Shelter for the Storm: Comparing Blue and Green Roofs

On the rooftop of Public School 118 in Queens, New York, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP),  in partnership with the Department of Education, is testing two alternative roofing surfaces. For a three year monitoring period, data from the study at PS 118 will be collected and compared in order to determine which green, blue, and control surfaces perform best as stormwater management systems. Because all three surfaces will be on the same building, this study will benefit from increased accuracy by comparing the surfaces under similar environmental conditions.  The surfaces are known as blue roofs and green roofs; the latter is rather well-known, whereas a blue roof is a fairly new source of alternative energy and conservation.

Blue roofs are non-vegetated systems that detain stormwater and  are less costly than their green counterparts. This is how they work: Weirs at the roof drain inlets and along the roof create temporary ponding (damming on a small scale) and gradual release of stormwater. Blue roofs complement long and flat roofing styles, and have wide gutters with a sturdy watertight liner. This design works especially well in highly urbanized areas, like New York City, where less space is available for on-site stormwater detention. Some stormwater may be temporarily stored on the roof while the discharge can be released to a stormwater harvesting or infiltration system, or a portion can be discharged to the drainage system at a relatively slower flow rate. As discussed later in this post, blue roofs are particularly suited to New York’s bid to lessen overflow of sewage into their rivers during storms.

Courtesy NYC Environmental Protection Flickr Photostream

Green roofs, the other surface being tested at PS 118, consist of a vegetative layer that grows in a specially-designed soil, which sits on top of a drainage layer. Green roofs are more costly than conventional roofs, but they are also capable of absorbing and retaining large amounts of stormwater.

Courtesy Progressive Times WordPress Blog

In addition, green roofs provide benefits such as absorbing pollution, rooftop cooling, creating bird habitat, and increasing quality-of-life for residents. Depending on the region, cities often provide a Green Roof Tax Abatement from property taxes.

As evidenced by the study at PS 118, New York is utilizing blue and green roofs in a way that other cities have yet to explore. Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s sustainability-minded mayor, has identified stormwater management as a pressing urban issue. He believes the utilization of blue and green roofs could save New York City $2.4 billion over 20 years; without the roofs, taxpayers could end up spending $6.8 billion repairing constantly flooded treatment plants. New York’s wastewater system has been around for over a century and was constructed around the idea of Combined Sewer Overflows. CSOs funnel stormwater and municipal sewage into the same pipes, which helps to reduce the need for more infrastructure, as well as helps to dilute the sewage on its way to treatment.

However, this system is not suited to New York’s dense and growing population. The volume of sewage, when stormwater is present, surpasses the capacity of New York’s 14 wastewater treatment plants. When rainfall flow reaches a certain strength and exceeds capacity, the result is an “overflow” of raw sewage into public waterways like the East and Hudson Rivers. This overflow is highly detrimental to the environment and to its human and animal inhabitants. Under the mayor’s plaNYC 2030, he aims to reduce overflows by 40% and make at least 90% of the city’s waterways hospitable for recreation.

Overall, both blue and green roofs help mitigate stormwater by gathering it as rainfall and releasing it gradually over time, instead of rushing into sewers. They both offer an insulating layer on top of a roof to help trap energy in the winter and reflect sunlight in the summer. Green roofs offer an opportunity for biodiversity and food production; blue roofs can be used for irrigation, cleaning sidewalks or reducing potable water use by filling or toilets. Both would be valuable additions to cities everywhere. It will be interesting to see the results of PS 118’s blue and green roof experiment, and the implications it could have for sustainability activism.

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Posted in Buildings, Built Environment, Energy, Environmental, Infrastructure, Pollution, Sustainability, Urban Design, Water | 3 Comments

It Takes A Village: The Surprising Number of Agencies Behind The Design Of LA’s Streets

The Complete Streets Initiative is a UCLA Lewis Center (part of the Luskin School of Public Affairs) program working to achieve more livable and complete streets for people in the Los Angeles region. Complete streets enable people to travel safely regardless of their transportation mode, ability or age. The Initiative expands beyond complete streets to also encompass living streets concepts in street design in areas such as street-water management, landscaping and fostering economic development.

Courtesy Huma Husain of UCLA Urban Planning. Click to zoom in.

The Complete Streets Initiative recently held its Urban Planning Capstone Presentations, which showcased research on complete streets projects with special focus on Los Angeles. As part of a capstone project, graduate planning student Huma Husain produced the above info-graphic in response to the research question: “What is the institutional capacity for implementing Complete Streets in Los Angeles?” At least a dozen local and state agencies are listed, all with regulatory power over the design of streets in Los Angeles. It isn’t hard to imagine, then, that creating complete streets likely suffers from an ostensibly complicated bureaucracy.

Here are the agencies listed on the infographic:

Department of City Planning; Department of Building and Safety; Department of Transportation; Bureau of Street Lighting; Bureau of Engineering; Bureau of Street Services; Bureau of Sanitation; Cultural Affairs Commission; Metro; Caltrans; Property Owners (Not listed: the Los Angeles Fire Department also has a say over the width of fire lanes, location of fire hydrants, and the aspect ratio of address signage on buildings.)

This system of giving multiple agencies responsibility for the different aspects of streets was probably put in place when Los Angeles was a quarter of the size it is now. Now, it seems an illogical system of government for a complex, world-class city.

Have you ever been out and about in Los Angeles and wondered who could and/or what it would take to change certain street and neighborhood designs for the better?

Read On:

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Walk Score: How an Online Tool is Changing the Way We Think About “Walkability”

Walk Score is a website that takes a physical address—enter yours here—and uses software to compute data that can measure the walkability of the surrounding neighborhood. Once you type in an address, data is aggregated into an intuitive interface, showing you exactly how far the nearest grocery store is from your doorstep – or coffee shop, bookstore, theater, or restaurant – as well as many other amenities. More recently, it’s started to track how transit-friendly neighborhoods are. The score is calculated from the availability of amenity options and their proximity—the more amenities you have around you, and the closer they are, the higher the Walk Score. I, for example, live in a “very walkable” neighborhood on the Westside. Even before I calculated my neighborhood’s Walk Score, I already walked to the grocery store, bank, farmer’s market, coffee shop, and many of my favorite restaurants in the area. A “Walker’s Paradise” is just out of my reach, at this time, but they do exist in Los Angeles (Notably: Downtown, Koreatown, Mid-City). In my experience, walkability was a wonderful convenience when I first moved to the Westside; now it has turned into an essential part of my life and is, in my opinion, part of what makes a community great and more connected.

This is a Walk Score walkability heat map of Washington, D.C., the 7th most walkable city in the country, according to the company’s calculations. The green areas are most walkable and the red areas are least walkable. Courtesy Walk Score.

Since its introduction in 2007, Walk Score has become highly embedded in the methods by which people seek, consider, and choose a new place to live. Walk Score numbers are found on every Zillow listing, for example, and its professional services are used on over 15,000 other realtor websites. Some agencies even allow customers to search for properties by Walk Score. “Even if it’s not the highest Walk Score, people want to know what their neighborhood is going to be like,” says Matt Lerner, the Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of Walk Score. Finding a Walk Score lends to a sort of research for the potential home buyer or renter –now you can research an area before you decide to live there. It’s a way to know if everything you need is around the corner before you move, or if you’ll be driving a few miles to access the amenities that you need. It also allows you to add amenities – like the farmer’s market or dry cleaner – and it will aggregate that information as well.

A Walk Score map of the zip code 90024, where UCLA Extension is located. Westwood is infamously very walkable.

Walk Score is bolstered by an advisory board that includes urban planning, environmental and technical experts from familiar institutions like The Sightline Institute and The Brookings Institution. Its employees, however, are software engineers, not planners. Lerner explains that there aren’t a lot of people with software background working on planning issues [like] walkability and transit”. Like co-founder Josh Herst, Lerner came to Walk Score from Microsoft. This amalgam of planning expertise and technological savvy has made Walk Score a success.

Beyond its Microsoft Alumnae, the essence of Walk Score seems just as integral to its success as its methodology and information systems. Walk Score has quantified walkability as it never has been before—taken an abstract idea and turned it into something that can be measured against other addresses, other neighborhoods, even other cities. Moreover, while you can peruse the excess of data given when you type in an address, you can also take away a solid number: 90, 86, 83, and so on—a rating system for cities that is based on evidence and a theorem, not personal bias. “Urban planners have been talking about walkability for a long time, but it’s [been] hard to get people to pay attention,” Lerner reflects. People pay attention now because “the scores are so personal”. Essentially—Walk Score has become something that people care about because it offers information that could change how people organize their lives.

It seems logical to assume that the more walkable the neighborhood, the less likely individuals will choose to drive where they could walk. There are studies to back up that people prefer cities that are more walkable. Walk Score has a section on its website called “Why It Matters,” that also cites reasons why walkability is linked to health and happiness. Even without a study to bolster this idea, having life’s most important amenities close by can make organizing one’s life easier and more pleasant—and arguably more convenient. Yet, this all leads into a larger question: the nexus of personal preference and urban planning—by which I mean—how do Americans actually want to live? Do Americans want sidewalks in front of their houses and actual places to walk to—or are Americans happy to drive to a destination even if walking were a viable option? In 2011, A National Association of Realtors survey found that a majority of people would rather live in a “smart growth” community than a “sprawl community” (in other words, a walkable neighborhood versus a more isolated suburb). The same survey found that a majority, however, were willing to accept a longer drive to shops and restaurants if it meant having a single-family home.

Walk Score is not without its critics, and WalkScore acknowledges the issues that they face when putting together a Walk Score. For example, I noticed that when researching apartments on the Westside, transit like the Big Blue Bus was not shown as an option—whereas the various Metro buses were suggested. I suggest using as the most accurate resource for browsing all transit options in any given area.

Glitches aside, Walk Score is still highly useful in terms of making walkability a larger part of what people look for in places to live. Certainly, it will continue to help home buyers and apartment searchers in the process of choosing where to live, by giving them a good idea of how they will organize their lives in a given area. For what Walk Score has done in its 5 years of existence, I look forward to seeing what it does in 20.

More on this:!/walkscore

Posted in Built Environment, Housing, Open Space, Planning, Public Health, Public Safety, Roads/Highways, Transportation, Urban Design, Walkability | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Parking Games: San Francisco Wants the Odds to be Ever in Your Favor

San Francisco’s new ambitious experiment (inspired by the theories of UCLA’s very own Donald Shoup, and based by the law of supply and demand), aims to ensure that there is always at least one empty parking spot available on every block that has meters. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, backed by a transit grant, is measuring the success of this new program with high-tech sensors that are embedded in the street that monitors which spots are available more often. The sensors are located in roughly a quarter of San Francisco’s 26,800 metered spots. With the aid of this technology, the city now raises the price of parking on the most crowded blocks, and lowers it on its emptiest blocks—and it is an ongoing process. Premium spots now cost $4.50 an hour and could reach $6 in the future. Less crowded blocks are much more affordable, accordingly. Prices have also been cut at many of the city-owned garages to encourage drivers to park off the street.
On a normally packed Drumm Street in the Financial District, the midday occupancy rate on the block fell from 98% to 86%. This gives the city exactly what it aimed for, as well as satisfies the rule of 85% occupancy, which is what Donald Shoup considers ideal in order to leave at least one or two spaces open per block. The city has a plan if parking drops below 80%—the prices will be lowered until the 85% goal is achieved yet again.
Jay Primus, who manages the program for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, considers the program a success, although it has only been recently implemented. He points out that this program is not designed just to increase revenue and ease the difficulty of parking, but to reduce traffic and pollution. The city has also aimed to increase revenue without distributing as many parking tickets. It has launched a new app that allows people to pay for parking from mobile phones. Consequently, parking has become more convenient to find and easier to pay for.
There is, of course, some criticism of the program. A patron of San Francisco’s parking meters was quoted as saying that the program could become “complicated on the social equity level.” Professor Shoup offers a different perspective: “The program would benefit many poor people,” he posits, “including the many San Franciscans who do not have cars, because all parking revenues are used for mass transit and any reduction in traffic will speed the buses many people here rely on.” In fact, it does seem that where the revenue goes is as integral to the program’s success as the revenue itself. The money made from parking meters in San Francisco stays in San Francisco, which turns into investments that improve its urban landscape.
Without expertise in this subject, I am still certain that this type of program would benefit Westwood Village, with its extremely dense layout, in a dramatic way. What do you think? Has anyone experienced San Francisco’s new program directly? We welcome all comments and/or questions!
More on this:
Follow Donald Shoup on Twitter:!/DonaldShoup
Program Aims to Make the Streets of San Francisco Easier to Park On:
Donald Shoup Takes On San Francisco:
Donald Shoup puts Parking in its Place:
Posted in Congestion, Environmental, Pollution, Roads/Highways, Transportation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

H2 uh-0h: The Reality of Water Scarcity in Southern California

The natural West is a desert landscape, and Los Angeles is a fragile construction of a city. In fact, it would be fatally dry if not for the deliberate diversion of water that is not native to the Los Angeles basin. This is not to say that the future of Los Angeles as modern metropolis is uncertain; rather, it will not have the option of functioning the way that it functions now, 50 years from now, if not fewer. This is because of something not every Angeleno thinks about day-to-day: Los Angeles imports water, exclusively. The city would not exist otherwise. And the infrastructure through which that water travels needs help – billions of dollars worth of help. The cost of that water is rising already, and will need to continue to rise. The effects of climate change are impacting the supply of the water that we do import. Essentially, Los Angeles has a water problem without a corresponding sense of crisis.
California is not the only state in danger of water scarcity: much worse off are Texas and Nevada. Both states are experiencing record dryness (the Ogallala Aquifer, which accounts for 40% of water used in Texas, will decline in volume by 52% between 2010 and 2060; Lake Mead, the source of 95% of water for Las Vegas, will be dry in the next 4 to 10 years. See this drought map for more information). Because of UCLA Extension’s location in Southern California, however, I wanted to figure out what Los Angeles is going to do about water and what ideas are floating around now to secure a reliable source in the future. I will be writing another blog entry shortly that addresses the countrywide and worldwide water crisis.

Lake Mead, 2008, taken during the 7th straight year of drought (Photo Courtesy of MSNBC)

So, where did Los Angeles’s water problems begin? Behold a short history of water in Los Angeles: founded in 1781, the city was supplied by water from the Los Angeles River and flourished for about 120 years. By 1903, however, the population had risen to over 100,000, and the river was nearly dry. William Mulholland, Supervisor of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at the time, was commissioned to find a new source of water. In 1908, construction on the Los Angeles Aqueduct began, and was completed under Mulholland’s supervision in 1913. The aqueduct used gravity to move water from the Owens Valley, 233 miles away, to Los Angeles. The original aqueduct is still used to bring water to Los Angeles today. When Owens Valley water proved insufficient, Mulholland completed projects that brought water from the Mono Basin, 338 miles away; and from the Colorado River, which currently supplies The Metropolitan Water District in Californiaa, six other states, and parts of Mexico. All three resources are still used to supply Los Angeles and surrounding areas today.
Fortunately, much has changed since the days of Mulholland’s reign at LADWP. The reckless abandon with which the LADWP of the early 20th century rearranged nature to fulfill its water needs is no longer (projects like the Los Angeles Aqueduct devastated Owens Valley agriculture and its natural wildlife habitat). However, Southern California is still heavily dependent on imported water. The 21st century LADWP is focusing now on securing a future for Los Angeles by securing water – in a different sense than Mulholland was. The agency recently unveiled some interesting and encouraging plans, outlining how it plans to maintain a sustainable water supply for Los Angeles, and the surrounding areas, in the future. See infographics

Courtesy of NRDC

Courtesy of NRDC

These projections suggest that, over the next 25 years, the LADWP plans to purchase half of what it is purchasing now from the Metropolitan Water District (supplied by the Colorado River), in percentage terms – dropping from 48% to 24%. To make up for this decrease in MWD water, the LADWP plans to utilize California’s natural groundwater, and to recycle 7% more water than it is now. This plan is the most ambitious of any water agency in California, but the means to its end are somewhat mysterious. It is the implementation of these plans that is the key to success, and such implementation has yet to be seen.
Our water agencies are working to protect the lifestyle that is available to us now; yet, there is another aspect of the water issue that needs to be addressed: the sociological one. Kaid Benfield, the Director for sustainable communities and smart growth at The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), addresses this problem in an article that included California in its assessment: by 2020, Benfield cites, “California will face a shortfall of fresh water as great as the amount that all of its cities and towns together are consuming today”. He continues:
A major problem with so many environmental issues, including this one, is that the damage occurs slowly, so that people are lulled into gradually accepting additional increments of deteriorating conditions without alarm. But that doesn’t change the facts.
This is not to say that the LADWP, for example, is not planning to change this trend. It is that the LADWP alone cannot change a trend that depends on the deeply ingrained habits of the denizens of Los Angeles – that habit being endless availability of resources. If this trend is to change permanently, it must change via the mutual efforts of the agencies involved and their customers.
So, the writing is on the wall: we need to be aware of water. Peter Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute, echoes Benfield’s statements about the lack of alarm in areas that depend on imported water. Even though California’s 37 million residents live in a “real-life theme ride of droughts, fires, floods and earthquakes,” he says, “there is little sense of crisis”. Gleick warns that “we know that in five years we’ll be in trouble, but it doesn’t have to be that way. If there were more education and awareness about water issues, if we started to really think about the natural limits about where humans and ecosystems have to work together to deal with water…then we could reduce the severity of the problems enormously. I’m just not sure we’re going to”. Gleick hits on both the sociological and philosophical aspects of the issue – that the communities which are predicted to be most affected by water scarcity, such as the three million plus residents of Los Angeles alone, need to be aware that we all need to make sacrifices to conserve, and that the way water gets to us will change one way or the other. The change will be less severe with cooperation.  It is not an inherent flaw of people in communities that have had reliable water for a century, to not see water as the “transparent gold” that it is. It is a matter of education, of making information available and ubiquitous.
Of course, it is not expected that Southern California will stop importing water, as this Los Angeles Times article reports. Past expectations, however, is the proof: that energy pressures, combined with environmental problems, are forcing the question of the long-term reliability of importswhich are, as aforementioned, unreliable at best. The reshaping of water policy must follow.
The fundamental question is (paraphrased from Peter Gleick): in the 21st century, is it appropriate, or even necessary, to use water resources in a nonrenewable and unsustainable way? I would venture to say the answer is a resounding “no”. And although our elected officials are working on securing California’s water future, each of us also needs to contribute to water conservation, as well as stay conscious of our water footprint, as residents of a desert region. I urge you to visit the websites in the section below, and as always, welcome your comments or questions.
Read on:
Find the source of your water:
Calculate your water footprint:
100 ways to conserve water:
10 things you should know about water:
Posted in Built Environment, California Budget, Climate Change, Infrastructure, Public Health, Renewable Resources, Sustainability, Water | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bike…To The Future!: How Cycling Infrastructure is Making a Comeback in LA

It goes without saying that altering transportation infrastructure in Los Angeles is a momentous task. Moreover, it will take a combination of successful implementation of public transit and cultural change to relieve the overwhelmed roads in California, especially Los Angeles. What is Los Angeles doing now to help improve the transportation problem, in addition to rail and subway projects? Improving infrastructure for a sustainable commuting option, which is tried and true: bicycling.
According to CalTrans, 329.8 billion miles are traveled per year in California alone: 73% of these miles are traveled by car; only 4.8% of them are traveled via bicycle or by foot. This trend can be explained by urban sprawl, low transportation fuel, and cheap land, and the culture of personal car ownership in California. The small percentage of those who traveled by bicycle could also be explained by the lack of safe bike infrastructure in Los Angeles. This all might be changing due to local bicycle interest groups and coalitions, as well as new investments coming from our local government and government agencies.
Despite being the capital of cars, Los Angeles is making headway in the area of bicycle infrastructure. In February 2011, Assembly Bill 819 was introduced by Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski. The bill was slated to amend current law to improve the safety and efficiency of bicycle lane traffic across the state, and to promote the use of bicycles as a preferred alternative to other modes of transportation. The bill was approved, but without the imperative language that would allow planners to use guidelines outside of those established by Caltrans – like the popular NACTO Bikeway Design Guide. While the bill’s approval may not be the catalyst needed for radical improvement in bike infrastructure in Los Angeles, it still requires Caltrans to create an experimentation process through which engineers will be able to establish their own standards.
The newly painted bike lane on Spring St. in Downtown LA
Other than AB 819, making Los Angeles more bike-friendly is on the agendas of LADOT and the LACBC, who recently partnered up with a Dutch bicycle expert (Amsterdam residents make more bike trips than car trips) to determine what kind of improvements could be made to existing bike infrastructure.  This partnership was facilitated by ThinkBike LA, a local bicycle promotion and design workshop.
Bicycle Parking in The Netherlands: A surreal scene for Angelenos
An example of a local city that is implementing bicycle infrastructure, such as the ideas discussed at ThinkBike LA, is Santa Monica, where local government is aiming to promote livability and walkability. Santa Monica now boasts the largest bike parking structure in the US. The City of Santa Monica has also started work on a facelift for Ocean Park Boulevard, first envisioned in 2008 and slated for completion in 2013. The “green street” will include light poles, wide sidewalks, painted bike lanes, bike racks, street furniture, and trash and recycling cans. This new approach will lessen the dangers to both bicyclers and motorists, by building protected bike lanes, and avoiding “vehicular cycling,” in which cyclists share the road as if they were automobiles. Perhaps Los Angeles will see more bike infrastructure like we’re seeing in Santa Monica, and we’ll update you on any developments in that area.
Santa Monica Bike Center
Beyond local government, and with the main goal of sustainability in mind, how could or how does bicycling fit into your life? Have you considered it, but worry about the dangers? If you are a seasoned bicycler in Los Angeles, do you have any tips – pros or cons – that you feel are relevant? Take a look at our continued reading list for more information on bicycling.
Knowing where to find the right information that can make you a more confident bicycler is half the battle. The following websites are great resources:
The cost of car versus bike ownership:
Tips for safe cycling:
Free city biking lessons and gear:
Bike tourism opportunities:
Community bicycling events:
Safe walking and cycling routes to school:
Posted in Infrastructure, Planning, Public Safety, Transportation, Walkability | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Metro, Decoded: The Saga of the Century City Stop

The Westside Subway Extension continues to be a polarizing issue for some members of the Beverly Hills community and proponents of the continuation of the line.  
What a future stop on the Westside Subway Extension may look like.
To frame this issue, a quick summation of the current Metro system is helpful. Currently in revenue service, there is the Red Line (Downtown Los Angeles to North Hollywood), Blue Line (D. Los Angeles to Long Beach), Green Line (Redondo Beach to Norwalk), Gold Line (Pasadena to D. Los Angeles; an extension from Pasadena to Azusa has been proposed), and Purple Line (D. Los Angeles to Wilshire/Western). The tentatively named ‘Expo Line’ is slated to open for revenue service in March 2012, although several previous delays have postponed its opening day since 2010.
At this time, a subway system does not exist that serves the Westside area directly. Since Antonio Villaraigosa was elected Mayor of Los Angeles in 2005, the Westside Subway Extension has been one of his administration’s priorities, thus becoming one of Metro’s priority projects. The extension builds onto what is already the Purple Line, which was formerly the Wilshire Branch of the Red Line.  Villaraigosa has also referred to this Extension as a “Subway to the Sea,” although whether or not it will end at the Santa Monica pier is still in question. This phrase, that once generated buzz, has been largely abandoned in favor of the “Westside Subway Extension”. According to Metro’s website:
The Westside Subway Extension would provide a high-capacity, high-speed, dependable alternative for those traveling to key destinations such as Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, Century City and Westwood, including the UCLA campus. Over 300,000 people travel into the Westside every day for work from areas throughout the County and beyond.
As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chairman, Villaraigosa will be highly involved with the final decision regarding just where the subway will travel along the Westside. He has given public reassurances that the project is highly valuable to the future of Los Angeles. One of the major decisions that the public has not yet agreed upon is whether or not construction to further the line should go beneath Beverly Hills High School and local homes to deposit at the intersection of Constellation/Avenue of the Stars or should be built to deposit from beneath the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard/Avenue of the Stars, thus avoiding drilling beneath BHHS and local Beverly Hills homes.
While the benefits of this extension could potentially affect hundreds of thousands of Californians, the MTA’s current and most highly publicized discord exists between the MTA and the citizens of Beverly Hills,  namely the Principal of Beverly Hills High School (BHHS) and BHUSD and the Mayor of Beverly Hills.
As long as a resolution is not reached between MTA and their constituents, such as the Beverly Hills community, the project will be delayed, and one could speculate that these legal grievances may postpone the construction of the subway long enough that Villaraigosa will no longer be Mayor, or MTA Chairman for that matter, by the time a resolution is reached – and the project could fall into limbo.
In order to move the project forward, Metro staff is now working to complete preliminary engineering and a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), which is the final study required before construction can begin. As part of this preparatory effort, Metro released findings from independent geologists in October, which strongly recommended that the Century City Stop should tunnel beneath BHHS, to avoid the active fault line that lies beneath Santa Monica Boulevard.
An aerial view of the area that would be affected in Century City, with Beverly Hills High School on the right-hand side.
This recommendation has inspired much discourse between Beverly Hills and the MTA. BHHS has paid thousands of dollars to a lobbying firm to dissuade Metro from their current plans. In this same vein, they have highlighted worries about how tunneling could make the campus vulnerable to collapse, and possibly hinder the school’s future modernization, made possible with funds from Measure E.
It is important to make the distinction that Beverly Hills is not against the actual subway; they are against the building of it under BHHS, citing the aforementioned concerns. In order to address the argument that a fault line would make a Santa Monica Blvd. stop dangerous, BHHS has recently decided to invest in double-checking Metro’s findings with their own drilling.
Which intersection do you feel would benefit the area the most? Do you support Beverly Hills, thus the Santa Monica Boulevard/Avenue of the Stars stop? Do you feel that BHHS is validated in their fears of the subway’s effect on their school? Are you reassured by the expert scientific findings that support a Constellation/Avenue of the Stars stop? We’ll keep you posted as new developments arise.  
Opinion:  The Beverly Hills website makes its position clear; the Century City Chamber of Commerce voices its opinion here on its own website supporting a Constellation/AOS stop.
Posted in Congestion, Infrastructure, Land Use, Pollution, Transportation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment