A report last week recommending the Westside subway extension tunnel under homes and the high school in Beverly Hills hasn’t put an end to a bitter dispute that has pitted the city and its School District against Century City businesses.
The Beverly Hills Unified School District has hired private consultants to conduct studies and review the environmental impact report prepared for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
It’s all in an attempt to get Metro to scrap plans for tunneling under the school on the way to Century City, where a station would be built at Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars. That route was recommended in the EIR released last week because it avoids fault lines along Santa Monica Boulevard.
However, the School District plans to present its alternative findings to Metro in the next few weeks, before the agency can sign off on the environmental report.
“We’ve had a fairly significant geologic investigation into the Beverly Hills High School campus,” said Kevin Brogan, an attorney with downtown Los Angeles firm Hill Farrer & Burrill LLP who represents the School District. “We’re going to be studying carefully how (Metro) responds to our information, and how they respond to the various issues, including ridership, methane and seismic issues.”
The dispute over the Century City station dates back to 2008, when Metro planners first included a possible Constellation Boulevard stop in the subway extension plan. Original route maps published the year before only included a Santa Monica Boulevard station at the northern edge of Century City.
However, businesses and the local Chamber of Commerce favored a Constellation Boulevard station because it would be more convenient for the district’s thousands of workers.
“You put a subway near where people want to go,” said Susan Bursk, Century City Chamber chief executive. “The station at Constellation has the greatest ridership. The employment corridor is at that location. You have over 20,000 employees who work within a quarter-mile radius.”
Metro’s recent environmental report estimates 8,500 passengers would use the Constellation station daily by 2035, while 5,500 would use the station if it was built along Santa Monica.
But Beverly Hills leaders continue to favor a subway stop along Santa Monica Boulevard at either Avenue of the Stars or Century Park East – locations that would not require tunneling under the school or residential neighborhoods, which they say could lead to noise and vibration and prevent the School District from building an underground parking garage.
Beverly Hills Councilman Barry Brucker said the city would like Metro to do a more rigorous investigation of the faults under Santa Monica Boulevard.
“All we’re asking is that they spend the time and resources to see if there actually is an active fault line,” Brucker said. “If they cannot determine an active fault line, that opens up an option they have shut down potentially prematurely.”
Additionally, a School District-commissioned report released last month by consultant Exponent Inc. of Menlo Park said the presence of methane gas makes building a station at Constellation potentially hazardous.
If the Metro board approves the environmental impact report – the final step before the agency could secure federal funds and begin preconstruction on the subway extension project – the city and School District might sue in state and federal court. They could argue Metro’s environmental studies were insufficient and either overstated the risk of building a station along Santa Monica Boulevard or understated the risk of building at Constellation Boulevard.
For their part, Metro officials said they stand by their report but will look at any information provided by the city or School District.
“If there are any findings, we will apprise our board,” Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said. “But over the last four and a half years, we’ve performed a very comprehensive review. We’ve conducted 600 field tests along the entire project corridor, including 200 within the area in question.”
Metro will hold three open houses this week to discuss the environmental report. The board will consider approving the report at its April 26 meeting. For information on this week’s open houses, visit www.metro.net/projects/westside.
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