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.