The long-awaited “Subway to the Sea” could be stalled further this week. On Thursday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a vote set to approve or reject a recent environmental impact study. One aspect of this vote would be confirming the desired subway stations for the line expansion.
Originally, the Metro planned on building a stop on Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills, but due to the presence of active fault lines and recommendations of seismologists, the proposed stop has been moved to Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars.
The new stop does not have such geological limitations, and is located conveniently close to office towers, the Westfield Century City Mall and several hotels. Furthermore, a stop here would serve an estimated 8,500 people a day, a full 3,100 more than the Santa Monica stop.
“The MTA, myself and I hope the majority of the MTA board members believe that the subway should go to the middle of Century City ... where the ridership will be 8,500 a day instead of 5,500,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. “If you go in the middle, you're serving what is one of the most significant job magnets in West Los Angeles.”
The only perceived hitch in this plan is that now the subway line will run under Beverly Hills High School. Activists in Beverly Hills began vocalizing their disapproval of this new stop over the past few weeks, and are calling for a return to the former plan, citing student safety and possible building code restrictions as their main concern.
“The city has very strong concerns not only about current building codes, but future building codes, which are increasingly becoming more restrictive,” said Beverly Hills Councilman Barry Brucker. “That actually happened to us when the former school board and city council 30 years ago approved an extensive oil drilling and processing center. ... Now there's a state law that restricts a school being built within 300 feet of an existing oil facility. What if, 20 years from now, the State Department of Architects prohibits schools within fault zones from being built or rebuilt on top of subway tunnels? Where is Beverly Hills High School to go?”
According to studies conducted by the MTA and the City of Beverly Hills, tunneling under Beverly Hills High School poses no threat to safety. The current plan is to tunnel eight stories under ground, under a building that is annexed by the high school, which Yaroslavsky says would not prevent the high school from further developing their campus in the future. Many other schools in the Los Angeles area have subway tunnels underneath their property.
“I don't want to add another mistake to that list that says, ‘How is it that you spent $5 billion to go from Western Avenue to Westwood and you did not serve Century City?’” said Yaroslavsky. “That would be the most colossal mistake we could make ... We have to move forward. Traffic on the west side is impossible.”
On Tuesday, the Beverly Hills City Council authorized the Mayor to write a letter to the Metro’s board explaining the council’s concerns.
“We're going to be asking Metro to hold off on to their decision and let scientists on all sides come together,” said Brucker. “We would simply like our collective science experts come together for an open and transparent discussion.”
It appears as if the council will invoke an obscure provision of the state public utilities code which allows entities, such as Beverly Hills, which would be affected by construction, to demand a public hearing to weigh all issues before moving forward.
In closing today’s discussion, Brucker alluded to the possibility of a lawsuit if the issue should come to that point. "I think we're looking at all options and litigation is not off the table," said Brucker.
How will the Metro handle this development? What legal grounds does the Beverly Hills City Council have to stand on? How will this affect the line expansion on the whole? Which side of the subway line do you fall on? Should Beverly Hills get over it and allow the Metro to come on through? Or does the subway pose a serious threat to students and the community?
Barry Brucker, Councilman for the city of Beverly Hills where he has also served two terms as Mayor and as Vice Mayor; President and CEO of Independent Ink, Inc., an international manufacturer of digital and security printing inks
Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles County Supervisor representing the Third District; Member of the MTA Board