On May 18, U.S. District Judge George H. Wu granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and against the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD). The case, BHUSD v. Federal Transit Administration, et al, involved Metro’s work on the Westside Purple Line Extension Project (WPL). That construction is divided into three parts, all in varying stages of completion at this point: Wilshire/Western Avenue terminus to La Cienega Boulevard; La Cienega to Century City; and Century City to the Westwood Veterans Affairs Hospital. The focal point of the litigation is the second extension, slated to be completed by 2025.
Specifically, at issue is the construction staging beneath the Beverly Hills High School fence line and Metro’s compliance with environment impact requirements.
This lawsuit by BHUSD argued that the choice of the staging areas was not supported by Metro’s Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. Metro filed the Supplemental Statement after an earlier lawsuit by BHUSD, in which they were required to set forth additional documentation to justify their subway alignment choices. As set forth in this week’s ruling by Judge Wu, Metro satisfied its burden of explaining why it chose one staging area over another. It proved that their choice was not arbitrary or capricious. Beyond that, the Court did not decide whether the decision was right or wrong.
In a statement to the Courier, Metro communications manager Dave Sotero noted:
“Metro is grateful for U.S. District Judge George Wu’s ruling on Monday that found we took a hard look at the availability of 1950 Avenue of the Stars for construction staging and sufficiently studied the impacts of using the current staging areas along Century Park East for the Purple Line Extension’s second section. We continue to make progress on this vital project to improve mobility in our region and, as usual, the safety of the public and construction workers will continue to be our number one priority.”
BHUSD Board of Education President Isabel Hacker stated, “The District’s ongoing responsibility is to ensure the safety of the students and staff during Metro’s work and continue to pursue our interests through the eminent domain process.”
The BHUSD has filed a series of lawsuits since 2012 directed at the WPL project, at a cost of several millions of dollars in legal fees. It is unclear whether or not the District will file an appeal to the latest ruling. At this point, there is very little time to effect any changes in the construction. Two tunnel boring machines have already begun digging eastward from Century City to Beverly Hills.