Judge Wants Clarity in Beverly Hills’ Subway Fight

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A judge on Monday asked Beverly Hills and its school district to provide more details on Federal Transit Administration documents they say they need in their ongoing fight against a subway extension project.

Beverly Hills and the school district are challenging a decades-old plan to extend a subway under Beverly Hills High School. U.S. District Judge George Wu ruled in August that the construction can proceed. But the city and school district say the plan to tunnel beneath the high school could damage historic buildings and jeopardize a $340 million expansion of the school.

Earlier this month, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Metro officials said that they had received almost $1.5 billion in federal grants and loans to extend the Metro Purple Line to Beverly Hills and Century City.

Last year, Beverly Hills sought an injunction to prevent Metro from committing to a Constellation Boulevard base station without conducting the supplementary environmental review.

Wu denied the motion for a preliminary injunction on Jan. 12.

“Plaintiff believes that if the FTA [Federal Transit Administration] and Metro are allowed to take these steps, the present alignment for section two of the project will be locked in, precluding the FTA’s proper consideration of any alternatives to that alignment that is designed to occur in the continuing NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] analysis for the project, as ordered by this court,” Wu wrote. “If the court were to give plaintiff the injunctive relief it desires, it would run counter to the reasoning in, and nullify much of the result of, the remedial aspect of the court’s Aug. 12, 2016, order in this case,” the judge wrote.

The city and district have filed a notice of appeal the Ninth Circuit.

At a telephone conference Monday to discuss the parties’ Freedom Information Act requests, Wu said it is not clear from court records which specific documents the city wants. He asked the parties to file papers to clarify their positions.

Beverly Hills’ attorney Philip Karmel told Wu that the city wants documents from Metro so that it can comment on the draft supplemental environmental impact statement.

In a joint status report filed on Jan. 18, the city and school district say they want to look at plans, diagrams and other documents that involve rates of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Justice Department attorney Jared Pettinato argued Monday that a judicial review is premature because the city did not exhaust administrative procedures under the Freedom of Information Act. The National Environmental Policy Act gives the public time to comment on the environmental impact statement before it becomes final, the attorney added.

But Wu ordered the parties to treat the matter as a discovery request. He said the plaintiffs should submit a single document that would explain in more detail which documents the city and district wants.

Karmel said he would file the motion by Friday. Wu ordered Pettinato to file a response by Feb. 16, and scheduled another telephone conference for Feb. 26.