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Commentary: BHHS Alum Rebuts Student's 'Beverly Hills, Let the Subway Go' Blog

Max Schwartz responds to a piece by Danny Licht. Schwartz graduated from Beverly Hills High School, where Licht is an incoming junior.

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Commentary submitted by Beverly Hills High School c/o 2012 graduate Max Schwartz.

Fables are nice and at times appropriate, but fables are based on fantasy and light on facts. The complicated and emotional dispute over the through cannot be simplified to a fable, in spite of the fact that some supporters of the route would like to think so.

It is a shame that misinformation is being spread by people who are not educated about the complicated nature of this dispute. For example Danny Licht, who, like me before my recent graduation, is a student at Beverly, , but did not double check his facts. His “fable” contained numerous inaccuracies, which do nothing to solve this problem or encourage productive debate about the issues.

One such example is his claim that the path of the subway should go beneath Beverly because “it’s more convenient for Metro customers” and is more lucrative. In fact, if you read the MTA’s reports, they show that running the Purple Line under Santa Monica Boulevard to Avenue of the Stars instead of under Beverly to Constellation would be cheaper, have more riders and would allow a faster commute. Indeed, a station at Santa Monica and Avenue of the Stars would put riders closer to the mall and would be a more convenient walk for students at Beverly who want to take the subway. The Santa Monica Boulevard alignment also runs under the public right of way, which provides additional benefit.

Another obvious mistake by Mr. Licht is his statement about the trenching studies conducted at BHHS. The trenching does not prove that tunneling would be safe. The trenching proved that there are no active faults under Beverly, which means that the MTA’s geological studies saying there are active faults are wrong. The MTA did not perform their own geological testing in the City of Beverly Hills—under the high school property and under Santa Monica Boulevard. How can we trust what the MTA’s studies show when they have nothing to back them up? In other words, if the faults under Beverly are not active, then the faults under Santa Monica Boulevard are also not active. This leads me—and others—to believe the MTA is most likely wrong about Santa Monica Boulevard.

If the MTA were really concerned with the interests of the people, and they should be given that the MTA is an agency working under the California state government, they would not be asking people to pay more for a less effective subway, which is exactly what Licht and other pundits like him seem to favor.

This isn’t about anxious moms or selfish residents, it’s about the entire community. The people of Beverly Hills should not have to worry about the safety of their children and the future of the city’s only high school. The safety issues are real and are yet another reason the MTA should avoid tunneling under Beverly.

We do know there is a threat of methane gas. The gas is not just a significant risk for the students; it could harm all the parents, teachers and administrators in the school’s various buildings, everyone in the subway cars, and possibly even those in the neighborhoods around the building. Beverly is also the City’s only disaster center. If something happens to those tunnels under Beverly, whether a tunnel collapse, gas leak, or gas explosion, the residents will not have a large, official place to congregate in case of an emergency. Furthermore, the tunneling will be 50 feet underground, or less, which is extremely shallow for a subway. The MTA plans on tunneling 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including when students are in classrooms. This can and most likely will disrupt the learning environment.

Beverly Hills High School is our City’s legacy and our community’s pride and joy. But Beverly—with the exception of the newer Science and Technology Center—is old and has not been renovated in 30-plus years. To preserve it for future generations, Beverly Hills residents passed a . The bond money would be used to retrofit the school’s older buildings and build new structures, all of which are needed. If the MTA were to run a subway under the high school, the Beverly Hills Unified School District would need the MTA’s approval before they renovate or add on to their property, which uses additional time and money. It may prevent them from renovating entirely.

So why is the MTA taking a risk that is not necessary? The MTA says that the faults on Santa Monica Boulevard prevent it from building a subway station there. Yet they have also said that subways can be built anywhere, even in earthquake zones. If subways can be built “anywhere” then it can be built safely on Santa Monica Boulevard.

The PTA Council and the Beverly Hills Unified School District have gone above and beyond their respective call of duty to help advocate for the students and staff of this district and I would like to thank them for all that they have done; this is advocacy at its finest. I would also like to thank the Beverly Hills City Council for standing by the School District in their fight against the subway. I would like to end on the following note: those that I know who are against running the subway under Beverly are not against running a subway through the City of Beverly Hills. We believe running the subway under Santa Monica Boulevard is a better option. 

Max Schwartz
Beverly Hills High School '12 

Dillon Curtis July 18, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Great letter, Max. It is advocates like you who stand up and speak out that make our city the greatest on earth. It is important that people gain a full understanding of the issue at hand before they jump to any conclusions and make erroneous claims on a blog.
Mel E. July 18, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Thank you for writing this Max ~ Since there is no screening of comments throughout the internet, it is unfortunate there is such discrepancy between writing and journalism. The task of refuting erroneous information is onerous, so with thanks to you for properly addressing Mr. Licht's (or really, respectfully, Master Licht, as addressing a youth, a younger man) seemingly credible "HuffPost-Teen Blog" "article," though himself lacking credential and the piece itself puffed with youthful bravado, though a wonderful quality, taken in that context.
Tom Pease July 18, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Great letter Max! As someone who uses Metro every day, I agree. Santa Monica makes the most sense for riders.
Scott C. Jones July 18, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I respectfully disagree with this rebuttal.
David Weinreich July 18, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Faster commute...faster to where? You have to consider the entire time to take the trip, including walking to the station (and most subway passengers walk, not drive). Which is why Santa Monica makes no sense. Unless you think the country club is going to start developing the section adjacent to the boulevard, half the station-front real estate--and $5b in public investment along with it--will go underutilized. Instead of dropping passengers off right in front of the office, they will have to walk to the middle of Century City to get to work. That's just enough inconvenience to make the commute slower, and discourage ridership.
cutop July 19, 2012 at 03:05 AM
I don't think that the point that BHHS students would benefit from the subway being located on Santa Monica Blvd is a very strong argument. Given that the location of the two stops which would be in Beverly Hills (Wilshire @ La Cienega and @ Rodeo) are primarily business districts (not residential), I don't anticipate a large amount of our student body benefiting from this commute. Plus, students who live in the residential area south of Wilshire @ Rodeo (Southwest Beverly Hills) have but a short walk to school as it is; taking a subway to Century City and then walking/backtracking to BHHS doesn't make sense. I've heard this argument made before and I feel that it is yet another attempt to appeal to the average citizen's soft spot for students (just like the false and hyperbolized arguments about child endangerment attempted to do ... methane gas, earthquake faults, terrorists). We all want what's best for our kids, but I don't see a subway stop on Santa Monica Blvd in Century City benefiting very many BHHS students (if any at all).
Minoter July 19, 2012 at 04:18 PM
The subway is not meant as a school bus. Wish you BH folks would get real and realize this is for the thousands of people who commute to Century City for their work. BH has spent approx. $3mil on lobbyists, lawyers and experts while the school cries that it is short on funds for education. Max, your arguments are pathetic at best and uninformed at worst.
cutop July 20, 2012 at 10:37 PM
"Furthermore, the tunneling will be 50 feet underground, or less, which is extremely shallow for a subway." I am under the impression that the tunnel will be 70 feet underground. If that's true, does that change your opinion, Max?
centurycitysubway.org July 21, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Cutop: The bottom of the tunnel will be approximately 70 feet deep, which means the top of the tunnel will be at about 50 feet deep.
cutop July 21, 2012 at 12:47 AM
From what I've seen written, the top of the tunnel will run 55 to 70 feet deep.

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