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Court Rules In Metro’s Favor In Beverly Hills Subway Lawsuit Appeal

2:48 PM PDT on October 23, 2015

What will it take for Beverly Hills to stop fighting the Purple Line? Map from Metro
What will it take for Beverly Hills to stop fighting the Purple Line? Map from Metro

In a ruling filed yesterday, an appeals court denied Beverly Hills' attempt to block Metro from tunneling under their city to extend the Purple Line subway.  The city of Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) challenged Metro's environmental studies as being inadequate. In 2014, Beverly Hills lost in the initial round of the lawsuit. This week Beverly Hills lost in their efforts to overturn the earlier ruling. The appeal court's verdict takes Metro a few steps closer to moving full speed ahead with subway construction.

From the ruling document, posted at The Source, Beverly Hills and BHUSD asserted that Metro's environmental impact reports (EIS/EIR) "relied on significant new and different information that was not in the draft EIS/EIR" and that Metro "fail[ed] to analyze localized air pollution and public health impacts from [Purple Line] construction." The court concluded "that substantial evidence supports Metro’s decision not to recirculate the EIS/EIR, and that the EIS/EIR adequately discussed air pollution and public health impacts." Ultimately the appeals court "affirm[ed] the trial court’s denial of School District’s and City’s petitions."

The initial 4-mile extension of the Metro Purple Line subway is already under construction and expected to open in 2023. The contentious second extension, which includes a station in -- and a tunnel below -- Beverly Hills, is anticipated to begin construction soon, pending full funding.

The latest verdict is good news for Metro's efforts to continue to build out rail transportation networks. Unfortunately, it is also possible that Beverly Hills will continue to appeal to higher courts. Also, per The Source, this week's decision - an appeal on California law - is only half of the lawsuit with a parallel appeal on federal law still pending.

What will it take for Beverly Hills to drop its animus toward the Purple Line?

With an election for some Beverly Hills school board members on the ballot next week, this issue could be a spoiler in the election. Over the objections of some residents, the school board repeatedly voted to use bond money designated for construction to quixotically fight the subway. BHUSD Chair Brian Goldberg assured residents, parents and voters that the school district would recoup their legal fees, now estimated at over $10 million, from the agency. This is now looking increasing unlikely.

Will voters revolt now that their construction dollars were wasted on a fruitless lawsuit? Will BHUSD continue their risky gamble with taxpayer dollars tilting their lances at the windmill? We will find the answers to these questions soon.

But the larger question is now that BHUSD has lost again in court, what does it say to its students and parents? After all, the district pushed students to make some factually-challenged videos of the dangers Metro. The student video was a PR move, disguised as part of their curriculum, that came after one school board member freaked out that the student newspaper called the BHUSD Board out on their hysteria. The student's video was better than the one put together by the parents, which literally showed the school exploding.

Beverly Hills leadership whipped up hysteria about the dangers of the subway, but it is happening anyway. How can the same fearmongers now tell students, staff, parents and everyone else that the Beverly Hills High School is a safe place to send children to learn? If it's not a safe place, then how does one justify keeping the school open at all? It is hard to see a way forward without a change in the leadership.

But of course, that's up to the Beverly Hills voters. Not out-of-city bloggers.

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