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.
•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.
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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