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An Open Letter To Our City Council To Move The Metro Subway Ahead

From the Publisher Clif Smith

This is a suggestion to the Beverly Hills City Council to deal with the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s work on the Purple Line subway extension through Beverly Hills.

We start with the premise that the City of Beverly Hills in fact supports and has always supported the subway, despite a scurrilous PR campaign against our entire Beverly Hills community.  Our City has never backed off its support of the subway.  At the same time, Metro has lied, misrepresented, stonewalled and slandered our entire City and our Board of Education ever since we fought the “bait and switch” by Metro to put two subway tunnels underneath Beverly Hills High School.  The Courier, in over 250 articles, has documented how Metro sold us on the subway, then changed the route to go under Beverly High after JMB Realty of Chicago held a fundraiser for former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

With that background, Beverly Hills will allow Metro to dig its tunnels through the City.  That tunneling, and the construction of open concrete boxes to hold the La Cienega and Rodeo Drive subway stations, will rip up the spine of Beverly Hills for at least 8 years.  This is not a “Courier prediction,” it is the best case scenario presented by Metro itself.  We also live in a county that continually witnesses abuses, misconduct, bad performance, unnecessary delays and abuse of our citizens by Metro.  Not one part of Los Angeles County has been immune from Metro’s arrogance.  As a sovereign, independent city, Beverly Hills has the right, power and duty to protect its citizens from this well-known danger.  If our City Council fails to take steps like these proposed here, it will be their fault – and not Metro’s.

We are encouraged that our City Council, thankfully, insisted that all Metro permits for testing, utility relocation, digging, traffic obstruction and surface staging come directly to the City Council for approval.  The council took this step because no one in this City honestly can trust our City bureaucracy to protect the residents and businesses.  This accusation is a fact – based on how City staff handled the first permit application from Metro.  City staff, led by City Manager Jeff Kolin, simply put a wholly-inadequate “permit” approval on the “consent calendar” for a no-debate OK.  This was a travesty and our council called him and his staff out on it.  Thank you Mayor Mirisch, Vice Mayor Bosse, and Councilmembers Gold and Krasne.  Brien?  Always for Metro, but 4-1 is OK.

Remember the “answers” Metro gave about serious, truly life and death questions  – “Electricity loss?  Call Edison.  Gas loss?  Call the Gas Company.  Police, fire, paramedic access blocked?  Call the City of Beverly Hills.”  That dismissive attitude was presented by City staff to become our official Beverly Hills policy.

The Courier also has learned from sources inside City Hall that the staff absolutely refuses to make Metro meet any of the standards a private developer must meet to build something in Beverly Hills.  The Courier concludes that this City cannot trust its own staff on the matter.  Their attitude, to quote a senior member of the City staff (whom we will not embarrass by naming) is: “The subway’s coming, we just need to go along with whatever Metro wants.”  (And this person costs taxpayers over $200,000 a year and gets up to 13 weeks paid time off).

So, our City Council needs to accomplish two goals:  (1) work with Metro to bring the subway through Beverly Hills efficiently, and (2) protect our community.

The Courier suggests the following, which is based on the same kinds of requirements Beverly Hills imposes on anyone proposing to build in Beverly Hills:

• The City Council should hire directly, not through the city manager, its own “General Manager of Metro Construction” to report directly to the council just like the city attorney and city clerk.

• The General Manager of Metro Construction should be given authority over all City staff involved in construction, planning, traffic, enforcement, water, parking and any other City services that are affected by Metro’s work.

• All Metro permit applications are to be submitted directly to the General Manager of Metro Construction for review, comment, correction and preliminary approval.

• All Metro permits can only be submitted to the City Council for final approval after the General Manager of Metro Construction certifies to the City Council, with full supporting documentation, that the following criteria are met:

(1) The Metro proposed work is fully described

(2) All Metro personnel and subcontractors identified and responsibility for every task assigned to a responsible individual, whose cell phone, email address and other contact information is made a matter of public record through the City’s website,

(3) Each task is given a specific timeline – when will it begin and when will it end?

(4) The permit application must contain direct contact information for residents and businesses to reach in case of disruptions.

(5) If Metro needs the cooperation of Edison, the Gas Company, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, internet, Beverly Hills water, or any other provider, those companies or agencies must be part of the permit application and agree to specific timelines.  Responsible manager names and contact information must be provided for 24/7 contact.

(6) All traffic, access, noise and pollution impacts are fully described, alternatives provided, and full and complete access for police, fire and paramedic and any other vital services assured to the satisfaction of the General Manager for Metro Construction and the City Council.  Metro’s current Environmental Impact Report is not deemed sufficient for these purposes as it fails to address a street-by-street or block-by-block impact.

(7) Sanctions will be imposed for failure to follow the approved plan, including fines, denial of subsequent permits and in certain circumstances arrest after 48 hours warning to complete the project, restore the sites and move off the sites.

• Metro will be required to deposit with the Beverly Hills city treasurer sufficient funds for Beverly Hills to engage independent contractors or our own workforce to close up, stop and repair any damage or blockage to Beverly Hills streets, utilities or services.  A bond can be considered, but calling upon a bonding company to pay is more difficult than tapping a deposit to protect against violations.

• If Metro or any other contractor, subcontractor or agency fails to meet the timelines or causes disruption greater than described in the permit application, Beverly Hills will have the right to tap the deposit upon 24-hours notice to Metro and take corrective action.

• Metro, at its own expense, will provide a full copy of its permit application to all residents and businesses within 2,000 feet of the proposed construction activity at the same time it files its permit application with the Beverly Hills General Manager of Metro Construction.  The permit application must be submitted at least sixty days before any work is proposed to be performed.

• Any Beverly Hills resident or business may submit comments to the General Manager for Metro Construction about the Metro permit application.

• At least two weeks before the City Council is to consider the permit application, the Beverly Hills General Manager of Metro Construction will post and distribute as a public notice, at Metro’s expense, the final permit application if and when approved by the General Manager for submission to the City Council.  The final permit application is to accommodate to the extent reasonable comments, corrections and matters submitted by affected residents and businesses.

• If approved by the City Council, the permit and its supporting application in final form will be distributed to all residents and businesses within 2,000 of the proposed construction at least 10 days before any work begins..

• Metro’s permit application fee will be calculated in an amount sufficient to pay for the cost of the City for reviewing and considering the proposed Metro construction.  Specific damages to businesses will also be considered and Metro will be required to reimburse businesses for loss of business or business interruption due to the proposed construction.

• The ordinance implementing the plan will prohibit private enforcement of any of these provisions.

The Courier believes that all of these conditions and procedures essentially are the same as those which must be satisfied by private interests.  We see no reason to exempt Metro – which already has a terrible record of failure and abuse in Los Angeles County–from the same standards all the rest of us must follow.  We also believe that appointing a qualified engineer to direct the effort and report directly to the City Council will be the most efficient and effective way of managing the process. It will also relieve City staff from having this tremendous extra burden of Metro construction review placed on them, especially when they presumably have other duties to perform.

We encourage the City Council to take direct control of the process to speed up the process, to avoid mistakes, omissions, surprises to our residents and businesses, and poor or overburdened staff work.

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