Monday, October 11, 2010

Beverly Hills Residents Rally to Keep Fear Alive

Many Beverly Hills residents want Century City commuters to walk farther to their subway station because they don't want Metro to tunnel under Beverly Hills homes and Beverly Hills High School.
You would think Beverly Hills, California residents would take a measured and educated approach to the Westside Subway Extension that will be built through their city. But at a recent Metro hearing in B.H., reason gave way to fear-mongering about the "children" at Beverly Hills High School and the homeowners who would live above an underground subway if the alternative Constellation routes are chosen over the Santa Monica Boulevard route.

These residents are ignorantly and selfishly putting their own needs above the greater L.A. community that desperately needs better public transit. The Constellation Avenue options would bring the station closer to the heart of Century City and thereby encourage more of the thousands of office workers to commute to work by train instead of driving.

And it would make it easier for the thousands of low-wage workers who commute from the Eastside to get to their destinations in Century City. That is something these Beverly Hills residents, with their two or three luxury cars in their driveways, don't have to worry about.

But what is the real motivation behind not wanting to tunnel under Beverly Hills High School? Is it the danger of the oil wells underneath the school contaminating the facilities? I don't think so because according to Wikipedia the oil has potentially already done much damage:

"Beverly gained more notoriety when Erin Brockovich and Ed Masry announced having filed three lawsuits in 2003 and 2004 on behalf of 25, 400, and 300 (respectively) former students who attended Beverly from the 1970s until the 1990s. In April 2003, the Texas-based lawfirm of Baron & Budd partnered with the law office of Masry & Vititoe to lend its expertise in lawsuits related to health risks of volatile chemicals. The number of actual cancer claims filed in Santa Monica was ninety-four.

The lawsuits claimed that toxic fumes from the oil wells caused the former students to develop cancer. The oil wells are very close to all of Beverly's sports facilities, including the soccer field, the football field, and the racetrack. Beverly students—not just athletes but students taking required physical education classes from the 1970s until the 1990s—were required to run near the oil wells."

While the lawsuits were dismissed, it did much to tarnish the high school's reputation.

So perhaps Beverly Hills High School should be moved altogether. But wait a minute. Could the school be making a lot of money from these oil wells on their property that are pumping out 400 to 500 barrels a day? Bingo! From a 2006 ABC News Report:

"A part of what makes the school so affluent is the oil tower that casts a shadow over the football field. The school receives royalties from the well that go directly to the general fund.

'We get about $300,000 a year that goes into the general fund, which supports student programs,' Stepenosky said. 'About 85 percent of the teachers' salaries comes from the general fund as well.'"

So maybe it isn't about the health and well-being of the "children." Maybe it is about that $300,000 a year the high school gets from the toxic oil wells under the ground.

But what are the examples of subway lines underneath homes and schools that many B.H. residents so conveniently dismiss in their relentless anti-Metro media campaign?

Here is one example of the reality that it is perfectly safe to build a subway underneath homes, schools, businesses and yes, even hospitals.

The Foggy Bottom Metro Station in Washington, D.C. is located directly underneath George Washington University Hospital.

Here is the station entrance with the hospital just to the right:

And a picture of the station:

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