Bev. Hills Experts Cast Doubt on Metro Report

Beverly Hills Civic Center

(Note, the Beverly Hills Courier points out that they had the story first on Thursday evening despite my call that Patch broke the news. You can read their coverage, here. – DN)

Last Friday, word broke on Patch that a review of the geological studies on the Westside Subway commissioned by the city government of Beverly Hills came to different conclusions than the conclusions authored by Metro’s team of experts.  Exponent-Failure Analysis Associates concludes in the executive summary that:

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In summary, it is Exponent’s opinion that additional effort is needed to accurately identify,  quantify, rank and mitigate the potential hazards posed by the proposed Westside Subway  Extension Project before one of the two presented alternatives, or a third alternative, are selected  for implementation.

A more detailed analysis of the 70 page study (available here) can be heard at tomorrow’s “Study Session” of the Beverly Hills City Council.  Those that don’t want to wait for tomorrow’s presentation can seemingly engage with City Councilman John Mirisch on the validity of the study by commenting on the Patch article.

Predictably, any action by either side in the on-going grudge match between advocates of the Westside Subway and government representatives in Beverly Hills was met with praise from one side and scorn from the other.  As both sides attempt to work through the other sides’ writings here are a few suggestions.

First: Let’s Agree That Neither Metro’s Experts nor Exponent Consulting Are on the Take

Somehow, it seems to have become a slur for expert geologists, seismologists and engineers to get paid to do studies or give opinions.  First, the NUMBY’s slurred Metro’s experts as being on the take, a charge that went all the way to the pages of L.A. Weekly.  But in return, subway-friendly publications made the exact same charge against Exponent.

Let’s say this, it’s highly unlikely that Metro’s distinguished review panel, which includes Dr. Lucy Jones, a federal employee not compensated for her work, or a publicly traded company that relies on a reputation as non-biased evaluators would risk their reputations for one project.

I’ll admit, that when I read the Patch article on Friday, my first reaction was “of course it says that the Metro report is flawed,” but fortunately I took the weekend to take a beat.  My assumption that the report is flawed because of who paid for it is just as uninformed as the comment from the Unified School District’s Board Chair article assuming the Metro study is based on bad data.

It’s certainly not unheard of for experts to disagree.  Saying “our experts are unbiased researchers; but their experts are bought and paid for” doesn’t really say anything.

Second: Beverly Hills Has the Right to Put Metro Studies Under Thorough Review

Whether they’re concerned about the impacts during construction, the rattling that could be caused by an active subway or whether it “just doesn’t feel right to dig under our school,” as one columnist offered; the City of Beverly Hills can and should submit every study to rigorous review.  At the same time, opponents of digging a tunnel under the school should wait until Metro has a chance to review the review before deciding that Metro’s studies are flawed.

Exponent had three months to review Metro’s documents, it’s only fair to give Metro a chance to review what Exponent wrote.

Third: The Back and Forth Is Going to Get Worse Before It Goes to Court

This is just speculation on my part, but I would posit that whenever the environmental reports are released by Metro that the public relations spin on both sides won’t deviate from what’s already been said.  I’ll also speculate that this whole thing is going to be determined by a court, not by geologic experts or Metro itself.  Judges tend to look down on super-heated rhetoric so it behooves everyone to remain calm.

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