As Metro Wraps Up Public Outreach on Westside Subway, Beverly Hills Readies for a Fight

A "protest sign" via Century City Subway/Facebook

Last week, battle lines were drawn between the City of Beverly Hills, the Beverly Hills Unified School District and Metro over the location and routing of the Westside Subway. While Metro held a series of public meetings to show the results of their environmental studies, the last of the three hearings turned into a sort of rally against the project in Beverly Hills. For those scoring at home, Streetsblog has the highlights from last week.

A Tale of Two Studies:

In short hand, journalists often refer to opposition “from Beverly Hills” when discussing opponents of the current proposed route for the Westside Subway.  In truth, there are two government bodies, Beverly Hills Unified School District and the City of Beverly Hills (City Council, Mayor and staff,) that are waging separate campaigns against the tunneling project.  There does appear to be some coordination between the two, but they are also acting independently.

The Beverly Hills Unified School District paid for their own “deep bore” study of faults underneath the Beverly Hills High School.  The conclusions of that study will be unveiled in the next two weeks.

The City of Beverly Hills paid for a pair of reports analyzing the Geological studie by Metro that states that a station at Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City is unsafe and one at Avenue of the Stars and Constellation Avenue is not.  The second route requires tunneling under a portion of the Beverly Hills High School Campus.  One report is by Exponen, the other is by Shannon and Wilson.  Metro has copies of both reports and is “working on a response.”

The first report, by Shannon and Wilson, questions Metro’s methodology, but basically says that tunneling under the high school shouldn’t be a problem.  This report was not released with a lot of fanfare:

Tunneling Beneath Beverly Hills High School – The proposed tunnel crown is approximately  50 to 70 feet below the existing ground surface along the BHHS campus. The tunnel is therefore  not likely to directly impact the campus facilities (as we understand their current use). The  proposed BHHS underground parking garage could be constructed above the tunnel to a  maximum depth of about 30 to 50 feet below grade, leaving at least 20 feet of undisturbed soil  above the tunnels. Risks associated with ground loss during construction, vibrations during  construction and operation, and hazards from methane and other gasses should be mitigated by  the design and plans and specifications for the project.

The Beverly Hills Courier announced the results of Exponent’s review in its understated style, blaring “Complete Exponent Review of MTA Study – Independent Experts Rip MTA as “Simplistic, Inadequate, Failed.”  The Exponent Study, available here, goes through Metro’s reports and repeatedly asks further questions and calls for longer and greater study of the risks involved tunneling under a high school or anywhere near fault lines.  Here’s a quick sample of the report:

Given the list and nature of identified hazards, it is clear that the incremental risk from tunneling  under the BHHS is non-zero. It is not clear why the Metro-commissioned reports fail to  quantify or even qualitatively characterize this increased risk level to demonstrate risk  acceptability. Without quantification and comparison of potential risks for both the alternative tunnel alignment options (Constellation Boulevard or Santa Monica Boulevard), it is not  possible to make a sound assessment and decide as to which alternative tunnel alignment option  imposes a higher risk and which risk mitigation measures may be appropriate.

Perhaps the Metro staff or consultants have prepared such risk assessments and do have a basis  to conclude that the “risks associated with tunneling under the [Beverly Hills] High School,  including but not limited to the following: risk of settlement, noise, vibration, risks from oil  wells on the property, impact to use of the school as an emergency evacuation center, and  overall risk to student faculty and community” are indeed low, but simply have not provided the  City or Exponent with the detailed risk assessment reports from such studies.

New Assembly Member Will Oppose Subway Under the High School

The "new" 50th

Currently, Beverly Hills’ Assembly Member is Mike Feuer, who is leaving his post in Sacramento to run for City Attorney.  Even if he were staying, redistricting has put Beverly Hills in a new Assembly District, the 50th, which doesn’t have an incumbent Assemblyman.  All four of the major candidates were on the radio in Beverly Hills last week.  All four vowed to oppose any subway alignment running underneath Beverly Hills High School.

Patch reports:

Democrats Betsy Butler, Torie Osborn, Richard Bloom and Republican Brad Torgan all appeared on the program Inside Beverly Hills, a public affairs show produced by the Beverly Hills city government. The program is hosted by local journalist Rudy Cole, who told Patch that he asked the candidates their views on Metro’s plans to tunnel under BHHS as part of the Westside Subway Extension.

“All four candidates agreed that the subway route should not go under the high school,” Cole said.

Legislators can always create mischief for projects they don’t like, so it’s possible that going from the pro-Subway Feuer to an Assemblyman against the currently proposed route could make trouble for Metro in the short- and long-term.  However, it’s also possible that the Assemblyman does little except write letters stating his position.  The next step is to ask each candidate how they would oppose the subway route, if at all.

Public Meeting in Beverly Hills Turns Into Anti-Subway Rally

I wasn’t at the Beverly Hills public meeting displaying the environmental study of the Westside Subway, but both Patch and the Beverly Hills Courier were.

Both articles are similar.  Both describe efforts by Lili Bosse to have a question and answer session with project manager David Mieger.  Both describe chanting crowds peppering Metro officials with sloganeering.  All describe a walkout after Bosse was denied a chance to continue her Question and Answer session after using it to score political points against Metro.

The format of the meetings has been under attack with the muckraking Courier claiming that Metro “silenced” Beverly Hills by having a series of displays set up for people to interact with staff instead of a traditional “public hearing” style where people can talk into a microphone to a room full of people.

When I last visited a hearing on the Westside Subway in Beverly Hills, the sense of anger at Metro for their route was palpable with some of the comments making little sense while others provided food for thought.  While the messaging is a lot more slick than it was in 2010, there are a lot of angry people in Beverly Hills and they are ready for a long battle if need be.  Heck, just read the comments section at Patch if you want to see how animated Beverly Hills residents are about this issue.

  • Mmatasc

    That comments section thread is awesome. Can’t believe the two biggest BH detractors are duking it out with anonymous commenters :)

  • “Schools and Subways Do Not Mix?” How ironic it is that the next station after Century City will serve UCLA…

    “Schools and Subways Do Not Mix?” I guess L.A. City College never got the memo. Heck, they’re moving the front entrance of their campus right next to the station portal…

    “Schools and Subways Do Not Mix?” Looks like Koreatown’s Young Oak Kim Academy, built on top of the Wilshire/Vermont station and doing quite fine, is DOOMED! DOOMED, I TELL YA!

    One thing’s for sure, you can’t spell “bitch” without the letters “BH.”

  • Dan W.

    Sometimes I wonder if half the issue is just ego and pride.  “Don’t you know who we are?  We’re Beverly Hills…”

  • Alexander The Great

    This is probably the most laughable, nonsensical comment I’ve heard “Schools and Subways do not mix”. I wish those individuals, who created this phrase, would think for just a second, what kind of nonsense they are saying!
    Sorry, but only a complete bonehead would say that schools and subways do not mix. The fact that more kids (and adults) die from car-related injuries – is somethign that BHUSD will never comprehend.
    Beverly Hills have revealed their true self, what it consists of, the NIMBY’ism, lack of any (!) knowledge of public transit, and their ultimate arrogance, selfishness towards creating mobility in City of Los Angeles.
    Shame on Beverly Hills for their wrong, pathetic actions.

  • Rick Risemberg

    Subways and nearly everything mix. In New York London, Tokyo, Paris, Buenos Aires, Moscow, San Francisco, and nearly every other major (and many minor) cities, subways run under schools, offices, condos, homes, skyscrapers et al with no problem whatsoever.

    After the Loma Prieta earthquake up north, BART was the only form of transportation operating within four hours of the quake except for bicycles and shoes.

    Must be something in the water in BH…affects the brain.

  • We’re seeing a few RICH, ARROGANT BEVERLY HILLS RESIDENTS using their monetary leverage to influence a public service that unfortunately doesn’t even apply to
    most of them.  I highly doubt ANY of these people will even use the subway even if it came to their front door.

  • Anonymous

    Metro needs to forget about Beverly Hills High School.
    I do believe a tunnel under BHHS would not be dangerous as Metro has said.
    However, I also believe a tunnel under the school would mean the land would not be as safe as it was before.
    Also, the school may need to build, rebuild or expand in the future to meet the needs of the school, its students and the city.
    A tunnel would make those future endeavors much harder if not impossible.
    Because our children come first, the tunnel needs to be built elsewhere.

    George Vreeland Hill

  •  Are you fucking retarded?  Land above a subway is MORE STABLE than before!!!  The reinforcements are out of this world.

  • LAofAnaheim

    Wow, a Beverly Hills funded report has the following conclusion about Santa Monica v. Constellation: Hey Patch, can you please detail this study?
    From the Shannon & Wilson report prepared for Beverly Hills: “In summary, we agree with the conclusions of the Fault Report that the Constellation Stationlocation appears to be more favorable than the Santa Monica Boulevard location based on the exploration data that is interpreted to show no faulting in the station area.”
    What’s Beverly Hills arguement now?

  • Florabunda

    I live in Beverly Hills and hope that Metro sticks to their guns.   I gather from what I’ve read, the opposition wants the route to be forced away from the high school and instead built through an active fault, “for the children”?    

  • Heyheyheyhey

    I’ve got the solution!!!!  Beverly Hills High School and the Los Angeles Country Club do a little land swap.  BHHS moves to take over 2-3 holes worth of the golf course just north of Santa Monica Blvd, and the country club demolishes BHHS to create new holes to replace the lost land.  They dig a little tunnel between the main course and the new section, which nobody in BH will mind because it is for GOLF, right?  Everybody’s happy, especially the homeowners adjacent to the old BHHS/new satellite golf course, who now live on golf course property!  Genius.  Call me any time to fix your moronic problems BH.

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