Beverly Hills Versus the Westside Subway | News | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Beverly Hills Versus the Westside Subway 

Thursday, Jul 14 2011

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"A route underneath the high school was never mentioned," says Beverly Hills Mass Transit Committee member Ken Goldman, who's also president of the Southwest Beverly Hills Homeowners Association.

Councilman John Mirisch says Metro leaders "baited the entire community to support the subway by getting them involved, and then switched [the subway route] when political forces got involved."

Sarah Shaw, a general manager at JMB, again met privately with Jody Litvak in March 2010, and a month later Beverly Hills leaders began to hear rumors that Metro was considering a different route.

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Brief notes in a Metro log show that Shaw and Litvak discussed "Century City station & alignments." The log says Villaraigosa's ability to nail down a federal loan for his "30/10" concept could help skyscraper owners JMB build their 37-story tower. "Given the economy," wrote Litvak, JMB's leaders "don't know when they would start. If 30/10 happens, construction lay down is a possibility."

At the time, Villaraigosa had grown somewhat obsessed with obtaining the federal loan to build the subway in 10 years. On April 20, 2010, as President Obama was preparing to leave Los Angeles after a visit to Southern California, Villaraigosa rushed to meet him on the tarmac at LAX. He later told news crews covering the president's trip that he hadn't gotten a promise for 30/10 funds — but Obama had appraised Villaraigosa as someone who is "indefatigable and won't take no for an answer."

In September 2010, Metro released a draft environmental study with a surprise: the announcement of the Constellation station "option." The next month, on Oct. 28, Beverly Hills community leaders stormed a Metro meeting, telling Villaraigosa, Yaroslavsky and other Metro board members that the idea of tunneling under Beverly Hills High School was unacceptable.

"We do not want the subway to run under our high school," Beverly Hills City Councilwoman Nancy Krasne told Metro board members.

Since then, school board president Korbatov says, Metro staffers and board members have only shown heightened interest in the Constellation option. "It really troubles me," Korbatov says, "and it troubles my colleagues. They're telling us, 'Wait, wait, the process isn't done yet, we haven't decided yet.' But it seems they have."

Villaraigosa, in particular, is publicly "promoting it. They appear to have made up their minds, but they just haven't formalized it," she says.

The exchange of words has grown ugly. Korbatov says neither Yaroslavsky, who represents Beverly Hills, nor Villaraigosa has visited the high school campus, although invitations were extended to both. Yaroslavsky, in turn, criticizes Beverly Hills Unified, saying, "It's been very difficult in dealing with the [Beverly Hills] school district, because they won't give anyone their development plans."

But David Mieger, the Westside Subway project director, says Yaroslavsky's claim is not true. Beverly Hills Unified made a "good-faith effort to dig through their files and give us whatever they've got." Korbatov calls Yaroslavsky a liar, saying his statement is "uncategorically, 100 percent false."

Yaroslavsky also snaps that a comment made by Korbatov several months ago, that subways are prime targets for terrorists, is "just absurd." He belittles the plan to build subterranean parking at the school, declaring, "I don't think anybody is going to spend money to build an underground garage."

Yaroslavsky has taken no public position on where to place the Century City subway route, but he uses the talking points promoted by Century City boosters. "Any 6-year-old can you tell you where the center of a circle is," he says, and Constellation Boulevard is that "center," while Santa Monica Boulevard is not.

Yaroslavsky even came up with his own slogan: "The center of the center."

Huffs Korbatov: "Zev is very much for the 'center of the center' — their version of it."

For his part, Villaraigosa's spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton says the "mayor has not yet taken a position, as there is currently not enough information available."

But that's not true.

Villaraigosa three months ago made his position clear, publicly embracing the station on Constellation Boulevard at an April 7 Century City breakfast sponsored by the Century City Chamber of Commerce, military contractor Northrop Grumman, the Pollack PR Marketing Group and others.

In a YouTube video produced by Mike Carlin's Century City News and featured on the Chamber of Commerce's website, Villaraigosa busily works the room with a wireless microphone and says, "I think you all know that I'm on record that [the subway station] needs to be right here in the heart of Century City!"

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