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The Westside subway and Beverly Hills 0-0-oh-no

In politics, as the Watergate adage goes, to figure out the game, you follow the money.

In Los Angeles, you follow the traffic.

Of course, traffic is about money too, and that’s where Beverly Hills comes in – or opts out.

As my colleague Dan Weikel just reported, the 90210 town could be the fly in the ointment for the Westside subway extension.

From the sound of it, BH is sharpening its legal knives. Which is – thanks, Yogi – déjà vu all over again.

Once upon a time, there was a Beverly Hills Freeway on the state’s transportation drawing board. It was to be the great east-west link across Los Angeles. And as anyone who’s driven through Beverly Hills at rush hour knows, it didn’t happen.

BH says it’s concerned that a subway route might require tunneling under homes and Beverly Hills High School [I think the word "subway" pretty much encompasses the notion of "tunneling."]

And even if there is a subway, the closest stop to Beverly Hills would be in Century City – which is like all those real estate listings for houses boasting of being "Beverly Hills-adjacent."

Reading Weikel’s story sent me back into The Times' archives, to stories about the genesis of the BH Freeway in the late 1950s. The plan had the early support of a board of officials from cities in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties. It had the blessing of the L.A. City Council, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and the state; at one point, even Gov. Ronald Reagan backed it – or at least he didn’t stop it.

[Poignantly, L.A. City Council member and future county Supervisor Ed Edelman argued for spending some gas tax money for rapid transit instead, concerned as he was that "auto fumes will choke us to death someday."] 

And then … and then …

The push-back began. There were petitions from BH residents to put the freeway underground, a "cut-and-cover tunnel," as it was called. [BH evidently liked the tunnel idea back then]. There were studies aplenty. The city insisted that there would be no freeway ramps in Beverly Hills itself; you could only drive on or off the freeway at the city limits, not in the city itself. Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper covered the indignant BH celebrities who wrote $100 checks and organized a "mass meeting" to stop the freeway. "Steal their girls, beat them at poker, take away their star billing," Hopper wrote, "but invade their homes and you’ve got a fight."

Nothing ever came of it. The BH Freeway got talked to death. Over the course of 20 years, it got studied, analyzed, meetinged and redesigned, polled and compromised into a faded line on a planner’s map.

Maybe it was a good thing, the no-go BH Freeway. But this time, it's different -- and the  same. Fifty-plus years later, subway planners should learn those history lessons lest they be repeated. And this time it’s the Westside subway at issue, something that could serve the city far better in the long run than another freeway might have, and something that also touches on Edelman’s wistful worry about L.A.’s lungs – or could, if this time Beverly Hills can see its way clear to let it.  

-- Patt  Morrison




Comments () | Archives (6)

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"...if this time Beverly Hills can see its way clear to let it."

Umm, really?!?

The Beverly Hills city council sent Metro a letter a couple weeks ago expressing SUPPORT for the subway.


"And even if there is a subway, the closest stop to Beverly Hills would be in Century City"

Not true. Beverly Hills will get a stop at Rodeo Drive. And it is fine with that. The issue is the tunnel on the west side of the city.

The Beverly Hills argument against the central option for the Century City station is supposedly about tunneling under BH High School. But I suspect the real issue is development in Century City. Beverly Hills residents have always considered Century City the tacky neighbor next door. On this issue, the rhetoric has included many potshots at "Century City developers".

For the rest of us, the central station option (on Constellation) is best because it will give people better access to jobs in Century City, especially those in the southern half of Century City.

Metro needs to remember it represents all residents of L.A. County, not just Beverly Hills residents. It is responsible for putting stations where it will benefit all of us the most.

Rick Mitchell

I'm glad Ms. Morrison did her research and put this in historical perspective, something I wish more contemporary commentators would do as this might keep history from constantly repeating. In fact, there are historical reasons why LA's transit situation has evolved the way it did which have never been researched, explored, or discussed, reasons of the "it seemed like the right or best idea at the time" nature.

I was surprised a few years ago when Beverly Hills come aboard to support the "subway to the sea" as I'd always thought it would be the biggest obstacle to it. Even if it won't reduce vehicle traffic in the area that much (that traffic is not limited to just downtown and the Westside), it would relieve a worsening situation, caused to a degree by unsynchronized traffic lights on Olympic and Santa Monica Blvds, that will increasingly seriously impact Beverly Hills as it now does surrounding communities.

Rick Mitchell
Film Editor/Film Historian


Century City is not the "closest" Beverly Hills stop. There are 2 stops planned in Beverly Hills...Wilshire/Rodeo and Wilshire/La Cienega.


I'm all for the subway, especially since I work in Century City. The tunneling under BHHS to get to Constellation/Ave of the Stars is in my opinion the best alternative. However, I do not see a big deal in having a subway station on Santa Monica/Ave of the Stars either. Sure, it's not centrally located in CC, but it's still a subway stop! People point out that it's too far from where the studio is (a huge employer of CC). Could we get some type of DASH service around Century City to get people to the subway station? Could this be 1 alternative to satisfy all?

If Century City goes with it's plan to expand north of Santa Monica someday, wouldn't SM/Ave of the Stars then become the center of Century City? I know it's way far out, but isn't that what we should be doing? Planning far into the future for our children/grandchildren?

Not trying to sound like a NIMBY, I just want to get this done and over with!


Yes, as other commentors pointed out, Beverly Hills supports the subway and supports stations near La Cienega and Rodeo--which are in Metro's approved plans. Beverly Hills just doesn't like what happens at the western end of the city as the subway goes into century city. The plan favored by most (which enables a station in the middle of Century City instead of on the side) requires tunnling under BH High School and what keeps getting described as "a few" homes.

For goodness sake, PLEASE check your facts BEFORE writing opinion pieces on here and please REVISE your article if you can! Writing stuff like "closest stop to Beverly Hills will be in Century City" is just flat our wrong, creates misinformation, and calls into question the factual accuracy of the rest of your article.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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