Metro Board committee sends Westside Subway Extension final study to full Board

The Metro Board of Directors Planning Committee today recommended that the full Board next week certify the Final Environmental Imapct Statement/Report for the Westside Subway Extension, a key Measure R-funded project.

The vote was 3 to 1 with Board Members Diane DuBois, Richard Katz and Zev Yaroslavsky voting for and Mike Antonovich against. Board Member Pam O’Connor abstained, saying she first wanted to read Metro’s response to a second study commissioned by Beverly Hills.

The Metro staff recommendation is for a 9-mile alignment mostly along Wilshire Boulevard with stations at La Brea, Fairfax, La Cienega, Rodeo, Constellation/Avenue of the Stars, Wilshire/Westwood and at the VA Hospital.

The recommendation of the Constellation/Avenue of the Stars station has brought much criticism from Beverly Hills officials who are angry that station would require Metro to tunnel under parts of the Beverly Hills High School campus — which Beverly Hills officials say would threaten the safety of students and hinder future development on a campus they say is too small for a city with one high school.

Metro studies have concluded that it is safe to tunnel under the campus and that it is not safe to build a station along Santa Monica Boulevard because of active earthquake fault zones in the area.

“This is not a nimby, naysayer issue,” testified Lisa Korbatov, a member of the Board of Education of the Beverly Hills Unified School District. “You people don’t want to hear the truth.”

Board Member Yaroslavsky made several pointed remarks in response to the criticism from Beverly Hills officials, who alleged that subway tunnels under schools in California is unprecedented (Metro disagrees) and asked for the full Board to delay their vote in order to see seismic studies that Beverly Hills plans to soon release based on trenching on the campus.

“This project has already been delayed for a long time,” Yaroslavsky said. “If I thought that a 30 day delay would solve the problem I would consider it,” he said, adding that the differences between Beverly Hills and Metro were intractable.

“We have had meetings with stakeholders to try to find middle ground. The instruction we got back from Beverly Hills was to talk to our lawyers,” Yaroslavsky said.

Yaroslavsky said that in essence Metro has two choices: either tunnel south of Santa Monica Boulevard to avoid faults or completely avoid Century City and just have the subway run down Wilshire Boulevard — which he believes would be a big mistake that he likened to the Green Line not being built to LAX or the Red Line not including a Hollywood Bowl station.

Yaroslavsky also took issue with complaints from Beverly Hills school officials saying that subway tunnels would prevent future development. He pointed out that even the most recent report by an engineering firm hired by Beverly Hills said that the tunnels would allow for development at least 40 feet underground and that it was unlikely the school would want to construct anything that deep below ground level.

There was one change to the staff recommendations for the project with staff now saying that the station entrance for the Fairfax station should be at Wilshire and Orange Grove, which is directly across Wilshire from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Staff had originally proposed an entrance on the northwest corner of Wilshire and Fairfax but noted that increased attendance at the museum plus the commitment of LACMA to raise money for a second portal on the north side of Wilshire made that entrance more desireable.

14 replies

  1. Great change on the station location. This is closer to the destinations (cultural and commercial). While there is stuff on both sides of Fairfax, the more popular and trafficked offices, etc. seem to lie on the east, as well as the museums.

    What I don’t understand is why we would not prefer an entrance on both the east and west of Fairfax. If LACMA is truly going to raise funds to pay for an entrance on the east side, why would Metro no build theirs on the west? Is it better to end up with one on both the north/south sides of Wilshire than it would be to end up with one on the east/west of Fairfax?

  2. This lawsuit isn’t about tunneling under the school,… It’s about slowing down the process.

  3. I like that Zev ate his Wheaties. It’s about time someone spoke up to the litigious members of our community.

  4. If Metro were a for-profit company that was listed on the NYSE like how Asian transit agencies do, this wouldn’t even be on the discussion table and wouldn’t be dragged on for so long.

    Metro: “We’re going to tunnel under your school.”
    City of BH: “Let me think about that.”
    School: “Where’s our bennies?”
    Metro: “100,000 shares of Metro stock. Dividends are paid out each year to benefit your school.”
    City of BH: “We’ll chip in an additonal $10,000,000 worth of Metro shares to build a station in our neighborhood so we get a share of dividends and profits from Metro stock”
    Metro: “Ok”
    School: “Ok”
    City of BH: “Ok”

    Problem solved.

    The way it works now is:

    Metro: “We’re digging under your school”
    City of BH: “Let me think about that.”
    School: “Where’s our bennies?”
    Metro: “There are none”
    City of BH / School: “The heck with that then. No.”
    Metro: “You can’t say no! Look at all these benefits! yada yada yada”
    City of BH / School: “We need more data yada yada yada”
    Metro: “yada yada yada”
    City of BH / School: “yada yada yada” (repeat years and years as labor and material costs rise over inflating the cost of construction)

    This is why we get nothing done.

    • It should be noted that Metro does pay for easement rights when it tunnels under private property. Those payments are usually negotiated between the agency and the property owner.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. While there are other fish to fry and this is at the end of a long series of meetings, it’s such a shame that there’s no spur up to West Hollywood from either the proposed Wilshire extension or from Hollywood/Highland.

  6. I think the problem whenever such disagreements arise is that there are only two options on the table: What Metro could pay from their limited budget from taxpayer sources, versus what the property owner wants which is much higher.

    A better alternative, as Y Fukuzawa mentioned, would rather to put a third option onto the table: issue Metro stocks that promises yearly dividends. The property owner would be willing to exchange a longer term income rather than one lump sum payment which Metro cannot afford, while at the same time, Metro can issue stocks without resorting to asking the public for more taxes because they can’t afford it.

    Of course that means Metro needs to do a better job in bringing revenue into the system to pay out those dividends, but I think that’s what’s needed today instead of constant arguing that gets us nowhere.

  7. Beverly Hills School officials are simply wrong. I don’t know how else to put it. If necessary they can build school expansions not only right over the subway tunnel, but right over the *station*; it’s done all over the world. You’d think they’d never seen a subway, but there’s one in LA for them to go look at!

  8. Beverly Hills refused to have a depressed freeway along S.M. Blvd because it divided the city in half. Now the city is concerned about the design safety……I am almost sure it will be acceptable to the District Board if the 8.1 richter design scale is used for the stations, tunnel and subway …..Also the Highschool facility improvement funding shall be subvented by MTA. A 6-9 richter scale is not acceptable for safety buildings…..
    ..His honor Mr. Waxman in an interview to high school media mentioned that safety is the standard not to be compromised……The fault traces are approximate …..The design standard is not approximate! I believe The County does not want public facilities closer than 300 ft. to a fault line., specially the San Andreas line…..Please discuss among yourselves and mitigate the needs of the community/neighborhoods, specially the world known Rodeo Drive/Beverly Hills…..Tourist Busses every 10 waking minutes / 7 days /week…