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School Board Engages Social Media for Metro Fight

The board launches a website as the MTA holds its last community update on the Westside Subway Extension.

The Beverly Hills Board of Education has started a social media campaign to inform the public about the benefits of having a Century City subway station located on Santa Monica Boulevard.

A website, Century City Subway, is being launched this week as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority holds the last of three about the Westside Subway Extension. The meeting takes place Tuesday night at 6 at the Roxbury Community Center.

As Patch previously reported, Metro is considering two possible routes to a Century City stop of the subway extension. One would entail to reach a proposed station on Constellation Boulevard. The other, favored by Beverly Hills officials and many residents, would go under Santa Monica Boulevard to a station on that street.

"As the district continues our efforts to convince MTA that the original route down Santa Monica Boulevard is the preferable route, we are turning to the power of social media to help get the facts out to as many people as possible," Board Vice President Brian Goldberg told Patch.

The Century City Subway website is being written and maintained by Sitrick And Company, one of the state's premier public affairs firms. Sitrick was hired by the district's law firm, Best Best & Krieger (BB&K), to help communicate the board's views.

Both Sitrick and BB&K are being paid out of that the board has allocated for lobbying on the Century City station, Goldberg said.

"Our intent is to create a site where people can have a factual, rational discussion about the subway stop," said Sitrick’s Aaron Curtiss, who helped create the website. Senior Sitrick staffer Terry Fahn, a litigation attorney and BHHS graduate, is also working on the site.

In addition to the website, Sitrick is developing an accompanying Facebook page and will consider other forms of social media to reach out to the public.

This is a crucial time for the school district as the Metro board of directors prepares to make a decision this summer on the subway’s path through Beverly Hills. MTA officials are now conducting the final environmental impact statement and environmental impact report (EIS/EIR) required for the subway extension to receive state and federal funding.

Most of the facts presented on the Century City Subway website are footnoted as being directly from the draft EIS/EIR report. A tab on the homepage titled "Common Questions" gives readers information and background on the issue.

"The Westside Subway Extension is a huge, multibillion-dollar project and the Draft EIS/EIR report is over 500 pages long," reads common question No. 3, which asks why the Century City stop needs its own website. "It can be hard for community members to get the information they need."

Editor's Note: When this article originally ran, it incorrectly stated that Sitrick and BB&K were being paid from $400,000 in Measure E funds. The article now correctly states that the funds are coming from the general fund.

Be sure to follow Beverly Hills Patch on Twitter and "Like" us on Facebook.

Joel Epstein March 29, 2011 at 07:40 PM
I've just wasted a few minutes reviewing the Century City Subway website, http://centurycitysubway.org/. It is maddening that a handful of opponents of a Century City station at Constellation Blvd are wasting school district money on PR and attorneys to fight the project. This money should be spent educating the students of the district. Constellation Blvd is the best choice for a station in Century City. I encourage Patch to take a more thoughtful and critical look at the motivations of the critics of this preferred location. And if you find that their motivations are not venal then I would encourage you to examine their mental health. Thanks!
Jody Litvak March 29, 2011 at 11:06 PM
Whatever your views on the subway, or the location of the Century City Station, I invite you to participate so that your views become a part of the Metro planning process. Please go to our website (http://metro.net/westside) for public material, information on scheduled meetings, or go to "Contact Us" to send us your thoughts or add yourself to our data base so you can be notified directly about developments. You can also join our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/WestsideSubwayExtension) for information about subway related developments and to share your thoughts with us and others who are following the Westside Subway Extension. Jody Litvak Metro Westside Subway Extension Team
DoughBoy March 30, 2011 at 12:05 AM
It's difficult not to view this debate and many others involving our tax dollars as boondoggles designed just to keep lawyers, lobbyists and PR agencies active and well-paid. If the MTA was not in bed with developers and politicians, we might reasonably expect it to select the safest, most appropriate route for the subway -- but good luck with that and, sorry, a web site and some tweets won't change the outcome to be determined outside of public view (with plenty of "public hearings" held to create good cover). I don't agree with Mr. Epstein's drivel, as there are legitimate safety issues at stake here. Let's not give up the fight, but let's be smart about it as well. If this is going to come down to legal action, Beverly Hills should save its powder (and money) for a focused legal challenge after a route decision is made and before shovels go into the ground -- which btw would be years from now, so are we going to be paying lawyers and PR hacks continuously until then? We need at this time to think of the classroom and children only please, BH BOE. And that means kill the adult education program, revamp the school lunch disaster, and more... but don't get me started...
Brian David Goldberg, PhD March 30, 2011 at 01:38 AM
And that is what the new Board majority is doing, identifying, exposing and addressing systemic failures in the system that has taken dollars away from the classroom. With regards to the MTA we are busy protecting our students and staff from tunneling under the High School and the nearly 30% increase in costs estimated because of tunneling for developing our high school to meet the needs of our students and community for the 21st Century.
Chris Loos March 30, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Let the babies have their way. In 2020 when transit culture has set in in LA and every neighborhood is clammoring for a subway station, BH can rest easy knowing that the completely f'ed up this station location because they're worried about terrorist boogeymen. No one will be listening to their complaints of course. MTA, please build more lines Downtown and on the Eastside. We won't sabotage your efforts with unfounded fears like these babies.
LAofAnaheim March 30, 2011 at 08:02 PM
Your facebook page says "non profit organization". Can the PR firm be sued for slander?
Minoter March 30, 2011 at 08:59 PM
The BH PR team has gone one step too far in calling the new social network site THE CENTURY CITY SUBWAY. Is that to make those who don't know any better actually believe that the BHUSD wants a station in the middle of all those big buildings that employ thousands of people? If safety and ridership are the main concern, the station must be situated on Constellation Blvd. and Ave. of the Stars. That's the center of where all those 40,000 people commute every day. They don't want to get on and off next to the golf course at Santa Monica Blvd. or even worse, 900 feet to the east. BH doesn't care that there is an earthquake fault running along SM Blvd. They only care if the tunneling is below their high school. And guess what? There's already a subway under the high school at Vermont Avenue. Hopefully reason and fairness will prevail and BH can save their money to make up for all the shortfalls in their schools.
Gary Kavanagh March 30, 2011 at 10:32 PM
Every great city in the world has it's networks of subway lines, and they are quite safe, I don't see where the opposition is coming from in having it under a school, and how it is somehow more safe to move the train closer to a fault line. I find the claim the ridership at Santa Monica Blvd. would be higher rather dubious considering the whole north side of the street is a golf course with limited pedestrian activity, and bus routes can and will likely be re-routed to hit a Constellation station, not to mention many bus connections already exist there. We should build the route that makes the most sense for the people who will ride the train, not cave to irrational fears or a slick lobbying group's website full of spin.
eric gonzalez March 30, 2011 at 11:21 PM
MTA has a sad history of getting entangled in Corporate and Private entity NIMBY activists that have steered the Transit Lines everywhere except the most logical choices; read Green Line Stops just a mile and half short of LAX, Green Line goes to non existent Aerospace Workers in South Bay, Hollywood Bowl and Universal Studios both have no direct Stops for their immense Patronage further clogging Arterial Streets..... :( For once, let the most appropriate decision be made to place the Stop where it belongs, right in the middle of an established business/residential/retail and entertainment hub. Let Century City and Beverly Hills then pay for a circulator Bus that will funnel people from the other speculative residential endeavors on Santa Monica Blvd, where I am certain that Private Cars will still be the de rigeur choice. At least a Subway Stop on Constellation will help to service the Mall, Tourists for the Hotels, and the middle class workers and Labor Force that help make your comfy lifestyles possible.
John Mirisch March 31, 2011 at 04:28 AM
Are you suggesting the info on the website is incorrect or falsified? If not, why are you ignoring the three main points: cost, ridership and travel time? In invoking reason and fairness, you should look at the facts yourself. You suggest that BH should save its money to make up for the shortfalls in the schools. Is the state and county doing so much better than the city of BH that they can afford to spend an additional $60 million (at least) on an alignment that is more intrusive and may actually have fewer riders? How is that either fair or reasonable? FYI, the high school at Vermont Avenue was built after the subway, which means the schools had a choice about its location. There is a "let's stick it to BH" mentality among numerous website commenters that is divorced from reason, facts and logic, despite Mr. Epstein's suggestion that people who disagree with him (and you) are mentally ill. There is also a stunning lack of respect for local control and the locally preferred alternative for the alignment. Nobody in BH is saying "we don't want the subway," but we are asking the region to respect our LPA for many of the reasons mentioned on the BHUSD website. If you are so concerned with certain people having to walk an extra block, you should perhaps focus your energies on getting Metro to build a UCLA/Westwood station that can actually serve the offices, the Village and the UCLA campus, rather than a station that's almost a mile away from the campus.
John Mirisch March 31, 2011 at 04:45 AM
Would you think that the VA station would be projected to have one of the highest riderships on the line? No density. No concentration of offices. Not a destination that is nearly as highly trafficked as, say, UCLA. No Park-and-Ride planned. Yet Metro is projecting that the VA station will indeed have some of the highest ridership figures. What spin? The BHUSD website's ridership projections come from Metro itself, as do the cost estimates. Re-routing of buses from a major arterial can add significantly to travel time, which makes the entire system less effective. We should definitely not build a route which only makes sense for the people who will ride the train, but for those utilizing the entire network, including bus service. Metro has also just recently announced that is is significantly reducing bus service. I believe this makes Park-and-Ride facilities more pressing if the actual Westside residents are to be afforded an opportunity to use the subway, but it also means that effective interfaces between all transit alternatives is even more important. I find the "safety" argument about the mysterious fault, which supposedly has a recurrence rate of once every 7000 years or so, very interesting. On the one hand, technology can assure safety tunneling under schools (even when there are other viable options), but it can't deal with a fault? I'm sure if the fault were under the school, many would be pointing out how safe it is to build near a fault.
John Mirisch March 31, 2011 at 04:53 AM
Wouldn't the most logical choice be the one that is the most cost effective, fiscally responsible, viable route? Wouldn't it be even more logical if that alignment had higher ridership, lower travel times and actually respected the principles of local control? As with others who purport that Constellation is "the only way to fly," if you're really so concerned about logical choices, perhaps you should advocate for a UCLA/Westwood station which actually can serve the UCLA campus, as well as the Village and offices. Because if you're convinced that a block's difference in Century City is a dealbreaker, there's no way that a Westwood/Wilshire station can adequately serve UCLA. Take up the fight for the UCLA/Westwood station "in the middle of an established business/residential/retail and entertainment hub" -- not to mention the tens of thousands that actually go on campus each day.
Constellation Station March 31, 2011 at 04:53 AM
I live in Downtown LA and commute to Century City. The argument that a stop on Santa Monica is the better option is insane. I find the website to be the lies and disingenuous ranting of well paid flacks.
John Mirisch March 31, 2011 at 05:18 AM
What is "insane"? The use of Metro's own ridership studies? What's "disingenuous"? The use of Metro's own cost estimates? Please provide specifics.
Constellation Station March 31, 2011 at 06:25 AM
Per Albert Einstein: Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Please stop spamming the forum.
John Mirisch March 31, 2011 at 06:35 AM
So you're seriously suggesting Albert Einstein would support the Constellation Station? Somehow I don't think so. Professor Einstein wasn't someone to ignore logic or facts. If you want to be taken seriously, you'll need more than your pithy sound bites, which have nothing whatsoever to do with the subject. However, I do understand your intentions of distracting from the content of the website, which completely undermines your position using Metro's own facts. Perhaps you should change your moniker to "UCLA Station" and try to do something useful by focusing on moving the Westwood station to a location that will actually benefit all riders to and from Westwood, including those going to and coming from UCLA.
Gary Kavanagh March 31, 2011 at 06:57 AM
Looking at the table in the EIR, it does not look either is a slam dunk winner over the other in ridership models, but having ridden the 704 many times on Santa Monica Blvd., that area around the stop is terribly uninviting to the pedestrian. One side is a giant fenced off golf course and even getting across the street is difficult for catching buses going to the other way because of how wide the street is and how long the pedestrian signal delay. If it's so certain ridership is higher for the Santa Monica Blvd. stop, why was this written earlier in Patch? ""Century City property owners are adamant that a Metro station at Santa Monica Boulevard and Avenue of the Stars is poorly located, will negatively impact their businesses and produce low ridership. "If you're going to have a subway, you want to put it in a location where you get the most passengers to use it," said Susan Bursk, president and CEO of the Century City Chamber of Commerce. ""
An Actual Metro Rider March 31, 2011 at 08:02 PM
@John You might want to look into the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor: metro.net/projects/sfv-405/ which is otherwise known as the "405 line." Though this transit corridor is years away from being realized, this would be the transit project to (likely) serve the heart of UCLA's campus (likely) without the walk from Wilshire/Westwood. You should be careful not to downplay the addition of a transit stop directly at Wilshire/Westwood however--Westwood is packed to the gills with bars, theaters, etc etc on one side of Wilshire and the other side of Wilshire is high-rise condos and office buildings. This station will see plenty of use. Santa Monica and Avenue of the Stars however is BORDERED BY A GOLF COURSE. And Santa Monica Blvd is basically a freeway. Can you imagine your dear old granny crossing that in her walker as she walks both ways from the Century City Mall? Didn't think so. The station needs to be at Avenue of the Stars/Constellation.
apmarina May 10, 2011 at 01:24 AM
To those who say SM Blvd is only one more block, remember its a very long block, especially if its raining or hot or you're carrying packages. If the idea is to get cars off the road and have people travel more efficiently, putting the stop at the center of the perimeter (Constellation), instead of on one edge of the perimeter, obviously makes the most sense. And I agree with those complaining about stupidity of the Westwood alignment, but that's not the focus of this discussion, and doesn't mean the MTA should make two giant mistakes.
Alexis Kasperavicius May 11, 2011 at 01:13 AM
To put it mildly, I find it difficult to believe that the Beverly Hills High School campus, with its wide lawns and open parking spaces on either side of the huge campus, public streets on three borders - and an oil well - has but one construction access point option for future construction of a building. Basically they're saying the rich kids in Beverly Hills deserve more care and better safety than the rest of the city. If that's the best they can do for a rationale, then I think it's time to throw in the towel. These outrageous claims about following special rules and safety for children are tired. I realize that whomever is running this campaign is merely a paid lobbyist, but if they put their client's best interest at heart, they would be wise to let them know they look really bad right now - and make Beverly Hills look like a bunch of elitist snobs - probably winning no friends in BH city hall either.

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