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Commentary: Fear Plays Too Big a Role in Subway Discussion

Commentary submitted by Carol Spencer, a Westwood resident and member of the Westwood Community Council.

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This commentary was submitted by Carol Spencer, a Westwood resident and member of the Westwood Community Council.

As I waited for the last Metro board meeting to begin I talked with a lady sitting in front of me. The gray hair and weathered face with concern lines told me that she was probably a grandmother or great grandmother of a Beverly Hills High School student. This sweet little lady was fearful of explosions in the high school. All she could say was “but the children will be hurt when the tunnels are drilled and the methane gas explodes! But I read it in the Beverly Hills Courier—this is the truth.”

As a resident of Los Angeles immediately west of Beverly Hills I have read the Beverly Hills Courier for almost 50 years. They distributed free copies to my doorstep. My memories of the BH Courier have to do with the glitz and glamour of the movie stars and celebrities with the fabulous shops offering fantastic clothes. I have shopped Beverly Hills for all these years but sorely miss the small boutiques with unique fashion statements that were driven out by "big business" buying the buildings in the Triangle, raising the rents and bringing carbon copies of the famous shops that are found in every major city in the world today.

The Beverly Hills Courier has changed from a sweet Hollywoodish paper into a newspaper with a vendetta. The publisher who lives in San Marino appears to attack anything Los Angeles. Guess what—the City of Beverly Hills decided to incorporate in an area surrounded by the City of Los Angeles. Had they located in another area they would not have the issues they have today.

In the early years (since 1900) Beverly Hills has loved the money derived from the numerous oil wells pumping beneath the ground. Today they have learned that along with oil money comes other problems. California regulations for schools—X number of feet away from a pumping oil well, lawsuits over the years related to these oil wells. They also learned about methane gas associated with oil fields. I once received oil royalties from those oil fields as they extend into Los Angeles. When I bought my home no mention was made about methane gas, now Los Angeles does not allow basements without proper, expensive ventilation. Yet Timothy Buresh, the BHUSD consultant states that BHHS will need to have a stair step basement of four levels beneath the ground to accommodate the exploding population of Beverly Hills children in the years to come. 

This exploding population of BH children makes me wonder where they will live? The city is currently fully built—restrictions are in place for building height—I have seen few single family or multi-family construction sights south of Santa Monica Boulevard. This is the area where the greatest number of children will most likely live, as north of Santa Monica Boulevard the affluent homeowners rarely have large families. Will the BH City Council change their building codes? Or will the increasing population live in the older apartment buildings that in many cases are priced well below the surrounding area? And, yes I know, because I have searched for an apartment for members of my family.

But let us get back to the Beverly Hills Courier and their vendetta against a subway station at Constellation Boulevard. The newspaper fell in line with the fear instilled into the residents shortly after BH learned that Metro felt that Constellation Boulevard at Avenue of the Stars would serve the most people in Century City. There was talk at local meetings of terrorists blowing up the high school by a bomb planted in the subway tunnel in future years. This fear caught on and has never left although it has changed and grown into a , complete with sound effects produced by the BHUSD PTA showing a fear-inducing sight of the campus exploding in flames.

The video asks why did Metro shift from Santa Monica Boulevard to Constellation? I can answer that one. In 1968 the City Council of Los Angeles voted in favor of Constellation Boulevard, as it would offer the best subway station location for the newly growing Century City.

Many in Beverly Hills and the Courier talk about bait and switch. Not so! Constellation Boulevard has been an option for at least 44 years. The Santa Monica Fault near Century City was newly discovered at the time of the 1994 earthquake. Buildings close to Santa Monica Boulevard suffered some type of damage, even BHHS.

The video asks “Will moving the station make the station safer? Let us assume the big one does hit.” They go on to discuss damage up to 85 miles away. Well, I can state that the daughter of one of my employees lived atop the major fault that ruptured—and her home split apart. The living room was two feet higher than the kitchen and separated by several feet. This is what Metro is concerned about when they say that they can safely tunnel through an earthquake fault but cannot build a subway station parallel to and on top of an earthquake fault.

The video goes on to say that with a cracked station—only a handful of persons will be affected—I ask you, are the handful of persons' lives not worth saving? And will it be only a handful of lives? 

The video states that the Metro station on Santa Monica Boulevard has no methane risk, and is not within the methane zone that BHHS is located in yet their map differs and the same methane zone is beneath my home. Which is it, Courier? Is the map wrong?

The video features Dr. [Brian] Goldberg who states that he is concerned with safety yet Timothy Buresh stated at the Beverly Hills testimony on May 17 that they would have no problems with tunneling beneath the high school if it is 200 feet below ground, beneath their projected high school classroom building. Note: This is much deeper than the current Metro FEIS/FEIR states.

Is the issue really to build where it will benefit the City of Beverly Hills or to benefit and care for the safety of the BHHS students? They state that 3,000 children can take the subway to BHHS, yet there will never be 3,000 children living close enough to the subway station at either Wilshire/La Cienega or Wilshire/Rodeo to take the subway west to the high school.

Or is the issue really that of benefiting Beverly Hills' new development? The owners of the Robinsons-May department store, vacant for many years, went into bankruptcy recently. Beverly Hilton Hotel wants to add new construction but hasn’t. The strip where Starbucks now occupies the former leather store has new owners, as does the car rental area east of Wilshire Boulevard. The new owners have plans for new construction, however the Beverly Hills City council has put off approvals. 

In reality is Beverly Hills competing with Century City so that they can have THREE, not one, not two but THREE subway stations serving their city?

These are my thoughts after reading the Courier’s many articles, also the Beverly Hills & Westwood-Century City Patch, and listening to all the comments at the Metro meetings and Metro board hearings and then talking with the sweet little lady from Beverly Hills who is so misled by hearing only one side of the issue. Fear tactics worked on her, too.

Carol Spencer previously submitted this opinion piece to Patch.

Do you agree with the writer? Tell us in the comments section.

Carol Spencer May 24, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Dori, it is my understanding that many residents whose homes lie above recent Metro subway tunnels asked Metro when the tunnel boring machine was scheduled to pass beneath their homes - the answer was several days ago. Times have changed, and methods have changed. Remember the tunnel will be 50-70 feet below ground.
R. Zaften May 25, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Well, I pay for mine, and it's worth every nickel! I highly recommend George Christy's column today. Florence Henderson is a keeper in my book!
cutop May 26, 2012 at 12:05 AM
R. Zaften, the Courier is a free "news"-paper. Why would you pay for it? It is strewn about all of Beverly Hills and the surrounding neighborhood for free. That way Smith can claim a "big" circulation. "Bigger than the L.A. Times!" he boasts. What a crock! Every week, I am amazed by how long the Courier is left to rot on the driveways of the vast majority of residences in my neighborhood. Paying for the Courier is akin to living on a cattle ranch and paying for manure.
R. Zaften June 15, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Well SOMEONE is cashing the checks I send in!
cutop June 15, 2012 at 07:22 AM
Easy solution. Stop paying and see if you stop receiving it. If you don't then you know Clifton has been ripping you off for the past 8 years. If you do stop receiving the Courier, then consider yourself lucky.

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