With Purple Line Extension construction making its way through Beverly Hills, the city’s school board is worried about the sound, air quality and other risks posed to its portable classrooms that some students are using as districtwide construction continues. Plans to relocate those classrooms would cost approximately $7 million, district staff said at a June 7 Board of Education meeting.
“These portable classrooms were put in the lacrosse field, long before we, the district, knew there was going to be a [construction] laydown area next door,” said Terry Tao, a district attorney. “There was no anticipation until literally last year that there was going to be a laydown area next door to the high school.”
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is scheduled to begin construction for that portion of the subway in August 2020, Tao said. Metro has accounted for some of the concerns, he added, by making plans to install a sound barrier separating the two sides and air purifiers for all the classrooms.
According to the meeting’s agenda, the board will hold a more detailed discussion next month to evaluate its options.
Tao said the potential for issues to arise presents more than a “maybe concern” for the district.
“It has to be properly evaluated,” he said. “And that’s why we’re doing it here, so that people can see what it is that the Board of Education has been grappling with for all these years.”
The school district’s most recent lawsuit over the subway project was filed on Jan. 26 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division. The legal battle has also played out in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Los Angeles County Superior Court.
In 2016, U.S. District Court Judge George Wu affirmed the Federal Transit Administration’s approval of the project, and required the agency to redo parts of the project’s environmental studies pertaining to seismic activity and methane near the high school and Century City, a task undertaken by Metro. Once Metro completed that work to the court’s satisfaction, the school district filed its newest complaint to challenge the content in the studies.
Beverly Hills Unified alleged in its lawsuit that the revisions fail to consider alternate routes or a staging area for construction farther from the high school campus, and that FTA and Metro did not properly analyze health effects and other impacts of construction within close proximity of school grounds.
The city of Beverly Hills also has a pending lawsuit against Metro over the Purple Line Extension; however, Mayor Julian Gold distanced the city’s legal challenge from the school district’s, saying “a mutually agreed upon settlement is in the best interests of the community.”
School board member Mel Spitz said Beverly Hills residents sometimes approach him and ask why the district continues its fight against Metro.
“As far as this specific problem is involved, one thing that the community should know is that there is no way that the district is going to be passive or allow any of our students or staff to be endangered,” he said.
Metro has said it can safely build the portion of the tunnel that goes under the high school.
School board president Lisa Korbatov said residents should write to their local, state and federal representatives.
“I would say to some of these former mayors of our city, ‘shame on you,’” Korbatov said, “for taking the side of a rogue agency over your own school district, and your own families, and these children and your staff. And I always wonder what would it take for some people to change their mind and do the right thing, at least say the right thing. Well apparently … there is nothing that makes them change their mind, because they think it’s actually ethical and moral to impose a risk, that Metro should impose a risk on other people’s children.
Metro construction has taken place within a block or less of many businesses as the project makes its way down Wilshire Boulevard.
“If I overstated the impacts and I erred on the side of caution, then OK, I’m wrong,” Korbatov added. “If they’re wrong, then we have a much bigger problem on the campus.”
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