Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority staffers have just released final recommendations for L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's $5.6 billion vanity/legacy project — variously known as the Westside Subway, the Subway to the Sea, or the Subway to Westwood — and guess what? Beverly Hills Unified School District attorney Kevin Brogan is throwin' up his dukes and spitting out fightin' words.
“Metro is putting process and politics ahead of substance and safety by recklessly pressing ahead with a so-called 'final' EIR,” Brogan said in a press statement today. “Metro's continued reliance on flawed studies and information to justify a more expensive station that benefits politically-connected developers at the expense of everyone else — including future generations of public schoolchildren — is unacceptable and will not go unchallenged.”
Whoa! Among the recommendations is to place a subway station in Century City at Constellation Boulevard — or the “center of the center,” as L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky would term it — against the wishes of Beverly Hills Unified officials.
So here's the quick back story…
Metro wants to tunnel a subway line under the world famous campus of the Beverly Hills High School, where Brandon and Brenda Walsh of TV's Beverly Hills, 90210 got into all kinds of teenage mischief.
In the real world, Beverly Hills Unified officials are pissed — they have big plans to modernize the aging school with a multimillion-dollar facelift, and a subway tunnel could possibly put the kibosh on that. Hence, Brogan's fighting words.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, however, wants a subway station in the middle of Century City, where the Century City Chamber of Commerce and its deep-pocketed members such as JMB Realty are pushing for a stop.
But you can't have a station at Constellation Boulevard if you don't tunnel underneath Beverly Hills High School.
So now we have a clash of gigantic proportions brewing at the border of Century City and Beverly Hills, which could easily delay Metro's optimistic groundbreaking date of the fall of 2013 and jack up the project's budget.
By the way, along with that pie-in-the-sky start time for construction, you can expect the $5.6 billion price tag to double with cost overruns, transportation experts told L.A. Weekly. A Metro study also cited the eye-popping fact that the subway line would NOT dramatically relieve the Westside's car-packed, gridlocked streets.
Odd, isn't it? And possibly to the tune of $11.2 billion.
“If Metro were really interested in safety and in 'getting it right,'” Brogan added, “it would have waited a few weeks for the results of detailed seismic studies conducted by experts retained by the Beverly Hills Unified School District, which have already identified substantial flaws in Metro's analysis.”
The attorney is referring to Metro's controversial study of a fault line near Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City, where Beverly Hills Unified officials want the subway station to be located to avoid tunneling underneath the high school.
It's a big, bloody mess, which L.A. Weekly saw coming months ago in its July 14, 2011, cover story “Beverly Hills Versus the Westside Subway.”
Metro's final recommendations, City News Service reports, are now under a 30-day public comment period in which Metro staffers will hold public meetings and get cold, hard stares from Beverly Hills folks.
Villaraigosa, who wants to leave behind some kind of political legacy from his underwhelming eight years as mayor, will stay far and clear of those meet and greets.
But he and his pals on the Metro board, of which the mayor is a member, will review the staff's proposal on April 26. Neither Villaraigosa and the Century City fat cats nor Beverly Hills Unified officials are showing any signs of backing down from a fight.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.
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