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Beverly Hills Merchants Launch Class War Over Westside Subway

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If you thought folks in greater LA were beyond the xenophobic fear that public transit will ruin the tonier areas of the metropolis by providing access for the poor, unwashed masses, you'd be wrong. According to the Los Angeles Business Journal (subscription required), Rodeo Drive-area merchants are organizing to fight the proposed stop near Wilshire and Beverly Drive--last month, 20 merchants gathered at Spago to discuss their anti-station strategy. Aside from worries over construction impacts, Paris Nourafshan, an owner of an office tower at 9454 Wilshire, provided the following rationale for opposition: "The people who shop Rodeo Drive now don't come in by transit bus, so I don't think someone who shops on Rodeo Drive is going to take the subway. The subway riders are not potential shoppers. They cannot afford the kind of products retailers in the Golden Triangle sell." It's limousines--and possibly their own cars--that get the richies to Rodeo Drive, the merchants say.

Another local merchant, Douglas Chrismas, owner and director of Ace Gallery on Wilshire near Canon Drive, has a valid reason for concern over the subway--his business may have to be bought out to make way for the Golden Triangle station. But he had this to say, "The construction will drive away business and we're concerned that once the subway opens, we will lose our high-end clientele permanently as businesses start catering to the subway passengers."

Chrismas said he fears not only that Harry Winston and Gucci will take their business elsewhere (where exactly is not stated--Palms, maybe? The Beverly Center would probably be happy to have them too.), but also the crime that will happen once the stop opens. Nourafshan worries too--he says he often has to clean up detritus from the local bus bench: "That's just from a single bus stop. I shudder to think what would happen with a subway station here – a station, by the way, that would not have any restrooms."

John Mirisch, the Beverly Hills councilman fighting hard against the Century City station at Constellation and Avenue of the Stars, actually disagrees with the merchants and thinks it'll be a good when the stores' hourly workers can take the train to work. "One of the biggest problems we have in the Golden Triangle is parking, with many spaces being taken by employees," Mirisch told the Journal. "If just a small portion of the employees could be enticed to take the subway, we could free up many more spaces for shoppers and that would boost business, not hurt it."

The Journal notes that this class talk was prevalent when a Westside subway extension was floated in the 1980s, and that even back then, people pointed at Beverly Hills naysayers and called them elitists. Beverly Hills might need a new publicist if these stories keep breaking.
· Subway to the Sea? Don't Stop at Rodeo Drive [LABJ; subscription only]
· $640M Loan for Westside Subway, Work Could Start Next Year [Curbed LA]