One of the allegations that has been floating around for months is that the Westside Subway Extension’s station in Century City was moved from Santa Monica Boulevard to Constellation Boulevard by Metro at the request of a politically-connected developer.
It’s an assertion that is not true. The Constellation site was studied — as was required by law — and ultimately chosen by the Metro Board of Directors for two primary reasons: 1) to avoid building a subway station within active earthquake fault zones under Santa Monica Boulevard, where there is the chance of ground rupture, and; 2) because studies showed higher ridership at a Constellation station.
A Constellation station was also widely supported by a number of individuals and groups that took part in the subway planning process. Chief among them: the 11 influential homeowner associations that represent residents in Los Angeles neighborhoods in and around Century City. These are groups have a long history in local land use and traffic issues and I think it’s fair to say that they aren’t afraid of the powers-that-be and they don’t carry anyone’s water bucket.
And they agree that Constellation is the best place for the subway as Comstock Hills Homeowner Assn. President Jan Reichmann testified to the Metro Board on Thursday. Check out their views in the document below:
This fight is far from over.
It could be in the courts for a very long time.
George Vreeland Hill
@ Y Fukuzawa
I don’t believe that stocks are involved in when properties are bought in Asia from mass transit purposes. Most literature pertaining to how transit is built and operated in Asia usually mentions that the goverment flat buys all the necessary land they want the transit companies to build on, no stocks are involved whatsoever. Since the majority of stocks in Asian transit companies are owned by the respective local and central goverments, they play a very active role in the planning and design of the transit systems.
Mr. John Mirisch is also a tax payer of Los Angeles County as well. He has a right to his opinion just as anyone else.
Absolutely agree and that’s why his comment is posted here. But I think it’s fair to identify him given that he is an elected official and has a say in public policy concerning Beverly Hills and the Westside Subway Extension.
Editor, The Source
Methinks, Mr. Hymon doth protest too much.
While Metro may have done a great job of assimilating the various Westwood
Homeowners’ Groups, most of which have their own agendas for supporting
Constellation, serious study of the Constellation route did not begin until it
became advantageous for politically-connected developers. The financial
connections between certain Century City developers and Metro board members have
been well documented by, among other sources, LA Weekly.
Despite frequent and intensive contact between Metro and the Beverly Hills Mass
Transit Committee during the planning phases of the subway alignment, Metro
never mentioned – not once – the potential for the Constellation alignment in
any of its contacts with this Committee. The “switch” to this “bait” never
occurred until the lobbyists got going. All of the purported “reasons” for now
selecting a Constellation station were already pre-existing. Neither the
geology nor geography of Century City had changed, so the only reasons to
withhold this information from the BH Mass Transit Committee would be that Metro
never seriously considered the alternative or that Metro actively was trying to
deceive the Mass Transit Committee. Take your pick: it has to be one or the
other. (And whatever issues I may have with Metro’s own governance or its
underlying autocratic bureaucracy and democratic deficiencies, I personally
don’t think that Metro actively tried to deceive the BH Mass Transit Committee).
The irony of re-printing Jan Reichmann’s letter is that her homeowner group
supports the Constellation station for a very simple reason: as they themselves
have made patently clear, they don’t want to have to suffer through the
construction impacts of a potential Santa Monica Station, something Beverly
Hills has been willing to deal with for an extended period during the
construction of the two stations within its city limits. Especially in light of
the false NIMBY accusations that have been constantly hurled in BH’s direction
by any number of Metro surrogates, using the support of a NIMBY group on
steroids seems just a bit rich, to put it mildly.
Comstock Hills HOA board member Carol Spencer’s comment above talks about Santa
Monica Blvd. as a “transit parkway.” This is exactly why the Santa Monica
station – after Los Angeles spent tens of millions to develop a “transit
parkway” – makes the absolute most sense for a subway station and it is, of
course, the reason that Metro never seriously considered other alternatives
until it became politically opportunistic to do so. It is clear, both from a
logical, common-sense and transit-oriented perspective that a transit hub should
be located on a major arterial “transit parkway” and not on a dead-end street.
Mr. Hymon is also incorrect about the ability of these homeowner groups to move
the needle politically, as they have largely been unsuccessful in battling the
rampant overdevelopment, much of which has been politically motivated, in the
Century City and Westwood areas, much of which has led to the traffic nightmares
which the subway is supposedly going to alleviate.
Trying to suggest that Metro never committed a bait-and-switch on BH is yet
another example of Metro’s Revisionist History, as is the suggestion that
Century City developers don’t have major financial incentives to favor a
Constellation station. In fact, certain developers stand to benefit massively
financially in three ways: 1) the millions they stand to get from Metro for use
of their property for staging and for an easement for the station (please note:
the negotiations with the developers will occur behind closed doors, and we
won’t know the results until negotiations are concluded, ho ho…); 2) substantial
increases in rents which they can demand because the “vanity station” is
literally at their doorstep, and 3) potential increases in density and square
footage of pending projects, when they possibly attempt to amend the Century
City specific plan and claim trip-count credits on the basis of the subway. Not
bad bang for their Citizens United political donations, is it?
While it’s all well and good to espouse a different perspective and possibly
come to a different conclusion, Metro’s Revisionist History is just not cool.
This is starting to feel like an episode of Star Trek, where Metro-Borg is
attempting to change the reality by assimilating various groups, changing
history and facts (for one, Metro’s own studies showed that there would be
higher ridership at Santa Monica and Ave. of the Stars than at Constellation and
Ave. of the Stars — not really surprising considering the “transit parkway”)
and trying to send a clear message to those who oppose these insider-dictated,
politically-motivated methods that “resistance is futile.” Not exactly what one
would like from a taxpayer-funded, public government agency which is supposed to
best serve the people rather than its own opaque corporate culture, not to
mention politically-juiced special interests.
John Mirisch is a member of the Beverly Hills City Council.
Editor, The Source
If I owned a home that was worth $200,000 and Metro comes knocking on my door to buy me out for $250,000, am I going to say yes? Or am i going to think “hmm, Metro buys me out for $250,000, property values are going to rise because of mass transit coming to town, I end up being a sucker because in the future this property would be worth millions and I chose to give it up for only $250,000.” Pass. Give me $100,000 in cash to put in a down payment for a new home elsewhere and $150,000 worth of Metro stock which would guarantee me not be a sucker.
That’s how privately held mass transit corporations in Asia work. Metro offers no option like this, therefore, people will just sue Metro at taxpayers expense.
@IT Guy in Irvine: The controversy in Beverly Hills has nothing to do with eminent domain. It has to do environmental review laws that allow any citizen to delay any project for any reason. But in any event, I think that you misunderstand the Fifth Amendment and the nature of public/private partnerships.
The Fifth Amendment doesn’t prevent public agencies from taking public property– It just requires them to pay “just compensation” whenever they do so.
And second, as far as I know, no privately financed infrastructure project anywhere in the world has ever acquired property by offering shares (as opposed to cash). If a homeowner doesn’t want to give up their house for its appraised value in cash, then why would stock be any more appealing? In that sense, a public/private partnership would have a harder time building transit projects than a public agency that can force people to sell.
A simple compare-and-contrast analysis shows what factors play a role in making transit profitable just by looking at how Asia runs mass transit.
What is it that they are doing right with private enterprise mass transit corporation which makes them profitable whereas what is it are we doing wrong with 70% tax payer dependent public transit agencies? What do they all have in common?
1. Mass transit in Asia are corporations, whose shares are owned by government, their citizens, banks and private investors
2. Being a for profit corporation, their motive is to pay generous dividends
3. The receivers of those dividends are mass transit riders themselves so the users also have a direct say in the operations of mass transit instead of being just another tax payer
3. Being a corporation, they have can venture out to other opportunities, which include real estate and direct retail. Profits earned from these ventures are put back into the system instead of asking taxpayers for more of their ever diminishing paycheck
4. A fairer fare structure based upon distance traveled instead of a flat rate structure just because “it’s simpler to do.” Obviously it’s simpler to just make everything in the supermarket $1.50 or take-anything-you-want for a $75 monthly fee too so there’s no need to hire cashiers or build checkout stands, but I bet that supermarket is going to go broke fast.
No transit agency in the US operates under this model and that’s why they are all financial failures. Add that most cities have made it illegal for private mass transit to take shape or form is also a questionable practice of anti-monopoly laws as well.
How does one privatize an agency that has no prospects of making an operating profit?
And anyway eminent domain is not the problem in BH. They just don’t want anyone digging under their high school: why, we cannot say, and the facts be damned. Maybe Jimmy Hoffa or Judge Crater is buried there :_>
The danger of not allowing lawsuits against a government entity infringes upon the Fifth Amendment of our Constitution: “…nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”
This is a fundamental right of all Americans penned by our founding fathers and this cannot be changed. Doing so will make us no better than Communist China where they can just bring out bulldozers and tell everyone to leave with no course of protest. Is it easier and cheaper to do that? Of course it is. But we can’t scratch off the US Constitution away either.
But guess, what? We are not the only country that has this restriction either. Transit agencies all over the world have strict eminent domain laws which prevent such acts by their governments as well. So how does the rest of the world get around this legal headache without resorting to Communist China methods?
They privatize the agency with the government holding less than 50% of the shares and the rest being held by private citizens, banks, and investors. By becoming a true public-private enterprise, they now can act as any other corporation to go ahead with their projects. If any neighborhood says they don’t want it, they now have something else to offer: shares of mass transit stock in exchange for their agreement to go ahead with the project. We need to start to head this route.
If Metro wants to go avoid such headaches in the future, they need to privatize. Instead of being the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Agency, they need to become the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Corporation.
If you are a true transit believer, then you should be for true public-privatization. You should be for putting investing in mass transit stock as a true investment for the future. Not doing so and being reliant on taxes can do the job better is no different than doing nothing and letting your wallet run dry with no true financial return on your investment.
This is America, innately, we distrust government. There is no point in trying to convince Americans otherwise. It’s better to play the mass transit game under capitalistic rules.
The problem is not that metro is a public and not a private entity with stocks, but rather the ease in which anyone in California can sue a massive project in California for just about any reason.
Don’t be surprised when the lawsuits for AEG’s Farmers Field start creeping up attempting to delaying or kill that project (though they did get special legislation reducing the amount of time the lawsuit could take I believe).
The problem with this approach however, is that whenever Metro decides to do something, they will always face another backlog with endless meetings using up precious time and money before a shovel is put to ground. In the end, all it does is cost us taxpayers more and more money before a final decision and green light is lit.
There has to be a more better way to do this. Can’t Metro follow the example of transit agencies in Asia to become a private-public enterprise? One that’s not just funded by taxpayers but one that is also funded by Metro shareholders?
Thank you Source for posting the speech made by my HOA President Jan Reichmann, here in Comstock Hills we have long advocated for traffic solutions that look to the future and not the past. I advocated to renew Santa Monica Blvd in the late 1990’s when it was not working – and today we have the beautiful Santa Monica Blvd transit parkway. It is truly a grand entrance to our everyday life and a compliment to our neighboring City of Beverly Hills. Now I look forward to boarding the Westside Subway at the Constellation Station.