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Beverly Hills schools call on Trump administration to strip Purple Line funding

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The school board president launched a website blasting the project, and students are planning a districtwide walkout

Construction on the Purple Line subway extension is already well underway. Pictured here is the future Wilshire/La Brea station.
By Stephen Esperanza, via Metro

The president of Beverly Hills Unified School District’s board of education helped build a website that blasts Metro’s subway to the Westside and urges the Trump administration to block federal funding for the project.

The website, “Stop the Purple Threat,” claims constructing a subway underneath Beverly Hills High School will pose a danger to students. When the website surfaced over the summer, no one knew who was behind it.

That changed Wednesday, when the Beverly Hills Weekly revealed that school board president Lisa Korbatov built the website with lawyers and consultants.

The newspaper obtained a recording from an October 4 meeting, held at a private residence in Beverly Hills, where Korbatov, speaking to a crowd of about 75 people, acknowledges that the website “was put up by a professional organization... Myself and one or two lawyers and consultants, we loaded all the information.”

Korbatov’s husband, Igor, served as an attorney on a 2008 real estate deal which transferred her parents’ home on Rodeo Drive to an LLC later revealed to be created by Trump, with his lawyer, Michael Cohen, as a co-signee.

Related: Hundreds of Beverly Hills students are protesting Metro’s subway to the Westside

While the school district had tried repeatedly in court to stop Metro from building the subway underneath the high school’s campus, Korbatov’s “Stop the Purple Threat” campaign takes a different approach: Nab the attention of President Donald Trump and try to convince him to order the withdrawal of federal funding from the Purple Line extension.

The Stop the Purple Threat website calls on President Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to “stop this detour of the Purple Line... allowing all parties to gather information about health and safety risks, as well as other route options, and work together to address student safety and mass transit needs.”

Korbatov did not return a message seeking comment, but a spokesperson said: “Lisa has helped pro-bono on making certain that the Purple Threat website has relevant and accurate information for the community.”

School district administrators are also helping Beverly Hills High School students organize a districtwide “walkout” set to take place Friday morning to protest the subway route.

“When students became aware of Metro’s decision to tunnel underneath our school, we were appalled at the risks it will pose to the educational environment of our campus,” Sean Toobi, a student board member and senior at Beverly Hills High School said in a statement supplied by a publicist.

“We are walking out to... encourage intervention from the federal government to ultimately divert the subway from going under BHHS—because there are viable, alternative routes,” Toobi says.

The subway extension—which will bring the Purple Line from its current terminus in Koreatown to Westwood, offering one-seat, 30-minute rides from Downtown LA to the Westside—is being built in three phases.

Earlier this month, the Federal Transit Administration agreed to reimburse Metro “for early work activities” on the final phase, and work is already underway on the second phase, which will bring the train to downtown Beverly Hills and Century City, passing underneath the high school along the way.

The federal government has pitched in nearly $1.5 billion for the second phase, and Metro is now seeking a $1.3-billion grant for phase No. 3.

This map shows the subway extension’s route.

Korbatov’s website claims that ground below the high school is “littered with abandoned oil wells and saturated with methane gas and oil. The amount of methane gas and oil has not been adequately studied.”

Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero says the agency spent five years studying the potential impacts of the project, including a supplemental environmental report to “address specific concerns raised by Beverly Hills High School.”

That report found that the level of risk associated with the potential presence of methane and hydrogen sulfide gas along the phase No. 2 route, including through the high school, is low. The subway tunnel “will have no influence on the long-term migration of soil gas to the ground surface or into buildings,” the report says.

“Metro appreciates and respects the passion and civic engagement of Beverly Hills High School students,” Sotero says. “Safety is our No. 1 priority, and we would not build a project that would jeopardize anyone’s safety.”

Friday’s rally will be held at Will Rogers Memorial Park, less than a quarter-mile from the president’s former home on the 800 block of Rodeo Drive. An announcement distributed to media says more than 1,500 people will attend; 226 have RSVP’d on a Facebook event page.

District administrators will excuse the absences and are providing permission slips and transportation to the rally, and they’re encouraging students, staffers, and parents to join “in support of our united school district.”

They’re also advising parents to “talk with your child(ren) about the walkout and the importance of advocating in a peaceful act of solidarity.”

The students will not actually walk out of school and to the park, which is a 35-minute walk from campus, rather, they will be loaded onto buses and driven 1.7 miles to the walkout site, the Beverly Hills Courier reports.