BEVERLY HILLS—The Beverly Hills Unified School District has filed a lawsuit on Friday, January 26 against the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) to halt the construction of a new Westside Purple Line Subway Extension. The extension would cut underneath Beverly Hills High School.

Metro’s Westside Purple Line Subway Extension Project has already begun construction and is expected to run from UCLA and the Westwood Veteran’s Affairs Hospital through Beverly Hills, Koreatown and ending at Union Station downtown.

This is not the first time that the BHUSD has stopped or slowed the progress of the new purple line; the district filed a similar lawsuit in February 2016, where a federal judge ruled while the FTA was free to continue on the new line, it would need to carry out more environmental impact tests. On August 12, 2016, the Federal District court ruled that Metro failed to perform a complete analysis of impacts of the construction, including to public health, and ordered Metro to specifically analyze whether a feasible alternative route exists, to evaluate the public health impacts of dust and diesel particulate matter, and to disclose risks associated with methane migration and possible explosion potential under unprotected buildings. The FTA finished the Purple Line’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Studies (SEIS) in December.

The BHUSD did not accept the completed study, citing it as “faulty” and not taking in to account how the project would affect the students. According to a press release from the BHUSD, the purpose of the resulting lawsuit is to “conduct a proper environmental analysis, evaluate the serious health effects the Project and associated construction next to campus will have on the students, and prohibit the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) from obligating federal funds to the Project until the agencies have fully complied with federal law.”

The School District argues that Metro’s planned tunnels will hurt the Beverly Hills High School’s recreational areas, its historic structures, and its ability to modernize
and expand. According to the School District, airborne dust and emissions from the anticipated seven (7) years of construction at the westerly fence of the school will threaten the health of students, faculty, staff, and community members that use the school’s facilities. It also asserts that noise and vibration from construction activity will disrupt the learning environment and education of the over 1500 Beverly Hills High School students.

“This lawsuit is critical to protect Beverly Hills High School, its students, and the community. The FTA’s and Metro’s decision to build subway tunnels beneath the heart of our High School’s campus and to conduct substantial construction activity on the westerly fence line of the High School campus, which faces the walls of classrooms, endangers the health and education of our students. It also puts at risk the High School’s historic buildings, its present and planned recreational facilities, and its ability to expand to meet the needs of Beverly Hills’ growing community,” said Lisa Korbatov, President of the BHUSD Board of Education.

Jennifer S. Racine, the BHUSD’s lawyer and partner at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP said: “The supplemental environmental analysis does not fairly or adequately evaluate the Project’s potential harm to the High School or the health and safety of students. The agencies failed to properly consider and adopt reasonable alternatives to the alignment under the High School and the staging area next to the High School, which is contrary to federal law.”

Written By George Morris and Casey Jacobs