L.A. and Santa Monica Finalize Terms For Venice Bike-Share Stations

Hulu and CycleHop are businesses that made Breeze bike-share happen.

Breeze bike-share expansion took a couple of steps forward this week. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday, The Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee approved terms for five Breeze bike-share stations to be located in the L.A. City neighborhood of Venice. Full details are available in the staff report [PDF] for council file 16-0176.

The Santa Monica City Council approved a similar agreement earlier this week. At that meeting, the Santa Monica City Council approved the five-station expansion into Venice. As part of that decision, the Santa Monica approved adding up to an additional 15 stations in the future. There are still a few more approvals necessary, including the full L.A. City Council and the Coastal Commission, but it appears that Breeze bike-share is on track for welcome near-Santa Monica expansion.

The five planned Venice locations are expected to be:

  • Venice Boulevard at Abbot Kinney Boulevard
  • California Avenue at Abbot Kinney Boulevard
  • Windward Plaza (where Windward Avenue ends at Venice Beach)
  • Ocean Front Walk at Rose Avenue
  • Rose Avenue at 5th Street

These locations may change somewhat as final approvals and permitting processes get underway.

In other L.A. County bike-share news:  Read more…


Preliminary Federal Ruling Sides With Beverly Hills Against Metro Subway

Early version of possible Purple Line Subway alignments studied through Beverly Hills. Image via Metro

Early map of potential Purple Line subway alignments studied through Beverly Hills. Image via Metro

Last week, United States District Judge George Wu issued a ruling [PDF] in Beverly Hills’ legal battles against Metro’s plans to tunnel the Purple Line subway beneath Beverly Hills High School.

The Beverly Hills Courier portrayed the ruling as a victory for Beverly Hills in that Judge Wu chided subway proponents for “not properly considering the environmental effects of running a tunnel through an area riddled with abandoned oil wells and pockets of potentially explosive methane gas.”

Though the judge sided with Beverly Hills, agreeing that the subway environmental studies did not fulfill all the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the decision is more of a split ruling with some of Beverly Hills’ winning points more nitpicky than substantive.

There are a couple of lawsuits with multiple parties involved. The plaintiffs include the city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District. The defendants include Metro and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). For the purposes of this article, SBLA simplifies the parties to “Beverly Hills” against “Metro.”

The ruling last week is in the federal court case; Metro won the state court case last year.

The lawsuit primarily centers on Beverly Hills’ criticism of Metro’s decision to relocate the planned Century City stop from Santa Monica Boulevard to Constellation Boulevard.

Metro studied numerous subway alignments, and ultimately chose a route that places the Century City station at the intersection of Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars. Though Constellation and Santa Monica are one block apart, Metro found that Santa Monica Boulevard would not work due to earthquake faults. The Constellation alignment effectively necessitates tunneling under Beverly Hills High School.

All in all, Beverly Hills raised nine issues where it asserted that Metro’s environmental studies (Environmental Impact Statement – EIS) failed to meet NEPA requirements. The court sided with Beverly Hills on half of those issues. In effect, though, Beverly Hills effectively only needs to prevail on one issue to find that Metro failed NEPA.

The conclusion of the 217-page ruling [PDF] reads:

The Court concludes that [Metro] failed its disclosure/discussion obligations … in connection with [Beverly Hills’] comments concerning the effects of tunneling through gassy ground and the risk of explosions; that it failed its disclosure obligations regarding incomplete information concerning seismic issues; and that it should have issued [additional environmental studies]. The Court also concludes that [Metro] failed to properly assess “use” of [Beverly Hills] High School under [recreational land law] due to the planned tunneling. In all other respects, the Court rules in favor of [Metro].

Metro, via spokesperson Dave Sotero, issued a statement on the ruling:

After a thorough review, Metro concludes that Judge Wu’s tentative rulings uphold the approved plans to build the Century City subway station at Constellation and to tunnel safely beneath Beverly Hills High School. Some of the findings are procedural, requiring the FTA to perform additional environmental analysis and provide a further opportunity for public comment. The majority of extensive environmental work was deemed sound. If the ruling holds, Metro will support FTA in meeting these additional procedural requirements. Time is of the essence. Any significant delay resulting from this case could jeopardize the timely delivery of this critically important transit project for all L.A. County residents.

After the jump are summaries of the nine specific areas of dispute in the lawsuit. Following those are possible next steps in the case.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: LADOT Express Bus Service to Beverly Hills

Michael Fleming has been advocating for LADOT’s Commuter Express bus service to add a stop to service Beverly Hills for years. When LADOT gave him the best New Year’s present of all, a bus stop just blocks from his office, he excitedly snapped this picture to share with the world.

Photo: Michael Fleming

Photo: Michael Fleming

Commuter Express #534 will now be stopping at Olympic Blvd. and Beverly Drive on its existing east-west route. The stop already served the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus and Metro buses. However, the new stop allows easy access for Beverly Hills’ residents who want a quick trip to Downtown Los Angeles. Learn more about the line at its webpage.

Trial runs of the new service were considered successful earlier this week, but so far not many people know the stop has been added outside of those who already visit the bus stop or are regular watchers of the LADOT transit services website. Maybe the media in Beverly Hills can help spread the word if they’re not too busy maligning bicyclists trying to make the streets safer.

Note: Michael Fleming is executive director of the David Bohnett Foundation, a major sponsor of Streetsblog Los Angeles.


Hating on Metro Part of the Curriculum at Beverly Hills High School

In August of 2012, Beverly Hills Highlights, the award-winning student newspaper at Beverly Hills High School, editorialized that the crusade run by the school district’s Board of Directors (BHUSD) against the subway was an expensive waste of time. After reading such a sober and well-thought-out argument, the school district leaders couldn’t help but reconsider their decision-making procedures. After all, if the students, the very people they professed to serve, were so disillusioned as to rebuke the Board publicly, the Board needed to change its ways.

I’m only kidding. They acted like spoiled children, bullied their employees, and threatened to cut funding for the newspaper staff to take a trip that would further their journalism careers.

There was one lesson learned from the editorial debacle: it’s bad for the image of school district leadership to be lectured on their fever dreams by their students.

Two years later, attacking the regionally popular-everywhere-except BHUSD and Beverly Hills Courier editorial pages Westside Subway Extension is now part of the curriculum. Witness “Why We Fight,” a film series (only the first is available online at the moment) produced by students as part of a class but starring Lewis Hall, a Governing Board Member of the BHUSD, with facts provided by Hall and Tim Buresh, a consultant for the District.

The students did a great job with the presentation of the video. The graphics are clear and easy to follow. The video is clear and well-edited. Good job.

The adults didn’t do as well. Read more…


A Plea to Beverly Hills: Give Up the Anti-Subway PR Campaign

Metro ## this picture to Facebook## of the shovels ready for today's groundbreaking ceremony.

Metro posted this picture to Facebook of the shovels ready for today’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Today is a great day for L.A. County. After decades of stalling, Metro is finally breaking ground on the Westside Subway extension from Wilshire/Western to Westwood.

Well, maybe it is not a good day for everyone. The NUMBY’s (that would be “Not UNDER”) in Beverly Hills are still so upset about the subway, they are still crusading against a train route that’s now already under construction.

Having exhausted the $3 million budgeted to fight the planned route of the Westside Subway extension of the Purple Line, the Beverly Hills Unified School District decided last month to double down.Perhaps buoyed by the pandering of Supervisor-Elect Sheila Kuehl, the BHUSD voted to allocate another $3 million (up to $6 million) in school construction bonds to wage a public relations, legal and political war of attrition against Metro.

Source: BH Weekly.

Source: BH Weekly.

So here’s a plea to the BHUSD. Give up. It’s over. The subway route is going to run under a portion of the Beverly Hills High School Campus. Please, stop spending Measure E construction bond funds to fight the subway. You’re just throwing your money away. It would be one thing if this were just about the legal fees needed to reach a settlement with Metro, which seems closer now than ever, but a lot of that money is also going to the communications firms to help smear the subway and alarm residents.

While I make this plea, I know it’s going to do zero good. The Chair of the School Board, David Goldberg, thinks the tunnel is going to endanger students. Despite being shut-down in court thus far, he also thinks that the School District will eventually be reimbursed its legal fees after its eventual victory. Here’s an excerpt from his fiery email defending the spending:

“By not fighting MTA, we will be taking tens of millions of dollars earmarked for classroom improvements and instead spending those dollars to reinforce foundations to striatal tunnels running under instructional buildings,” Goldberg writes.

Metro has publicly committed to mitigations in the EIS/EIR, but the exact amount of funding for other damage has yet to be negotiated. Because there are legal questions involved with BHUSD’s never-ending lawsuit, nobody is going to talk to a reporter about what Metro will and won’t commit to pay for after construction is completed. Even legal mediation can go awry.

Measure E is a $334 million construction bond proposal passed in 2008, ironically the same election as the County-wide sales tax Measure R which made the subway possible. Read more…


Kuehl Earns Courier Endorsement for Opposing Subway Route, Shriver and Duran Respond (Update: Kuehl Touts Transit Bonafides, Says She Will Not Hold Up Subway)

(Update: This is a first. The Courier didn’t get one thing wrong in its editorial, it got two things wrong.

Sheila Kuehl has responded. The full text of which is available at the end of the story. The highlight: “I strongly support fully building the Purple Line and never said anything indicating I would take any action, ever, to stop the project. That’s pure fantasy on someone’s part.”)

This morning, in the announcement of its endorsements of the County Supervisor’s Race in SD3 to replace Zev Yaroslavsky, the austere Beverly Hills Courier dropped a bombshell: both of the supposed leading candidates for Supervisor, former State Senator Sheila Kuehl and Santa Monica City Councilmember Bobby Shriver were opposed to the currently planned subway route under Beverly Hills High School.

Shriver at the  Audi Best Buddies Challenge: Washington, D.C. on October 20, 2012. Photo: ## Morigi/Getty Images##

Shriver at the Audi Best Buddies Challenge: Washington, D.C. on October 20, 2012. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Knowing the Courier’s uneven relationship with the truth (run a text search for my name) when it comes to the Subway, we researched the positions of both candidates. For Kuehl it was easy, the specifics offered by the Courier and discussion on social media from some supporters (who asked not to be quoted in this story) made it clear she is supporting the people opposed to a route under Beverly Hills High School, even if it means killing the project, robbing their children, or making accusations in a way that makes everyone giggle. (Update: While the Courier’s editorial certainly made it seem this was Kuehl’s position, she says that is not so. Again, see below.)

And for this (update: imaginary) stance, Kuehl was honored with the endorsement of the Courier. But Shriver didn’t even get that for siding with the subway obstructers. It turns out there was a good reason for that. Santa Monica Next editor Jason Islas contacted Shriver’s office and received the following statement. Shriver is unapologetically not in favor of moving the Subway route to a more dangerous route with lower projected ridership.

Shriver stated in an email:

“My position has always been not to interfere with the settlement negotiations that are part of the current litigation.  Read more…


Bike Lane Plan in Beverly Hills Takes a Strange Turn

Update: 929 pm – When the consultants called the 16′ travel lanes “shared lanes,” I assumed they meant that the lanes would have Sharrows. I was wrong. They’re just proposing two 16′ mixed use lanes, which under state law cyclists have to stay to the right in.

Bicyclists, both those that live in Beverly Hills and those that bike through it, are hoping that a Blue Ribbon Commission that was formed to discuss the redesign of Santa Monica Boulevard will finally create the backbone of a bicycling network in Beverly Hills. However, a new report by consultants hired by the city makes that outcome less likely. The report was released just days before the Blue Ribbon Committee meets for the last time tomorrow to make recommendations to the City Council.

Design-concepts-stackIn truth, this wasn’t supposed to be a debate about bicycle lanes. The Commission’s goal was to redesign the street with an attractive median and not impact mixed-use traffic flow. When the consultants returned with a plan to change the road design so that there would be a planted median with two twelve foot travel lanes on each side, Mark Elliott, the organizer of Better Bike Beverly Hills who sits on the committee noted that the design could create problems for car drivers, as bicyclists would take the lane (as they are allowed to under state law) and cars would have to wait or pass them.

The widening of Santa Monica Boulevard has been controversial, but with safe passing and vehicle speed issues on the table, the city seemed willing to reconsider.  All of a sudden, bike lanes were on the table again.

“The reconstruction of Santa Monica Boulevard is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to remake our signature corridor as a multimodal complete street. But that wasn’t on the table when the city began this process,” writes Elliott. “Were it not for our dogged support for multi-modal mobility and the support of riders, this corridor would simply remain a motor corridor like it is today.”

Elliott led a pretty impressive media campaign, getting published in all of the myriad of media sources available in Beverly Hills. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition also got involved, writing letters to the City Council and encouraging people to attend the three public hearings held on the street design. The first two meetings were dominated by bicycling advocates. The third is tomorrow night.

But just when it seemed that bicycle lanes would finally be added to the mix, the city’s consultants released their own recommended plan for city action.  The recommended plan does call for the widening of Santa Monica Boulevard, but oddly does not include bicycle lanes. Instead, the consultants outlined a plan for a 16 foot lane on the outside of the right of way.

In other words: a controversial road widening is doable. But bicycle lanes? What are we, Culver City? Read more…