The Metropolitan Transportation Authority held an Open House Thursday at that attracted vocal resident protesters who oppose plans to tunnel under as part of the .
Earlier this month, the Metro Board of Directors for the Century City stop if the subway—an extension of the Purple Line from downtown Los Angeles to the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Westwood. A stop a Constellation Boulevard routes the subway under Beverly Hills' only high school.
"Schools and subways do not mix. Metro needs a better fix!" was the rallying cry of many in attendance at the meeting.
An organized group consisting of city leaders, school board members, residents, parents and their children voiced disapproval of the plan. Although the meeting did not officially have a public comment period, questions were answered and strong emotions were displayed. A main point of contention for the Beverly Hills community is that tunneling under the high school could affect plans to as part of the , as well as create an unsafe environment for students.
City Councilwoman Lili Bosse was able to arrange a question and answer session with David Mieger, the Westside Subway Extension project manager, in an effort to debate specific sections of (EIR).
Bosse asked about the proposed subway line's daily schedule, and how the existing bus routes that served Century City and Santa Monica Boulevard would integrate with it. Her concerns were focused on rush hour traffic and the subway's projected ridership.
"Most people are going to Century City to work, because it's a job center," Mieger replied. "What we're trying to do is get people off the roads, into the subway, to go to those jobs in Century City."
Bosse rebutted that "to get people off the road and use the subway...there isn't any 'park-and-ride' proposed for the Constellation station," adding that according to Metro's EIR, there is "no parking within a half-mile" from the proposed Century City stop. The councilwoman's point was that people typically drive to a park-and-ride lot so they have a place to leave their vehicle before getting on the subway.
Mieger answered that Metro would "allow people to come by transit" and gave figures that projected the new subway would service "150,000 to 200,000 people every day who aren't going to be on the surface roadways." According to Mieger, less drivers meant more available parking in Century City.
"We're going to work with those parking lot operators," Mieger added, referring to the many high-cost parking garages in Century City.
"Thirty-eight dollars a day! Thirty-eight dollars a day!" Bosse said about the cost of parking at a Century City garage.
Mieger then suggested a plan for a shuttle tram service that could "take people around," using UCLA's shuttle trams in Westwood as an example.
"So why can't you take people from Santa Monica [Boulevard] to Constellation?" Bosse said, referring to Metro's originally proposed Century City stop. "That seems like a perfect solution! Get those trams, stick to your promise! Take them from the promised route and get them to where they belong. Not underneath our high school!"
Cheers broke out from the crowd after Bosse's comments.
Metro Deputy Executive Officer Lynda Bybee interrupted the impromptu debate by taking control of the microphone lent to Bosse for the session.
Bybee's reminder that the meeting was an "open house" drew loud boos from the crowd. Residents angrily yelled, "We are home! You're not at home! We're home!" She then made suggestions for the crowd to speak with Metro staffers at the display tables, prompting others to yell, "We're here for answers! We're not here to look at your diagrams!"
Bybee continued by telling the attendees that they could "speak about safety with the experts," which was quickly mocked with, "No they're not! They're not experts!" She then informed the crowd that there was a . Bosse then said to Bybee, "We are entitled to ask our questions."
Bybee didn't address Bosse's comment, but concluded the question session by giving the microphone over to awaiting L.A. Sheriff deputies, which caused some surprise and anger in the crowd.
Beverly Hills Unified School District board member Lisa Korbatov, riled by Bybee's shutdown of the debate, rounded up residents and told them to "go outside" and that they were "leaving this dog and pony show."
Korbatov called for residents to gather in front of the Temple, where a news truck awaited, and where they could continue to demonstrate their opposition.
BHUSD board member Noah Margo was standing in front of the Temple wearing a self-made T-shirt that read: "Our students are more powerful than your locomotive."
Margo said he only had one comment about the issue.
"I hope this doesn't have to go the distance," he said. "I just don't want to see a tunnel under the high school for all the wrong reasons."
Among the dozens of vocal protesters against the Constellation Boulevard station, a few "pro-subway" activists attended the open house.
Beverly Hills resident Jessica Youseffi was seen sporting a "Subway: Yes" sticker on her clothing. She said that she was associated with Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice, a group that supports the Constellation Boulevard stop.
"We want a subway, we want job creation," Youseffi said. "I'm ashamed of the way the Beverly Hills community acted tonight."
She cited their "rowdy display and yelling."
Youseffi was noticed by a small group of protesters, who then questioned her about her stance on the subway. They asked, "Why are you for this?"
"I'm going to personally use this. I would love to use all the subway lines as they get built," Youseffi answered. "This is going to transform the way the city works."
During the post-open house demonstration, a large banner was displayed that read, "No Subway Under BHHS."
Korbatov encouraged the activists to "stay engaged," telling them that "this is the fight of our city's life!"
"They're not waiting to hear our report from the school district. They didn't have the courtesy to really digest the ," she said. "They just want their subway where they want it."
Korbatov added, "They should just go back to Santa Monica [Boulevard], or anywhere else they want—but they're not going under that high school!"
When asked about Beverly Hills' chances of winning the fight against Metro's recommended plan, Korbatov said she has no doubt the city will prevail.
"Losing isn't an option when it comes to kids," she said. "We should never be the first school in the state of California to have heavy rail under instructional buildings."
Councilman Barry Brucker said that he met with the director of the Department of State Architecture, who confirmed that, "There is no public school in the state, that [we] know of, where a subway has tunneled underneath."
Brucker said he wants Metro to "do a comprehensive trenching study on Santa Monica Boulevard and determine whether that is a safe option to use as an alternative alignment."
In repose to the community's strong opposition, Metro spokesman Dave Sotero highlighted the transit authority's experience.
"We've been operating the subway for more than 20 years already, through the downtown L.A. area, into North Hollywood," he said. "They're concerned about tunneling underneath Beverly Hills High School. We can safely tunnel underneath the high school without affecting their modernization plans, as long as they coordinate with us."
According to Metro's findings, one of the major reasons for the Constellation Boulevard recommendation is that "seismic issues" are lessened in comparison with the Santa Monica Boulevard alignment.
"You can tunnel through fault zones, but nobody in North America has built a [subway] station in an active fault zone," Metro Community Relations Manager Jody Litvak said. "The area at Constellation is not an active fault zone—and Santa Monica Boulevard is."
Litvak was asked if the protesting residents had enough sway to make Metro change its plans.
"The staff recommendation stands," Litvak said. "It's up to the Metro Board of Directors to decide what to do now."
Did you attend Thursday's meeting at Temple Emanuel? What are your thoughts?