Wed, Aug

Bad Lawsuits Against LA Public Transit

TRANSIT LA - Here's an important story that may not have made it onto The Daily Show yet. While it is only a matter of time before Streetsblog Los Angeles has the readership of the program where most Americans get their news, until then I'm using this soapbox to rebroadcast the welcome facts reported in a recent Streetsblog article entitled, Brown's AEG Bill Could Help Westside Subway Avoid Lawsuit Delays.

The post by Damien Newton underscores the opportunity created by the just-passed law covering environmental challenges to Farmers Field. [link] The new law benefiting LA's downtown stadium project will also allow for expedited legal review of lawsuits filed against the Wilshire subway.

Time is money and perhaps nowhere more so than when it comes to Angelenos' ability to get to their jobs on reliable trains unencumbered by the choking and maddening gridlock that plagues our roadways. Just ask commuters smart enough, or with no choice but, to ride the Metro rail lines we already have.

According to Newton's article, "The companion bill to SB 292 which gives Farmers Field protection against legal challenges provides the same protection to ANY project costing more than $100 million. Any lawsuit filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) against the Westside subway will go directly to the Court of Appeals and be heard within 175 days."

Take a guess how the Beverly Hills School District, which had sued Metro seeking public records related to the subway's environmental review even before the review was complete reacted to this news. In case you have been away for a while, a handful of Beverly Hills residents led by the vocal School Board has been spending and spinning madly to stop Metro from building the subway along a route that will attract the greatest number of riders but also require tunneling under the high school.

Ignoring the realities of modern tunneling technology the Board is throwing every obstacle it can find in the way of a train that will bring commuters to a station at Constellation Blvd and Avenue of the Stars in the heart of Century City.

Delays serve the School Board and their lawyers while expedited judicial review serves the public and Metro. And that is why the new Farmers Field law is good news for transit riders.

The Beverly Hills School Board has already spent a good chunk of the city's voters' education dollars enriching the Board's lawyers and lobbyists. The Board has also spent precious money for the three Rs on PR professionals skilled at ginning up unfounded concerns about the safety of tunneling tens of meters below the high school site.

And though the subway extension has received more public scrutiny than any other project in Metro history, Streetsblog's piece quotes a hired gun from the School District's pricey PR firm saying a costly public infrastructure project like this should be transparent. Huh? How much did that brilliant statement cost the residents of Beverly Hills?

Until the voters cut up the School Board's credit card, I'm hoping pro-transit activists like the writers at Streetsblog continue to tax the coffers of the School Board and other obstructionist groups like the deceptively named anti-Expo Line Neighbors for Smart Rail [link] by asking their PR flacks for statements about their latest legal maneuver.

It's sad really. It must be hard for the School Board members and their hired guns to sleep at night knowing they are working against LA's economic recovery and long-needed public transit that will benefit us all. Maybe an expedited loss in the Court of Appeals will help them realize there is an alternative to their insomnia. For the transit riders of this city I sure hope.

(Joel Epstein is a communications and public affairs consultant focused on transportation, development and other urban issues and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: www.twitter.com/thejoelepstein) –cw

Tags: transit, AEG, law suits, Wilshire Subway, Farmers Field, Governor Brown

Vol 9 Issue 80
Pub: Oct 7, 2011