Deconstructing ‘ignogrance’: The truth about Beverly Hills and Metro
The Jewish Journal’s quote of the week of Nov. 26, in reference to Beverly Hills’s conflict with Metro, was former county supervisor (and Metro macher) Zev Yaroslavsky’s zinger: “Fighting Metro is not a construction project, it’s a destruction project.”
There is so much arrogance and ignorance rolled up into Yaroslavsky’s statement, it could easily give rise to a new portmanteau word to describe the chutzpah: ignogrance.
It is hard to know where to begin, though correcting a major deficiency in the article from which the quip was lifted would probably be a good start. Beverly Hills is not trying to stop the subway. Beverly Hills has never tried to stop the subway. The sole issue for the City of Beverly Hills, along with the school district, has been the routing, which was originally planned to run down Santa Monica Boulevard, but which mysteriously was re-routed to Constellation under the city’s only high school when a well-heeled developer and a major political donor snapped its fingers and the Metro Board, led by Yaroslavsky, asked “how high?”
Yaroslavsky once famously described the county board of supervisors as “5 Kings” but the lack of factuality, transparency and logic behind his statement regarding the entire Purple Line extension seems more befitting of the Politburo. Trying to make sense of his statement is neither a construction project nor a destruction project, but rather a deconstruction project.
The JJ’s article rehashes Metro’s argument that a fault along Santa Monica Boulevard makes it unsafe to build a subway station at the original site on Santa Monica and Avenue of the Stars. Seismologist-to-the-stars, Lucy Jones, is quoted suggesting that evidence of a fault on Santa Monica Boulevard is “compelling.” One must ask if this citation is pre- or post- the trenching which the school district performed. Of course, trenching is considered to be the gold standard of seismological evidence and the trenching the school district performed along putative fault sites turned up absolute bupkes.
Dr. Jones is also serving as LA’s “earthquake czar,” and if, despite the new evidence provided by the trenching, she truly believes a dangerous fault impedes the ability to build along Santa Monica Boulevard, one needs to wonder why she hasn’t sounded the alarm about the 40 story condo tower at 10000 Santa Monica Boulevard currently under construction right next to the high school, or the major Westfield Mall addition on the other side of Avenue of the Stars, also directly on Santa Monica Boulevard.
What the article also leaves out is that last year the school district, the City of Beverly Hills, the FTA, the Department of Justice, and key Metro staff members entered mediation in an attempt to achieve a global resolution of the conflict. In fact, after a full day of negotiations, all sides actually agreed on a mediated settlement, which would have addressed the school district’s concerns, while allowing Metro to keep the revised route — despite the fact that it will cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions more than the original Santa Monica alignment, add to travel time, and result in reduced ridership. Importantly, the mediated settlement would have included additional trenching along Santa Monica Boulevard, which would have provided the major public benefit of ending speculation, once and for all, about any potential existence of a fault.
Ironically, while the deal was recommended to the Metro Board by Metro staff, it was Yaroslavsky himself who took the lead in killing the mediated settlement, which had been brokered by a retired superior court judge. Being a “king” evidently has its privileges.
While it’s true that many members of the Beverly Hills community, including myself, have been concerned with some of the financial decisions made by the current school board, the concerns are much broader than funds spent on lawyers in the Metro case. Newly elected board members Mel Spitz and Isabel Hacker, both of whom oppose Metro’s route under the high school, rightly pointed out, for example, the former school board’s much graver fiscal mistake in linking the district’s teacher salaries to Beverly Hills property values.
Metro now has a new CEO and new board members, and it is to be hoped that the institutional bullying which is Yaroslavsky’s legacy will soon be a thing of the past. Of course, in addition to the hundreds of millions of wasted taxpayer dollars on the Century City station, that legacy includes the so-called “UCLA/Westwood” station which is not in the “center of the center” of Westwood, but actually closer to the Purple Line’s terminus at the VA than to the UCLA campus itself. Sad that UCLA will have a station in name only, but nice, I guess, that the VA will effectively get two subway stations. Of course, it would be even nicer if Metro would actually finally get the VA’s permission to place a subway station on its property – something which never happened under Yaroslavsky’s reign, but which hopefully can happen now.
Who knows, with the possible elimination of Metro ignogrance, we may even find Metro looking to the future and embracing the revolutionary new transit opportunities provided by automated vehicles; heck, we may even finally get a Green Line which actually connects with LAX…
And wouldn’t that just be a mechaya?
John Mirisch has served on the Beverly Hills City Council since 2009 and is currently the city’s Vice Mayor.