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.