Five candidates for L.A. mayor squared off last night at a debate in -- of all places -- a temple in Beverly Hills. The debate did not produce much news until the very end of the two-hour forum, when the candidates were asked their opinions on the controversial Westside subway extension route.
Councilwoman Jan Perry played to the local crowd, saying she did not believe the subway tunnel should be built under Beverly Hills High School.
"L.A. shouldn't be heavy handed," she said. "Beverly Hills was rolled over."
Perry was employing the time-honored campaign tactic of appealing to a local community by taking their side in a dispute with City Hall. Except in this case, the local community is Beverly Hills, so it might not generate too many votes in an L.A. election. (Perhaps she's appealing to interdistrict transfer families? Or maybe to people who think they live in Beverly Hills?)
When it was her turn, Controller Wendy Greuel did not take a position on the controversy -- which is becoming a pattern. Greuel said there should be a stop in Century City, but did not say whether it should be at Santa Monica Boulevard or Constellation Boulevard, which is the whole controversy. She called for dialogue between Beverly Hills and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The MTA board voted 7-2 in May to support the Constellation stop, which requires tunneling under the high school. Beverly Hills and the Beverly Hills Unified School District have filed several lawsuits to block the project. At this point, the dialogue will take place in court.
Emanuel Pleitez, making his first debate appearance, sounded a skeptical note about rail projects in general -- repeatedly calling them "grandiose." He also scolded the MTA for "forget[ting] to ask the community what they want." Former radio host Kevin James, the other outsider candidate, also blasted the Beverly Hills High School alignment, arguing it was chosen to please powerful developers.
That left Councilman Eric Garcetti as the sole candidate willing to support the subway tunnel under Beverly Hills High School. Garcetti has previously criticized Beverly Hills residents for opposing the subway alignment and the Wilshire Boulevard bus-only lane.