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Council Flip-Flops on Monorail Study

July 22, 1993|G. JEANETTE AVENT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

BEVERLY HILLS — At the urging of West Hollywood officials, the Beverly Hills City Council did an about-face this week and reluctantly agreed to help pay for a feasibility study for a Westwood-to-Hollywood monorail that would run along congested Santa Monica Boulevard.

Citing community opposition to the monorail, the council had backed out of the proposed study two weeks ago, despite having originally agreed to spearhead it last July.

Mayor Maxwell Salter said at Tuesday afternoon's study session that he had not attended last year's meeting and was not aware of the extent of the city's commitment to the study. But after reviewing a videotape of the proceedings, it was clear to him that Beverly Hills had made "a positive, distinct commitment."

"It would be absolutely disgraceful if we did not honor our commitment and go through with the study," Salter said.

The council had agreed to contribute $10,000 from the city's share of Los Angeles County transportation funds toward an $80,000 study if West Hollywood and other public and private agencies would contribute the remaining $70,000.

Since then, commitments have come from West Hollywood, UCLA, the Pacific Design Center, Maguire Thomas Partners, Century City Marketplace, JMB Urban and Gensler & Associates.

Although the city will rejoin that group, its agreement to do so will be accompanied by a letter stating that the study in no way indicates a commitment to go forward on a monorail system. The contract for the study will be brought to the council for approval on Aug. 10.

The regional study will look at the feasibility of a Disneyland-style monorail that would carry 60,000 passengers daily 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.

The original proposal for the study came from Beverly Hills after being presented to the council by Councilman Allan Alexander and the Santa Monica architectural firm of Gensler & Associates.

City Manager Mark Scott said that at that time he went to West Hollywood officials and asked them to prepare the contract specifications for the study to be conducted by Gensler & Associates.

Even so, Councilman Robert Tanenbaum argued against the city's about-face. He said the council's action two weeks ago to drop out of the study was based on a change in circumstances--a large group of people in the community have come forward to oppose a monorail.

He then asked whether the study could be done with the $70,000 committed by West Hollywood and the other agencies--without Beverly Hills' participation.

West Hollywood Councilwoman Abbe Land, who attended the afternoon meeting, responded, saying "I think it's imperative Beverly Hills participate," because the study involves Beverly Hills.

Regarding community opposition, Land said that when Alexander approached West Hollywood about the study, it "wasn't sure either, but without the information, we couldn't make a good decision" about a monorail system.

George Konheim, president of the North Beverly Hills Homeowners Assn., disagreed with the council's decision to go forward with the study after many residents said they were opposed to a monorail going through Beverly Hills.

But at the council's evening meeting, Steve Dahlerbruch, president of the Beverly-Roxbury Homeowners' Assn., lauded the council's decision to authorize the study, saying that many people have yet to make up their minds.

"We need all the information we can get," he said.

Earlier this week, Joan English, West Hollywood's director of transportation and public works, explained the need for the study. "Preliminary studies have told us that traffic is bad and it's going to get worse," she said. "There are limited things we can do about it. It's highly unlikely there (would) be any major road widenings or any new major freeways on the Westside."

English said that even with very limited development, congestion is still expected to get worse.

"West Hollywood has not agreed that we absolutely will do a monorail system, but we have agreed that we want to look at the possibility of some kind of overhead rail," she said.

But even after the study, the monorail is far from being a done deal, she added. West Hollywood would have to go through a public process just as Beverly Hills would.

"If it does prove feasible--physically and financially--then we have to see if people want it," she said.

Beverly Hills and West Hollywood plan to pay for their part of the study with sales-tax revenues approved by county voters for transportation. The study is expected to take up to nine months and will probably start in a couple of months, English said.

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