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Danny Licht Headshot

Beverly Hills, Let the Subway Go

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There's an excellent fable I just made up about a swan and her baby swans. The swan loves her baby swans very much and protects them from all bad things, like climate change, mercury poisoning and the unctuous worm. But this worm isn't your everyday unctuous worm: It's a magical unctuous worm that promises unlimited transportation for the swan's family and friends and neighbors and housekeeper to anywhere in all the biome for eternity. The catch is that the swan must give her consent to the unctuous worm's digging 20 feet beneath her nest, which he will do regardless of her opinion.

The swan, unfortunately, is Beverly Hills Unified School District, whose nest is my school, Beverly Hills High, where I will be a junior in the fall. This swan and her nest, whose idiosyncrasies and anxious moms I know all too well, loudly and publicly declined the unctuous worm's offer. The worm, Metro's westward subway extension, would be disruptive and dangerous, they say, because of earthquakes and terror threats and other bad things.

A group of school board members, district parents and sheep (for the fable's sake) have rallied together over the cause, publicizing it with lawn signs ("NO SUBWAY UNDER BHHS") and a theatrical YouTube production -- both local specialties.

This group's worries, which were exaggerated in the said video, have primarily visceral roots. So in order to provide well-founded facts, which Metro didn't, the Board of Education conducted a rigorous study, recruiting industry specialists to dig an enormous trench across my school's campus, simultaneously providing an excellent case of irony: The thunderous trench digging was probably more disruptive than the actual subway digging (which would occur multiple King Kongs below ground) would be.

Through studying this giant hole, teams of geologists verified that there aren't any active faults running through the campus, which means that earthquakes aren't particularly threatening to the area, which should have stamped out the group's worries. But, being visceral, the local group's negative sentiments continue to persist.

Before going on I must note that the group's intentions are noble, and I both admire and appreciate the great lengths they are willing to go to protect my safety. They truly feel in their veins that the building of this subway is bad. But still, I must also note that 40 percent of Americans feel in their veins that God manufactured man. The problem with gut feelings is that they repel contrary evidence (e.g., science) and are fueled by even the slightest hints of verification (e.g., rumors).

The subway extension is inevitable -- it will provide a great good for a great number -- and for it to exist, it has to exist sub-something. If this stretch of the subway doesn't go underneath Beverly, where there isn't an active fault but may be flammable gas, it would likely go underneath a nearby stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard, where there might be an active fault or more flammable gas or Indian burials.

Metro wants to make money, and the local activists know that; they have on occasion used the idea to their advantage. But what they often seem to forget is that Metro's best interest also happens to be the Los Angeles population's best interest. The path of the subway is slated to go beneath my high school because it's more convenient for Metro's customers, the citizens of Los Angeles, and is therefore thought to be more lucrative. Beverly Hills is notorious for its parochial worldview, which I'm using as a euphemism for selfishness; and in a hypothetical Annenberg museum on the subject, this would be exhibit A.

Besides the fact that the subway extension is in the best interest for countless Angelenos, fighting Metro is expensive and will probably be fruitless. The unofficial Beverly Hills way, it is said, is to sue. And suing drains all involved of money and can result in a war of attrition, which my school, despite its fancy name, cannot afford. It also, in effect, drives up the cost of the sued party's service, public transit in this case, which many of its customers cannot afford.

If things keep going the way they are, with Beverly Hills spending copious amounts of money to delay the improvement of public transit, as an experienced fabler, I prophesy that my swan, Beverly Hills Unified, will take after the Natalie Portman swan and work itself to insanity and self-destruction. And I just couldn't live to see that happen. The board meetings are too hilarious.