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City Backs Out of Monorail Study

July 08, 1993|G. JEANETTE AVENT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

BEVERLY HILLS — A plan hatched a year ago to develop a Westwood-to-Hollywood monorail along congested Santa Monica Boulevard suffered a significant setback this week when the Beverly Hills City Council withdrew its support for a feasibility study of the project.

Responding to widespread community opposition, the council rejected a proposal to contribute $10,000 to the $80,000 study.

As envisioned, the Disneyland-style monorail would carry 60,000 passengers per day from the San Diego Freeway through Westwood, Century City, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, connecting with the Los Angeles County Metro Rail system at Highland Avenue.

Mayor Maxwell Salter said the council decided not to contribute to the study because there's "no way the monorail is going to go down Santa Monica Boulevard."

"No matter how right it is, (a monorail system) won't be accepted" in Beverly Hills, he said.

The perception is that the monorail would intrude on residents living near Santa Monica Boulevard, Vice Mayor Vicki Reynolds said. "To expend these funds at this time is really flying in the face of reason," she said.

In July, 1992, the council agreed in concept to contribute $10,000 from its share of Los Angeles County transportation funds if West Hollywood and other public and private agencies would chip in the remaining $70,000 for the study. The proposal was presented to the council after an initial, private study by Councilman Allan Alexander and the Santa Monica architectural firm of Gensler & Associates.

Commitments to contribute to the study were subsequently made by West Hollywood, UCLA, Pacific Design Center, Maguire Thomas Partners, Century City Marketplace, JMB Urban and Gensler & Associates, according to a Beverly Hills staff report. West Hollywood has also been working with Gensler & Associates to develop the contract for the study.

Early this year, however, it became clear that the monorail would be a tough sell in Beverly Hills. The Beverly Hills Municipal League, a civic group, surveyed 712 member households in January and found that 70% of those who responded opposed monorail or Metro Rail stops in the city. Respondents frequently cited fears of crime that they said might be brought to their doorstep by a monorail or Metro Rail, and most said they would not use either system.

Recently, another civic group, the Beverly Hills North Homeowners' Assn., pushed the council to put monorail and Metro Rail to a public vote before committing the city to becoming part of a regional transit system.

Alexander defended the monorail study, saying the $10,000 earmarked for transportation was a small amount to spend to determine if the system might work.

Although council members acknowledged that no formal survey has been done, the majority said that, based on their contacts with voters, there was no point in spending the money because of the community opposition to a route along Santa Monica Boulevard.

Councilman Robert Tanenbaum said he would like as much information as possible, but that he did not want to perpetuate the controversy.

"I just don't see how in the world this city is going to (approve) a monorail on Santa Monica Boulevard," he said.

City Manager Mark Scott said that he would "make our apologies to West Hollywood" for the change in plans.

The funding for the study would have come from the city's share of sales tax revenues approved by county voters for transportation needs. City staff members said the money could also be used for a city parking shuttle or other transportation projects.

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