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Court Sides With Metro on Beverly Hills Subway Lawsuit, Again

Metro’s Purple Line Extension section 2 tunnel boring machine in Century City in 2019. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

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For years, Beverly Hills interests - primarly the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) - have been suing against Metro tunnelling to extend the Purple Line subway westward. Today, Judge George H. Wu sided with Metro in ruling on a BHUSD lawsuit against the Federal Transit Administration and Metro.

Metro is currently extending the Westside Purple (now D) Line westward in three sections primarly under Wilshire Boulevard:

    • Section One: Currently about 60 percent complete, WPLE1 will extend from the current Wilshire/Western Avenue terminus to La Cienega Boulevard.
    • Section Two: Currently about 30 percent complete, WPLE2 will extend from La Cienega to Century City.
    • Section Three: Currently about 10 percent complete, WPLE3 will extend from Century City to the Westwood VA Hospital.

Section Two is the primary point of contention, as the so-called "Purple Threat" tunnel goes underneath Beverly Hills High School.

BHUSD's lawsuit charges that Metro's choice of Century City staging areas was not supported by its environmental documentation (its Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement - SEIS.) That there is a supplemental EIS is due to an earlier Beverly Hills lawsuit where Judge Wu mandated that Metro more fully document the factors that led to its final subway alignment. Wu's ruling notes that, under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Metro is required to explain why it chose one alternative over another (one staging area over an alternative staging area) and that Metro "satisfied the obligation and that their determination was not arbitrary or capricious." The court does not rule on whether chosing one alternative is "right"; it ensures that the selection process is thorough and documented - as Metro's was.

In a connected ruling, Wu turned down BHUSD's request that Metro pay $1 million for the district's attorney’s fees and costs, stating that Metro had not acted in bad faith.

BHUSD has spent more than $15 million in school bond funding fighting Metro in the courts. The school district has little to show for this expenditure, but will likely keep adding to this total by appealing today's decision.

BHUSD does not have a lot of time to force any changes to the tunnel alignment. In April 2020, Metro's initial section two tunnel boring machine started digging eastward from Century City. The TBM will likely be boring under the high school any day now.

Updated 5/19: Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero provided this statement: “Metro is grateful for U.S. District Judge George Wu's ruling on Monday that found we took a hard look at the availability of 1950 Avenue of the Stars for construction staging and sufficiently studied the impacts of using the current staging areas along Century Park East for the Purple Line Extension's second section. We continue to make progress on this vital project to improve mobility in our region and, as usual, the safety of the public and construction workers will continue to be our number one priority.”

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