Hundreds of Beverly Hills High School and elementary students staged a protest at a park adjacent to President Donald Trump’s home Friday, decrying plans to build the Metro Purple Line subway extension beneath the high school.
The Beverly Hills Unified School District and the city have long challenged the routing of the Purple Line extension under the school, contending the project could unleash methane and hydrogen sulfide gases and pose life-threatening and serious health risks to the students and faculty.
“As a student body, we collectively support Metro’s decision to go through Los Angeles County,” student Ryan Abrishimi told NBC4 during the protest. “We believe that Metro’s expansion will benefit millions of people, but health and safety is the number-one priority for us.”
Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said the extension and route of the Purple Line underwent a five-year environmental review before it was approved in 2012.
“Safety is our number one priority. We would not build a project that would jeopardize anybody’s safety,” Sotero said.
Sotero said Metro received a funding grant agreement for $1.5 billion from the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2017 for the $2.5 billion section of the extension through Beverly Hills and Century City.
The Purple Line extension will stretch the line westward for about nine miles and add seven stations. The project is being built in three sections. The first section between the Wilshire/Western station and Wilshire/La Cienega is under construction and is scheduled for completion in 2023. The second section will extend the subway to downtown Beverly Hills and Century City, and is in the pre-construction, with tunneling work likely to begin in mid-2019.
Section three plans to extend the project to two stations in Westwood, and Metro is working to secure federal grants for that portion.
A spokesman for the student protesters, Lewis Hall, a former school board member for Beverly Hills Unified, said the rally was not sponsored by the district and was spearheaded and led by the students.
“The students are behind it. They are the ones who chose the date, the time and the place,” Hall said.
The district, however, provided buses for the students to Will Rogers Memorial Park — which is adjacent to a Canon Drive estate owned by Trump — and urged parents on the BHHS website to sign permission slips for their children to leave class and take part in the vent.
Many students carried professionally made signs with slogans such as “Save Our School,” “Save Our Students” and “Health and Safety First,” and a banner reading “Save Our Children: Stop the Metro Under Beverly Hills High School.” At least one carried a “Trump: Make America Great Again” banner.
The students at the protest called on Trump to halt the federal funding for the project until it is realigned, echoing the desire of the school district.
“Why are Metro and FTA risking our children’s lives and the health of our school community when the needs of both our school district and mass transit can be met,” said Michael Bregy, the superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District. “The Secretary of Transportation must halt federal funding, undertake an unbiased independent review and force both parties to the table to resolve this matter,”
Hall said the students think an alternate route along Santa Monica Boulevard would be a safer choice for the extension, but that “they don’t really care where the route goes as long as it isn’t under their high school.”