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Beverly Hills Fights L.A. Subway Extension

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Beverly Hills sued two federal agencies for approving a 9-mile subway extension beneath homes and 80-year old Beverly Hills High School.

The City of Beverly Hills sued the Federal Transit Administration for approving funding for the subway, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, in Federal Court. It alleges violations of environmental, administrative and transit laws.

Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the sponsor of the Westside Subway Extension Project, is not a party to the case.

The city says Metro plans to tunnel 50 feet beneath the high school, which will affect the school, its students, and a planned $340 million expansion of Beverly Hills High.

The city claims the subway expansion also is likely to contribute to traffic congestion and air pollution.

The subway project, in the works for almost 30 years, will extend the Metro Purple Line from its terminus at the Wilshire/Western station to incorporate seven new stations.

From Beverly Hills to Century City's Constellation Station, the proposed line will travel northwest to Westwood, to a new endpoint close to West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Hospital.

"In approving this extension, particularly the last-minute relocation of both the station proposed for Century City and the terminus of phase I to La Cienaga Boulevard, the FTA contravened its duty to fully consider the environmental impacts of its actions," states the 27-page complaint.

The Metro will break ground at Constellation Boulevard between Avenue of the Stars and Century Park East in Beverly Hills, the city says, tunneling "underneath the dense urban core" of Beverly Hills, and affecting the city's businesses, residents and high school.

"(T)he high school is over 80 years old, and it is eligible for listing on both the California and national historic registers," the complaint states. "The school district has developed a master plan for the renovation of the high school, and a bond measure was passed by the Beverly Hills voters in 2008 to pay for construction of those renovations. However, the tunneling required for the project station on Constellation Boulevard will prevent the high school from expanding pursuant to the district's master plan, as that expansion depends on significant underground development."

Though federal officials knew of the school's "historic status" and its planned renovations, as well as the impact of "vibrations and noise disruptions" on the school buildings above, they approved the subway.

Tunneling beneath the school and homes could have been avoided if officials had not switched the location for a preferred "base" station away from Santa Monica Boulevard to one block south at Constellation Boulevard, according to the lawsuit.

The city says it commissioned studies to show that the proposed Constellation Station in Century City is not less "vulnerable" to damage from earthquakes, as the agencies later found.

"In September 2011, without any public discussion and with virtually no public notice, defendants relocated the Santa Monica/Ave. Stars Station one block east to Century Park East (Santa Monica/CPE Station), shifting it away from population centers such as the Westfield Mall. The only public disclosure of this change was buried in a 'frequently asked questions' section on the project's website, a reference that has since been removed," the complaint states.

Though the city, its residents and the school district have objected, the FTA selected the site for the Constellation Station in August 2012.

The city wants the project enjoined for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, The Department of Transportation Act, The National Historic Preservation Act, and Administrative Procedure Act. It also wants the environmental impact statement invalidated.

The city is represented by Robert McMurry with Gilchrist & Rutter of Santa Monica.

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