Public Feedback Encouraged at City of Beverly Hills Scoping Meeting
Beverly Hills residents and other community stakeholders weighed in on the scope of the environmental review process for the proposed Westside Purple Line Wilshire/Rodeo Station North Portal during a Sept. 19 “scoping” meeting at City Hall. As part of the environmental review process, the city also invited all interested members of the public to provide written comments on issues related to potential environmental impacts before the 32-day scoping comment period ends on Oct. 7.
During the scoping meeting, City of Beverly Hills Director of Community Development Susan Healy Keene noted, “We are interested in hearing your comments that will help inform the Environmental Impact Report.”
Environmental Impact Report Process Underway
Beverly Hills is in the process of preparing a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed North Portal project under the California Environment Quality Act. The project will provide a second entrance and exit for the Wilshire/Rodeo Station on the north side of Wilshire Boulevard to serve the business triangle. As part of the review process, the city is considering three potential alternative entrance and exit stations including Beverly Drive, Canon Drive, and Canon Drive staging yard. Each alternative location would include a street level entrance and exit using a stairway, escalator, and elevator, in addition to an underground walkway to connect the Wilshire/Rodeo station.
The scoping meeting began with an open house in which maps and renderings of the alternative sites were on display. The meeting also included a presentation and Q&A session for public feedback. Director of Community Development Keane introduced the city’s consultant David DeRosa from AECOM, a global network that specializes in working with communities and public sector agencies to solve issues related to environmental challenges.
DeRosa explained the process for determining an alternative portal location, as well as what the EIR will include. He said that an initial draft EIR will be completed by spring 2020 and is subject to review. A final report by the city will be completed by fall of 2020.
DeRosa elaborated on why the North Portal is needed to facilitate access to jobs, retail stores, restaurants and other business locations that provide amenities to residents. He also said that the goal for the project is to improve pedestrian flow and minimize pedestrian street crossing.
DeRosa noted that construction work on the project will take approximately 2 1/2 to three years. He also stressed the need for the community to get involved in the review process by providing feedback before Oct. 7.
The scoping meeting also included a discussion on what the EIR will study. Those areas include potential effects on construction and operation, as well as measures to avoid or mitigate the potential impact on transportation, noise and vibration, air quality, water resources, and other factors.
Public Question and Answer Session
Attendees at the scoping meeting voiced their concerns about security and traffic in the affected north portal area. One Beverly Hills resident explained that there is a need for a north portal entrance and exit to aid in “loading and unloading passengers” since the Westside Purple Line Wilshire/Rodeo South Portal entrance and exit “is fundamentally unsafe” to residents because of traffic congestion close to residential areas.
The resident indicated that priority should be given to ensuring security measures are in place regarding portal ingress and egress. He added that the alternative north portal should be as far away from residences as possible so as not to negatively impact the flow of traffic during the construction process. The resident suggested that instead of only three alternative north portals, there should be a fourth alternative considered for the north portal location. He suggested that an open public plaza on Canon Drive could be a possible alternative staging location.
A longtime Beverly Hills resident in attendance at the meeting stated the importance of including public restrooms as part of the portal station design, along with a convenient and safe place for parking. The resident mentioned the artistic culture of Beverly Hills and the importance of an alternative portal that showcases Beverly Hills “aesthetics” in terms of art and style.
Other attendees agreed that the design for the alternative portal should be consistent with the Beverly Hills artistic “brand.” The resident stated that the alternative portal should also have utility, for example, possibly the inclusion of restaurants in the alternative space to generate future business in Beverly Hills.
Ultimately, the resident opined that traffic congestion is the main issue and recommended that an underground parking structure be considered as part of the construction design plan.
A Beverly Hills business owner expressed concern at the meeting about the length of the construction process and the impact on business.
DeRosa indicated that the specific time frame depends on a number of factors, including public feedback, the draft EIR report, subsequent public review, and ultimately which alternative north portal is selected for the project.
The Next Steps
After the public comment period expires, the city will finalize the project alternatives and prepare the draft EIR. The next step is a 45-day public review period and hearing regarding the findings. The city then responds to the comments on the draft EIR and selects the preferred portal site. Following that second review period, the city will prepare and publicly circulate the Final Environment Impact Report. As part of the final process, the city will certify the EIR and approve the project for fall 2020.
How to Provide Public Comments
Residents, business owners, and other parties interested in more information on the process may obtain project information at the Beverly Hills City Hall located at 455 North Rexford Dr.
Written comments during the remainder of the 32-day scoping period can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.