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.