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A Slap By City Staff At The Council … And A Big “Slap Back”

From the Publisher Clif Smith

Apparently, the City staff cannot get messages clear from the council about Metro.

Weeks ago, the council voted that all permits by Metro for its tunnel must be brought to the council instead of being “rubber stamped” by City staff.  It is clear that the bureaucrats reporting to city manager Jeff Kolin have neither respect nor regard for the residents and businesses of Beverly Hills when it comes to Metro.

That’s why the council voted to have all Metro permit applications brought to them.

A telling example occurred Tuesday when Kolin placed two Metro permit applications on the “consent calendar” for that night’s council meeting.  The “consent calendar” is for matters that are non-controversial and require neither public nor council comment.  The permit applications called for closing one or two lanes of Wilshire Boulevard for at least two months, cutting off power and other utilities to residents, blocking on-street parking and tearing up the street.  Kolin’s staff offered to give affected residents and businesses a whopping three days notice.  How do you rearrange telephones, cell service, electricity, water, cable TV, gas lines or anything else in three days?

The permit application also failed to put a time limit on Metro’s excavations and disruptions.  Remember the simple rebuild of the sidewalks on Canon Drive?  Dragged on for months and months and months – nearly putting its businesses out of business.  The excuse was that “Edison did not show up to move its lines.”  Well, Kolin’s staff report never even mentioned Edison – although its lines would likely be affected.  So, we would have had – not two months – but endless months of excavation, waiting on Edison and everyone else, with no responsibility on Metro for fixing anything.  No deadlines.  No termination of the permits for failure to perform.

Wilshire Boulevard carries tens of thousands of cars a day.  What will happen to police, fire, paramedic and ambulance access when the boulevard is backed up in both directions from La Brea to Westwood?  That is exactly what will happen, but the only treatment of the risk was – silence by the staff and Metro.  “What, me worry?”

Councilmember Nancy Krasne was the first to pull the plug, demanding that the matter come before the full council.  Vice Mayor Lili Bosse did the same.  The two of them, joined by Mayor John Mirisch whose idea it was in the first place to bring these kinds of matters to the full council, and even Councilmember Julian Gold called “time out.”

Where were the traffic studies, residential impact, notices to residents and businesses, plans for completion, police/fire/paramedic contingencies, sanctions for failure to complete the project on time?

Not one word of this in the staff report.  No private developer or homeowner could even think of any kind of construction project without answering fully these basic questions.  Why the free pass to Metro?

Instead, under steady cross-examination by Bosse the City staff and Metro’s representative conceded that none of this had even been considered.  None of it was addressed in anything presented to the council.  The City staff still seems to be under the sway of Councilmember Willie Brien who was the lone vote to approve the permits, which were rejected in a 4-1 vote.

This is the same Metro that closes streets, tears them up, leaves construction debris in place, takes years and years beyond schedule to complete such things as the Expo Line and – recalling the “public hearing” at Temple Emanuel – seizes microphones from Bosse’s hands to shut her up.

There is no better judgment we can render about Mirisch’s initiative to force the City staff to bring these matters to the council than to consider what would have happened if the staff were allowed to approve these permits.  It was obvious that the staff had no interest in getting any of these answers.  If these permit applications were not coming to the council, we would be ripped up as a city with no recourse.

Our staff should know better.  Thank goodness our council was actually on guard and was paying attention.  When it comes to Metro, it is clear that the City staff as currently led cannot be trusted on the matter and that is really a shame.

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