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Bev. Hills Requests Hearing on Subway, Times Swats at Their Concerns

10:27 AM PDT on April 23, 2012

(Update, Dave Sotero, a Metro spokesperson responds to the story via email: The Beverly Hills hearing request was received. The Westside Subway Extension Project is still on the board’s agenda for Thursday. The Board of Directors will discuss the hearing request at that time.)

It was a good news/bad news sort of weekend for Metro and backers of the Westside Subway thanks to the Los Angeles Times and the Beverly Hills City Council.

In a comment on Patch, Bev. Hills Councilman Barry Brucker worries that at some point in the unknown future the state might pass a law restricting future construction of schools existing on top of subways, thus the city needs to oppose the subway route under the high school. No such law exists anywhere in the world.

Patch reports that the Council voted unanimously to request a public hearing with the Metro Board to discuss the Westside Subway and the potential routing of the Subway under the Beverly Hills High School Campus.  State law allows municipalities to request such a hearing if a transit project will have a direct impact on their community.  The timing of the request means that Metro will not be able to approve the final environmental documents for the Subway this week as originally planned.

A date and location for the hearing hasn't been scheduled.  State law gives the agency between 15 and 60 days to hold the hearing.

Throughout the debate on the route of the future Westside Subway extension under Beverly Hills is how the media rallied to support Beverly Hills.  Television stations give the claims of the Unified School District and the City Council equal weight to that of Metro, the region's second largest print publication, L.A. Weekly, as well as the city's largest paper, the Beverly Hills Courier, are both hostile to the MTA's planned route under the high school.

On Saturday, the Paper of Record unleashed a long editorial calling for Metro to advance the Westside Subway, even referring to it as the Subway to the Sea, and blasting Beverly Hills to get out of the way.  The Times gave the benefit of the doubt to Metro's seismic and geological experts over those hired by the city, brushed aside concerns over routing and even noted the location of the two potential ending stations, the one proposed by Metro will have thousands more riders every day than the one preferred by Beverly Hills and the BHUSD.

But the strongest statement was saved for the argument that tunneling under the high school is unsafe for the students.

Moreover, MTA engineers say the fears of tunneling under the high school are greatly exaggerated; modern tunneling machines, which maintain pressure on the surrounding earth as tunnels are being bored, appear to have solved the subsidence problems that dogged construction of the Red Line in the 1990s. Neither methane concentrations nor old oil wells in the area raise serious engineering concerns. And subway tunnels under schools aren't uncommon — systems in Washington, Portland, San Francisco and Berkeley all pass under schools. Here in Los Angeles, the Red Line runs beneath two schools, the Young Oak Kim Academy middle school in Koreatown and Camino Nuevo High School near Silver Lake. The subway hasn't caused problems at these schools, and it was built without the community hysteria being exhibited in Beverly Hills.

It now appears that a final vote on the Subway environmental documents won't happen until the May Metro Board Meeting, but momentum in the media finally seems to be shining on the Subway.

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