Beverly Hills Residents Fight Westside Subway Extension Stop
Beverly Hills residents accused Metro of being corrupt at a Metro community meeting Monday night.
"We don't really understand why we keep having to come to these meetings," one Beverly Hills resident said during her public comment. "We're getting hostile, if you can tell. We're taking it out personally on all of you."
The purpose of the meeting was to update people on the progress of the Westside Subway Extension. Though Metro finally selected a specific route for the subway on October 28, engineers still haven’t figured out all the details yet, such as the exact intersections where each of the station stops will be.
Beverly Hills residents are concerned because one of the potential station stops for the subway, at Constellation Blvd. and Avenue of the Stars, would require tunneling under Beverly Hills High School.
This stop at Constellation is being considered because it is closer to the center of Century City, where more jobs and businesses are.
An alternative stop that Metro is considering for that area would be under Santa Monica Blvd. and Avenue of the Stars. This spot is much more popular among Beverly Hills residents. But people who aren't from Beverly Hills argue the opposite, that the Constellation stop is more convenient than the Santa Monica one. The Santa Monica Blvd. stop is a quarter mile away from the center of Century City and closer to an earthquake fault.
"Caving in to the Beverly Hills homeowners after all of that work would embolden opponents and open the door to a flood of meritless lawsuits on all of Metro's pending projects," wrote Joel Epstein on Huffington post.
Metro has said at meetings for the past week that engineers are still studying both the Constellation and the Santa Monica options. But Beverly Hills residents have argued for months that engineers should not even give the Constellation stop a second look.
Most of the nearly three dozen people who gave public comments at last night's meeting insisted that they still supported the subway and didn’t want to hold up construction. But they worry about the safety of the students at Beverly Hills High School.
“I have a 3-year-old son, and his life is at stake,” said Woodrow W. Clark II in an emotional public comment.
The Metro Red Line Subway was plagued with construction issues. In 1995, a sinkhole appeared on Hollywood Blvd. during tunneling.
But Metro says that tunneling technology has improved since then.
At last night’s meeting however, commentators were unconvinced. The crowd was loud, angry and argumentative, even about non-Subway-related issues.
One commenter accused Jody Litvak, the Metro employee who moderated the meeting, of not listening closely enough to the comments, despite the fact that the comments were being recorded.
"I hope in your future presentations, whoever moderates it, gives a litte more respect," the speaker said.
Another commenter criticized Litvak for not living in Beverly Hills.
And School Board Vice President Lisa Korbatov tried to fight with Litvak about the two-minute time limit imposed on each public comment.
"Excuse me, we are governing board members," she said to Litvak, explaining that she wanted more than two minutes to speak.
"Do you want four minutes?" Litvak asked.
Korbatov rejected that offer too, and at first would not specify how much time she actually needed. After more negotiating, she eventually settled on 5 1/2 minutes.
"It seems so baffling that I have to stand here today to speak truth to power, once again," Korbatov said in her comment. She criticized Metro for even considering tunneling under the high school, just "to accommodate phantom riders far into the future."
Her speech received loud applause from the crowd.
Woodrow W. Clark II also asked for more than two minutes in his speech.
“I want to go home tonight," Litvak said.
“You may not want to go home after I tell you what I'm going to say,” Clark said. He explained in an interview after the meeting that he wasn’t trying to make a threat. Like others who spoke, he accused Metro of being beholden to Century City developers.
“We talk a lot about our children here, and it’s important for us to set an example, of not just being guided by our emotions on this issue,” said David Murphy, one of the few speakers to brave the angry crowd and speak in support of the Constellation stop.
Another speaker, a UCLA student, asked residents to wait for the environmental reports before rushing to judgment, and said that the additional quarter mile of walking would make a significant difference to elderly and handicapped passengers.
But for Beverly Hills residents, a major source of contention is that they claim to not trust any of Metro's environmental reports.
"I have absolutely no regard for those reports,” Clark said in his comment. "Your board of directors has already made up their mind."
Metro held a similar meeting at the LACMA a week earlier. There, the crowd was smaller, calmer, and generally supportive of the project.
Litvak said after the meeting that she wasn't offended by any of the somewhat more personal comments the speakers made, saying it was just part of the job.
Photo credit: davidagalvan
Reach reporter Amy Silverstein here.