Beverly Hills residents express strong support for Westside Subway Extension station on Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City

The map shows the three alignments between Beverly Hills and Century City that were studied in the DEIS/R. Click above for a larger image.

I attended the public hearing Monday night in Beverly Hills for the Westside Subway Extension’s draft environmental impact statetment/report.

It was pretty clear that among the more than 200 people who attended, the vast majority opposed a subway station from being built at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars in Century City. Rather, they were very vocal in support of a station at Santa Monica Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars in Century City — something backed by 38 of the first 40 speakers by my count.

A station at Constellation would mean that the subway alignment would swing south from Wilshire Boulevard and then go under some homes, Beverly Hills High School and possibly Good Shepherd Catholic school (depending which alignment is used) before reaching Century City.

Conversely, a station at Santa Monica Boulevard would mean that the subway alignment would stay along Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards through Beverly Hills. Here’s a recent presentation by Metro staff that explains.

Metro staff have been studying both options. The Constellation station has been of interest because it’s a little closer to the center of Century City and it’s slightly south of an earthquake fault that runs roughly parallel to Santa Monica Boulevard. Metro staff have also said that the current subway in L.A. goes under both residential and commercial properties, tunneling can be done safely under such properties and that there have been no known noise or vibration complaints along the line.

Among concerns raised by those who testified:

•By my count, nearly everyone said they were for the subway – their issue was the station location.

•Many said that in their view the city had already agreed to a Santa Monica Boulevard alignment.
•The subway would disturb students at Beverly Hills High and Good Shepherd with noise and vibration and potentially compromise their safety — and it isn’t safe to build the subway near oil fields known to exist near the high school.

•The subway could also compromise Beverly Hills High, which is an emergency shelter for the city.

•That if an earthquake fault along Santa Monica Blvd. was really a problem, putting the station on Constellation wasn’t enough of a distance to make a difference from a safety point-of-view.

•A subway under Beverly Hills High could prevent the school district from fully developing its property – for example, if it wanted to build an underground parking garage.

•That one reason that the Constellation station was on the table was because it was backed by Century City developers.

•The short distance – it’s about .2 miles — between the Constellation and Santa Monica Boulevard stations is insignificant.

•Despite all the good tunneling technology, accidents happen and could while tunneling under this part of Beverly Hills.

•Construction equipment in the neighborhoods around Beverly Hills High would be disruptive to students and residents.

On that last point, I wanted to clarify something: The subway planning team says that there would be no surface construction in that area — just underground tunneling. Nor would there be vents. Here’s a previous meeting presentation on construction issues.

One speaker took an opposing view, saying that traffic in Beverly Hills actually causes a more severe impact on peoples’ everyday lives than will subway construction and that the Constellation station may be more desirable because it could have a higher ridership.

The webcast of the hearing can be found here; public testimony begins about 25 minutes into the hearing. The following is from the project’s DEIS/R on the Century City station issue:

For the Century City Station, the feasibility of the Santa Monica Boulevard site assumed in the Base alignment for the five Build alternatives is compromised by its close proximity to the Santa Monica fault. The optional Constellation site is farther from the fault and would have a lower seismic risk. The Constellation site is also more centrally located within Century City, enhancing walk access for many passengers boarding and alighting at Century City.

Relocating the station from Santa Monica Boulevard to Constellation saves $4.1 million in station costs. Because it increases the length of the alignment, however, a station at Constellation would increase the overall capital cost by $60.4 million.

If the Century City station is located at Constellation, there are two alignment options for connecting to the Wilshire/Rodeo station, the Constellation North option and the Constellation South option. If the Century City station is located on Santa Monica Boulevard, the alignment between Century City and Wilshire/Rodeo would follow Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards. As indicated in Table 7-3, neither the alignment options nor the station location options would have a significant impact on transit travel time between Century City and the Wilshire/Rodeo station.

Metro staff will recommend a “locally preferred alternative” for the route after the comment period on the DEIS/R closes on Oct. 18. The ultimate deciders will be the Board of Directors of Metro, who are scheduled to vote on selecting a route for further study and engineering at their Oct. 28 meeting. The dollar figures above don’t account for what it might cost to build the subway along or across the fault.

So, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. And this may not be the end of the issue: there are also a couple of alignments between Century City and Westwood that would go under dozens of homes in Westwood. In addition, another Beverly Hills issue received far less attention were issues where to put the La Cienega station, where to put portals for both the La Cienega and Rodeo stations and where to find property for construction staging at both locations.

More coverage of the meeting can be found at: L.A. Streetsblog and the Beverly Hills Courier.

There is one remaining hearing for the subway project (see below) and here’s a link on how to submit an official comment on the DEIS/R:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Santa Monica Main Library
601 Santa Monica Bl, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Served by Metro Lines 4, 20, 733 and 720 and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus Lines 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, and 10
Validated vehicle and free bike parking is available.
Spanish translation will be provided.

Please go to Completed Meetings to find out about meetings held throughout the Draft EIS/EIR and information provided.

ADA Requirements: Special accommodations are available to the public for Metro-sponsored meetings. All requests for reasonable accommodations must be made at least three working days (72 hours) in advance of the scheduled meeting date. Please telephone the project information line at 213.922.6934.  Our TDD line is 1.800.252-9040.

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15 replies

  1. That hearing was lopsided because it was held in Beverly Hills. I’ve been to two other hearings, and there was plenty of support for the central location at Constellation Blvd. And we haven’t yet heard from the folks at tomorrow’s hearing in Santa Monica.

    Metro’s recommendation will take into account all of the written and verbal comments (from all five of the hearings, not just the one in Beverly Hills). They will balance these comments with the other important considerations, such as boardings, cost, access to jobs, and seismic issues.

  2. I was the one speaker last night who spoke in favor of a Constellation route. And I said that as someone who lives in Beverly Hills within approximately 1000 feet of the route under Beverly Hills homes that would be required for a Constellation stop. I personally welcome the subway tunnel under the area around where I live, and believe that the Constellation stop would be the best use of hard-earned taxpayer funds, being more accessible to southern Century City workers at Fox studios, Fox Plaza, Century Park, the Medical Centre of Century City, etc. etc. We want to make it as easy as possible for all of these folks to get out of their cars and off our roads, and to take the subway to meetings downtown or to commute home. Not to mention the buildings in Century City have parking for rent – one could imagine a potential park and ride arrangement, even. On the other hand, the Santa Monica Blvd. stop would have Los Angeles Country club fence on one side – ie, no one would come from that side.

  3. What about people who work and live in Century City? Have they been given the same kind of voice in this process as the NIMBYs in Beverly Hills?

    • Hi Oren;

      In fairness to the people at the hearing from Beverly Hills, many of them made it clear they wanted the subway to come to their city. The issue is over which route it takes.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. There’s a solution to the country club problem: the city should take the land by eminent domain and build giant skyscrapers there, exactly like the ones right nearby lining Wilshire. If it’s in Beverly Hills then the County of Los Angeles should take it.

    That’s a huge chunk of underused land right next to some of the most valuable real estate in the world, and only club members can use it. It’s not even accessible to the public as parkland. A public park is really the only option for that land other than large residential skyscrapers.

  5. The stop needs to be at Constellation, not Santa Monica. 1/4 mile is a 5 minute walk; that 10 minutes a day of wasted time for most people, since the jobs and residences in Century City are all south of Santa Monica Blvd. To the north is only a country club, and Santa Monica Blvd is a huge highway, difficulty to cross, and very pedestrian unfriendly.

    Tunneling under houses has been done already in Downtown, Koreatown and Hollywood with no problems; it’s done everywhere around the world. There will be no vibrations, no way to even tell on the surface that there is a tunnel 100 feet below.

    Please, pick the Constellation station, Metro!

    (I would welcome Metro to tunnel a subway under my home in Long Beach, if it get’s me a station within 1/2 mile)

  6. Let’s be frank: the Century City station is far more important to the region than is the Beverly Hills station. The former will provide access to tens of thousands of jobs, plus hotels and shopping. The latter will provide some tourists access to the corner of Wilshire/Rodeo to snap pictures.

    So rather than relocating Century City’s station to accommodate Beverly Hills residents, how about instead relocating the Beverly Hills station down to Beverly/Olympic? Or better yet, skip the Beverly Hills station altogether. That’ll free up money to put the tunnel 200 feet underground, instead of the current proposal of 50-100 feet down.

    And if the tunnel is the problem for some people, maybe Metro should instead run the train elevated. It could run right next to the school and homes in an aerial alignment. I wonder if that would create less noise than a subway or more?

  7. Oren:

    In response to your question, I want to futher clarify that the Public Hearing in Beverly Hills this past Monday night was the 4th of 5 such Hearings we are holding during this official public comment period on the Draft EIS/EIR. The last one is tonight at the Santa Monica Library at 6:00. All of our announcements provide the information about all 5 of them and people choose the one that is most convenient for them.

    Speaking at a public hearing is only one way to comment on the Draft EIS/EIR. This story already provides the link to information on all the ways to comment and we invite people to take advantage of the method or methods that work best for them. All comments count equally as long as they are submitted by one of the methods mentioned and we receive them by the October 18 deadline.

    Recognizing that many people who work in Century City are not around to come to our weeknight community meetings, we have held two lunch time events in Century City during the development of the Draft EIS/EIR. They were well attended and quite lively. While those were not during this public comment period, nor were they public hearings. Nevertheless, we hope and encourage those in Century City and everywhere else to get their comments to us so we can include them as a part of the official record.

    Thanks,

    Jody Litvak
    Metro Westside Subway Extension Team

  8. The logical and appropriate station site is Constellation for the various reasons outlined, such as most utility, cost and safety (Santa Monica Earthquake fault)

    There is misinformation in the community that leads to unfounded fears. Metro should invest the appropriate dollars to inform the constituents in this area to counter the misinformation that is circulating. The community meeting process is great but by the time people arrive at the meetings their minds have already been made up. Metro should be more proactive in getting the best information to the community by utilizing, flyers, local press and direct lobbing of community organizations.

  9. My namesake Joel says it best. My favorite sentences in his comment: “And if the tunnel is the problem for some people, maybe Metro should instead run the train elevated. It could run right next to the school and homes in an aerial alignment. I wonder if that would create less noise than a subway or more?”

  10. I was bemused by the many “we’re not NIMBY” comments from residents, when in fact, the sentiment was exactly that. They might have been more honest to say, “We want the subway, just not under our backyards.”

  11. Jody,

    It frustrates me that the meeting in Beverly Hills was public and during the period when the press is paying attention, but the meetings in Century City were in private and during a more fledgling phase. I’d guess that more people working/living in Century City will actually *use* the subway than those in Beverly Hills. It seems like the NIMBY constituency (or perhaps NUMBY, since it’s under, not in) was given a louder voice in this process than the riders who will actually be affected by the decision.

  12. I live near the Wilshire Miracle Mile, I now work downtown, and I worked for many years in Century City. I can hardly express how eager I am to see the subway built and running. It would improve my life a lot.

    I completely support the Constellation location for the Century City station, for the reasons others have stated: it would be closer to the mall, to the office buildings (especially the two triangular towers, where I used to work), and to the hotels. Imagine the dense stream of foot traffic up and down Ave of the Stars if the station is put on Santa Monica Blvd — it would become a standing LA joke. If the station is on Constellation, people will come up to the street and walk in all directions to their various (closer) destinations, rather than all walking in the same direction.

    The objections to the Constellation location seem all based on distrust and fear of things that might, but probably won’t, happen (assuming the architects and engineers do their job properly). You only get to build a subway station once, so it’s important to think in the long term and get it right. The more convenient the location, the more people will get out of their cars and out of the parking lots.