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Beverly Hills Mayor Battles Metro's Proposal to Tunnel Under BHHS

Patch sat down with Mayor Barry Brucker to discuss his thoughts on the city's efforts to stop an MTA subway from going under Beverly Hills High School.

Beverly Hills Mayor Barry Brucker remains opposed to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s proposal to build a tunnel under as part of the .

“The MTA situation has been a frustrating undertaking on all parts,” Brucker told Patch. “The whole city is united in its desire not to go under the high school.”

Initially, Metro had planned to extend its Purple Line subway westward with two stations in Beverly Hills—at Wilshire/La Cienega and Wilshire/Rodeo—before going on to a stop at Santa Monica Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars in Century City. But the location of the Santa Monica fault line has pushed the MTA to favor another Century City stop, one at Constellation Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars, which would require tunneling under BHHS.

With Metro staff nearing completion of its for the subway, Brucker has come under fire for allegedly refusing to work with the Beverly Hills Unified School District Board of Education to create a Joint Defense Agreement to fight the MTA’s strong leaning toward the Constellation Boulevard/Avenue of the Stars route. 

At a televised September City Council meeting, BHUSD board President Lisa Korbatov accused Brucker of holding “clandestine, covert meetings with MTA decision-makers” without the school board’s knowledge. She referred specifically to an given to Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro board member Mark Ridley-Thomas by Brucker, Vice Mayor William Brien and City Manager Jeff Kolin.

“It makes it difficult to join together when somebody comes to your backyard and blasts you on television,” Brucker said, adding that Ridley-Thomas’ visit included a five-minute stop on the sidewalk outside BHHS. “We didn’t even go into the high school. He wanted a tour of the area.”

Brucker hopes that if the council opposes a tunnel under BHHS as a single entity, rather than joining the school board in a JDA, it will prevent Metro officials from feeling alienated by the Beverly Hills community, which has been in opposing tunneling under BHHS. 

“The position of the City Council is to look at this methodically, scientifically, responsibly,” he said. “We do not believe that the louder you scream and the more grenades you toss, the better the outcome will be.” 

There are various reasons why residents are opposed to a subway going under BHHS. Some cite safety concerns due to the presence of oil fields under the high school. Others fear a subway under the location would make it a target for terrorists. Brucker said he is concerned that a subway going under BHHS could adversely affect construction. The bond measure was passed by voters in November 2008 to raise money to modernize the city’s five aging public school. The high school was built in the late 1920s. 

If the subway does go under BHHS, Brucker said the school will need “substantial retrofitting.” 

“Some of these costs really should be borne by Metro,” Brucker said. “I also want to make sure that we’re not spending very precious school dollars, bond dollars, fighting something that may at the end of the day not benefit the district and the children.”

Because Metro has subsurface rights to the land, the decision of where to build the subway is ultimately up to its board of directors. If the Constellation Boulevard/Avenue of the Stars location is chosen, the city and school district’s only option would be to sue the MTA to stop the project. Should that happen, Metro could make a decision to go completely under the city without building any stations in Beverly Hills.

“Is that good for commerce?” Brucker questioned. “Parking is so tough to find and it’s expensive. What about all the people who work here?”

In an effort to dissuade the MTA from choosing a Constellation Boulevard/Avenue of the Stars station, Brucker and Brien came up with the idea for a station at Avenue of the Stars and Century Park East, along with the suggestion of building park-and-ride facilities to aid transportation to and from the station. 

“We have two park-and-ride facilities that we could offer to Metro,” Brucker said. “It would be the only park-and-ride in the whole Westside subway.” 

One park-and-ride location would be on top of the old train tracks near the Beverly Hilton and could hold about 380 cars. The other would be across the street in the former Robinsons-May parking lot at 9900 Wilshire Blvd., with room for just under 500 cars. 

With a station placed at Century Park East, Brucker said, there could be two entrances to the Century City station—one toward Avenue of the Stars and one toward Century Park East. The park-and-ride space that Beverly Hills is offering would be one block from the latter entrance.

If Metro does elect to tunnel under the high school, Brucker plans to find out why the Constellation route is the best option for MTA officials.

“I want to look at their reasons, the science behind it, the ridership studies, whether there is some safety reason why they can’t look at Santa Monica [Boulevard] and if there is a safety reason, whether that can be mitigated through advanced construction techniques,” Brucker said. “These are all things that we’re going to certainly look at and that’s just doing our own due diligence.”

Check back Tuesday for part two of Patch's interview with Mayor Barry Brucker, which will address recent City Council decisions and community developments.

LAofAnaheim October 03, 2011 at 11:22 PM
At least the BH mayor sounds more reasonable than the BHUSD Principal. Agreed that science and studies are more productive than screaming your head off. Plus, I love the threat that Metro will withhold stations from Beverly Hills and Metro has the full right to go underground. Again, what would BH achieve by suing Metro? That's a case that will be easily lost because it will affect every transit agency in the USA. Metro cannot lose this because it sets a dangerous precedent that would affect BART, NYMTA, Chicago CTA, Philadelphia, NJ PATH, etc... BH - work with Metro and get your stations (we LA residents support those 2 stations in BH) and do whatever you need to mitigate your high school. But don't prevent progress on a station that LA residents WANT. Not just developers (as you keep putting the emotional blame to), but reasonable residents and many homeowners in the area agree that Constellation just 'makes sense'.
John Mirisch October 04, 2011 at 04:05 AM
The threat that Metro would withhold stations from BH is unrealistic, and the mayor should know it. Metro needs the ridership to justify the expense and there is no place else to go. The answer to the question "What would BH achieve by suing Metro?" is simple: a route which respects the city's LPA as well as a route which does not restrict the ability of the school district to serve future generations of kids. Constellation doesn't "make sense" if it restricts the ability of a school district to serve its children. What makes sense is locating the station a block away and if certain people have to walk one block, well, then, let it be considered a "health intervention" as transit expert Dr. Jackson stated. Metro should indeed work with the city of Beverly Hills, but it should also be consistent in its criteria for station locations. It is simply not consistent to kvetch about one block in Century City, but to be so nonchalant about the three-quarters of a mile+ in Westwood from the planned station to UCLA. The Mayor of BH's statements seem ambivalent. But then, again, I guess people have come to expect politicians sometimes to sound like Charles Durning in his classic film role. I'm convinced this Community will not allow the violation of its high school without taking every possible action to protect one of its most cherished and important assets: its only high school (which has only about the half the acreage it should according to current standards).
Simon October 04, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Mr. Mirisch, Your Westwood argument doesn't hold up--having the station at Wilshire there makes sense because of the cluster of office buildings (thousands of people work at the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood). Let me ask this for the 20th time--if Metro can tunnel under the high school and you can still expand (as Metro has said is possible), what is this giant problem? And you can file lawsuits until the cows come home but if you don't have an argument other than 'we don't want it,' eventually a judge will allow the subway to be built (see the Expo Line). Lastly, with all due respect, going on a website and contradicting your boss (who sounds rational and reasonable) does not make the Beverly Hills argument much stronger.
Chris Loos October 04, 2011 at 05:15 PM
That poll at the end of the article pretty much says it all.
John Mirisch October 04, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Yes, especially the part about it being "unscientific."
John Mirisch October 04, 2011 at 06:00 PM
First of all, the Mayor is not my boss. His vote counts as much or as little as my own. My bosses are the residents of Beverly Hills and I remain accountable to them. It is the strength of arguments which count and the use of logic and common sense, all of which suggest it is not worth spending tens of millions of extra taxpayer dollars to move a station one block, especially with the additional disadvantages to the ability of a School District to serve their charges. In my opinion, it is the Council's duty to protect the interests of our City, and that includes working with our schools. While, thousands of people may work near the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood, tens of thousands go to the UCLA campus each day and thousands more into Westwood Village. And that's why a station accessible to all is the only one that makes any real sense. To suggest anything else is to reveal the existence of a hidden agenda, whether it be "playing the Metro game" or something else. Metro doesn't make land-use decisions about schools or school safety. That would be DSA, and DSA has never been confronted with heavy rail under instructional buildings. The Expo line lawsuits may have been filed by public individuals who don't stand a chance in eminent domain cases, but the schools and city have a different standing. And protecting the high school most certainly serves an important public purpose.
Simon October 04, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Mr. Mirisch, You deign to know how many people work on Wilshire and whether it's more than the student body of UCLA? Why would you know the better spot for the Westwood station than geologists and planners who have studied it for months if not years? And enough with this "agenda" nonsense; people (at least in LA) want the station where the most riders will be attracted. Also, if Metro's studies show that the ridership is higher at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars than SMBlvd. (we don't know yet as the FEIR has not been released), federal funding would be more readily available, meaning the higher expense in building it would be balanced out by the injection of federal funds. And AGAIN, you still don't answer the question--what are your objections if the school can still expand?
LAofAnaheim October 04, 2011 at 07:21 PM
Wow, boy if somebody doesn't agree with BHUSD you guys turn your backs on your own people really fast! This is not a good attitude in your fight against Metro. Also, to continuously say that Metro is NOT working with Beverly Hills is a false statement. Metro IS working with Beverly Hills but it also has an obligation to listen to the residents and voices of Los Angeles. LA residents are overwhelmingly supporting Constellation boulevard AND Constellation doesn't have a fault directly underneath. If Metro didn't listen to people, then stations could be anywhere they dictate with no feedback. But apparently listening to Los Angeles residents are considered "not working with Beverly Hills". Metro has the science to prove its routing. BH is just using passion. LACMA had a video where they proved that building an underground parking structure can be built in a Methane zone. You'll need science and environment studies to prove Metro wrong....not just blanketedly saying "we cannot upgrade our school now".
LAofAnaheim October 04, 2011 at 07:24 PM
Such a rational post Simon. Though I believe Mr. Mirisch thinks it's irrational!
LAofAnaheim October 04, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Mr. Mirisich - thousands of people work at Wilshire/Westwood 270 days a year....compared to the thousands of people who go to UCLA 160 days a year. What's more beneficial? And yes, as Simon indicated, lets leave the ridership studies to the real people who study this stuff - traffic engineers. We're just commentators on a message board and you're in a Council, but we haven't spent years of studying traffic and getting degrees to make an honest arguement against a Metro traffic engineer.
John Mirisch October 04, 2011 at 10:13 PM
Again: anyone who would suggest that only serving one part of Westwood when a station could serve all of it, including UCLA, is revealing a hidden agenda, whatever it may be. How many people go to the VA how many days a year? Yet, I don't hear you suggesting that a station at the VA is not necessary. Of course, UCLA has year-round activities, including the medical center. Let's see the ridership studies that suggest Westwood/Wilshire will garner more riders than the middle of Westwood Village. I doubt that such studies exists, since Metro categorically refused to study a station in the heart of Westwood Village because they suggest it's more difficult to build and -- ain't this one a beaut -- they'd have to tunnel under a cemetery. Yes, they evidently have the heebie-jeebies about tunneling under a cemetery, but not under a school with real, live kids. The interesting thing is that the only existing ridership studies that exist for Century City suggest that a Santa Monica station would have more riders. Why would you ignore such a fact, as well as the reduced ridership time for Santa Monica and the reduced cost?
John Mirisch October 04, 2011 at 10:29 PM
Please show me the studies that suggest that ridership will be higher on Wilshire and Westwood vs. a stop in the middle of Westwood Village, which would serve the entire area. You can't? No surprises there. It's simple, Simon. Logic and common sense dictate that a station in the middle of Westwood Village would better serve UCLA, the Village, as well as the high-rises on Wilshire. A quick look at Wikipedia shows that in 2007, UCLA had over 35,000 students (probably more today), not to mention faculty and employees. That's certainly more than the "thousands of people" who you suggest work at Wilshire and Westwood. Metro's own current studies suggest there will be more riders at the Santa Monica station. I expect that will change due to political pressure, but as of now, that's what the studies say. So why not show Santa Monica the love if there's no agenda? Arguing for Constellation because of ridership on the basis of current facts can only be explained by an agenda. The argument about federal funding is simply incorrect, especially since Metro is looking for a loan, not a grant. To answer your question: if there would be no restrictions whatsoever on future growth at the high school - none, zero, zip, zilch - which is not possible even according to Metro, my objections are well-documented: disrespect for the principles of local control, inconsistency of criteria, added cost and travel time, and a basic dislike for bait-and-switch tactics.
John Mirisch October 05, 2011 at 01:43 AM
Beverly Hills is using logic, common sense and good public policy in its effort to further the cause of regional public transportation and to protect its schools' ability to serve future generations of kids.
JDRCRASHER October 05, 2011 at 03:06 AM
John, the reason why Westwood Village isn't favored over Westwood/Wilshire is because the 405/Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor (another Measure R project) plans to run on Westwood blvd and have a UCLA station at Ackerman Loop and a transfer station at Westwood/Wilshire. The latter wouldn't be possible if the Purple LIne were to have a station at Westwood Village. "Metro's own current studies suggest there will be more riders at the Santa Monica station. I expect that will change due to political pressure, but as of now, that's what the studies say. So why not show Santa Monica the love if there's no agenda? Arguing for Constellation because of ridership on the basis of current facts can only be explained by an agenda." Incorrect: http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/westside/images/BevHills-Special-Meeting-june-07-2010.pdf Page 17
Simon October 05, 2011 at 03:26 AM
Mr. Mirisch--you're using Wikipedia as a source for why a station should be placed at a certain spot? Oh lord, I don't even know where to start with that one.
John Mirisch October 05, 2011 at 04:04 AM
Metro's info you cite is a blurb from a glossy showpiece, and not the study itself. Check out www.centurycitysubway.org for more info - email them if you need details about the higher ridership, shorter travel time and lower cost of the Santa Monica route; I'm sure they'll be happy to oblige with specifics. There are no set plans for the Sepulveda Pass transit corridor, which may even end up being served by a bus line: http://www.metro.net/projects/sfv-405/. In any event, the logical location for the transfer station to the Purple Line would be at the VA, which is closer to the 405 (and which is the location of the connector according to the Metro map). What's more, there would be nothing to prevent a Sepulveda line -- and we're making a lot of pie-in-the-sky assumptions here -- from connecting in Westwood Village. There's simply no reason that those using the Westside subway should have to transfer when a better option is available. What you're suggesting is putting a cart, which may be nothing more than a bus, before the horse. It's simply a weak excuse to justify something without much justification. And if you'll look at Metro's own FAQ, they don't even try to use this far-fetched rationalization. According to them, it's the "difficulty in constructing" in the Village and the need to tunnel under the cemetery which are the factors cited as to why the station can't be closer to UCLA.
John Mirisch October 05, 2011 at 04:12 AM
Guess what, for basic info such as the number of students at UCLA, Wikipedia will do just fine, thank you very much. Their information happens to come from the UCLA office of Analysis and Information Management: http://www.aim.ucla.edu/Statistics/enrollment/SummaryFall2007.pdf. And your information about the putative "thousands of employees" at Wilshire and Westwood comes from... where? Since you seem to consider Metro infallible, I'll be anxiously awaiting your explanation as to why it's a good thing that all of Metro's Westside extension subway stations (except for "UCLA/Westwood") are only planned to be built with one portal each.

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