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The Trenching, and the Spin, Go on in Beverly Hills

12:27 PM PST on January 23, 2012

The scene at Beverly Hills High School. Photo: Joel Epstein

Local news outlets in Beverly Hills reported last week that with 80% of the trenching completed on the Beverly Hills Campus that thus far the trenching has found no active faults anywhere on the Beverly Hills campus. The remaining trenching will be completed on the northern part of campus along Heath Avenue.

Before a final report can be read and analyzed it's too soon to say anything definitive about the current study, but that hasn't stopped supporters and opponents of the Westside Subway alignment under the high school from weighing in.

For proponents of the route under the high school, they see victory in the preliminary findings. After all, if there are no faults under ground surrounding the high school, and there are faults along the alternate route on Santa Monica Boulevard, then there's only one sensible place to put the subway...right under the high school.

But the Beverly Hills Unified School District has smartly abandoned the argument that the train should run under Santa Monica Boulevard, recognizing that Metro's report on faults along the Boulevard have insured that Metro won't be tunneling in that area. Rather than arguing for a route away from the High School, the plan is now to either kill the subway or get Metro to pay the school richly for the tunnel.

Because Metro's geologic report found faults inside the Beverly Hills School property the School District is assuming that the value of the property would be appraised lower than what the BHUSD feels it should be and concluded the school would not be able to do any future expansion. Thus, the compensation Metro would owe the school for building the tunnel would be relatively small. However, if Metro was incorrect in assessing the faults, than the compensation to Beverly Hills would be quite a bit larger.

Metro's initial reports actually claim that the tunnel for the subway won't impact the school's expansion plans, but the school district's fears about the tunnel's impacts on their ability to expand has been at the core of their opposition to a route under the high school.

The Beverly Hills Courier, the public relations arm of subway opponents the most read newspaper in Beverly Hills, explains:

The new trenching shows no evidence that the site is impaired for future building. However, if the tunnel is built new construction will be prohibited. The MTA would not only have to pay BHUSD for the impairment, but if the tunnel renders the school site unusable for the future that alone could prohibit MTA from building the tunnel.

When more detailed results are available, Streetsblog will be sure to cover it all. In the meantime, it's become clear that the battle over the subway has reached a new level. It's no longer about routing, but about the survival of the project.

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