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City of Beverly Hills Files CEQA Suit On Westside Subway in Addition to BHUSD

Metro To Discuss Westside Subway Extension, Fate Of Beverly Hills High School This Thursday

The City of Beverly Hills filed a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, requesting a judge prevent Metro from taking any additional actions to further the Westside Subway Extension until the CEQA issues can be resolved.

Despite the City acknowledging the benefits of the Westside Subway Extension, the lawsuit states that “those benefits must not be obtained as a result of decisions that are not supported by substantial evidence but that are the result of insufficient, incorrect and conflicting information and a rush to judgment that risks… the health, safety and welfare of… residents.”

The lawsuit alleges the City will suffer “irreparable harm and prejudice by the actions of Metro in that the Project was approved without the full disclosure and analysis of the Project’s environmental impacts and, if the project proceeds, there will be severe unmitigated adverse impacts” on the City.

According to the lawsuit, the final EIS/EIR disclosed “substantial changes had been made to the design of the project” including but not limited to the change of the locally preferred alternative route from Santa Monica Boulevard to Constellation Boulevard; the change of tunnel depths from 50 to 100 feet to 35 to 100 feet underground without addressing “where the shallow tunnel depths would occur;” and the addition of a terminus station at Wilshire/La Cienega without sufficient study of the impacts.

The lawsuit alleges the final EIS/EIR also did not sufficiently analyze the risks associated with a Constellation Boulevard station or the alignment associated with that station. The studies that Metro used to discredit the Santa Monica station were not properly vetted through a public comment process and the lawsuit states that “Metro’s Subsequent Studies were not based on sufficient technical or scientific investigation” and instead of complying with the CEQA requirement to revise and recirculate the final EIS/EIR to include the new studies, “Metro rushed to certify the final EIS/EIR and approve the project.”

The City requested a public hearing pursuant to the Public Utilities Code and the lawsuit contends that Metro violated CEQA in connection with to the hearing. In addition, according to the lawsuit, Metro “improperly set the May 17 hearing” by not consulting the City before setting the date for the hearing and then refusing to move the date even though two of the City’s experts would not be available. The lawsuit also states there was not a quorum of the Metro Board present at all times during the hearing.

The major points stated in the lawsuit include that Metro failed to recirculate, “in whole or part” the “significant new information” added to the EIR after the public review period; failed to include a clear and stable project description; and failed to analyze the potential impacts associated with the Constellation Station.

Beverly Hills City Attorney Larry Wiener said despite coordination between the City and the BHUSD, the two entities filed separate lawsuits to include issues that are unique to each entity. However, the goal is the same.

“The lawsuit is intended to compel Metro to follow the state law and comply with CEQA,” Wiener said. “It is our belief that when [Metro is] forced to do that, the CEQA process will reveal that there are options for Metro that make sense and don’t involve an alignment that goes under Beverly Hills High School.”

Wiener said the next major step in the litigation is a mandated CEQA settlement conference that requires the parties to meet and attempt to resolve their differences.

Councilwoman and Legislative Liaison Committee member LIli Bosse said she believed the CEQA lawsuit was a strong first step.

“We should do anything and everything to prevent the subway from going under the High School,” Bosse said. “As far as I’m concerned, there will be no subway under the high school. I think Metro made many errors in terms of their environmental analysis… [and] needs to know that the schools and the City are prepared to fight.”

Copyright © 2012 Beverly Hills Courier

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