Westside Subway: Beverly Hills Opposes Tunneling Under their Properties, but Neighboring Comstock Hills Sees it Differently

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Three tunneling options between the Wilshire/Rodeo station and the two Century City station options (click here to enlarge) | Image via Metro

Today is a big day for Los Angeles. The Metro Board will vote on two key decisions about public transit in Los Angeles. One is about the Regional Connector in downtown — a 1.9 mile light-rail route in downtown that will connect the Expo Line to Eastside Gold Line Extension and the Gold and Blue lines — and the Westside Subway.

Metro staff has recommended extending the Purple Line to the Veterans Administration, just west of the 405 Freeway, but it's up to the board to decide between that and four other alternatives, such as the West Hollywood spur and going all the way to Santa Monica.

But the controversy about today's vote is in the details. Beverly Hills residents, who all mostly support the subway, are adamantly opposed to digging under their homes, but especially under Beverly Hills High School.

The issue is the Century City station. Ridership studies show that a station at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars would perform better than a station at Santa Monica Blvd. and Avenue of the Stars. In fact, the ridership uptick is enough to make the project more cost effective based on federal funding models. To do the Constellation station, Metro would have to dig under several homes in South Beverly Hills and the above-an-oil-field high school, which is abut the Century City skyline. A station at Santa Monica Blvd., which would be found between Century City and a golf course, would mean tunneling under the street, which is also an earthquake fault, and no buildings under this portion of Beverly Hills.

"All of this is about one block," a public speaker told the Metro Board this morning (to be more specific, it's about two-tenths of a mile). Another commenter told the board there would be a "psychological feeling" if it were built under them.

The controversy has dominated news about the project, but the neighboring area west of Century City has been left of the radar. There, even more homes will be tunneled under, too, but what you hear is not opposition.

"We have attended meetings and a great many of us have sent individual comments stating that we want the station to be built at the Constellation location. It is the center of commerce, the place where people go to work," said Jan Reichmann of the Comstock Hills Homeowners Association in a letter to the board.

Another Comstock HOA member, and also a Westwood Community Council member, Carol Spencer, was in favor of the Constellation station. "I implore you, the Metro Board to consider the safety of the future subway riders above the interests of that of the City of Beverly Hills who do not want subway tunnels beneath any homes or their precious High School and vote for the Constellation Ave Subway Station in Century City," she wrote in a letter.

Still there are concerns from Comstock residents, which include traffic impacts caused by construction along Santa Monica Boulevard, the earthquake fault and memories of a neighborhood alley collapsing 20 years ago (also, a neighboring Westwood HOA is encouraging the project be canned).

Between 51 and 122 Comstock Hills/Westwood properties will be tunneled under for the alignment between Century City and Westwood/UCLA, and if the Constellation station is chosen, between 4 and 36 Beverly Hills properties would be tunneled under between the Century City and Wilshire/Rodeo. If tunneled under Santa Monica Blvd., it would go under four properties, all non-residential.