Candidates Bobby Shriver and Sheila Kuehl sparred Sunday over Kuehl's recent disclosure that she opposes tunneling under Beverly Hills High School to extend the Purple Line subway to Westwood and would be willing to talk with Beverly Hills officials about a so-called "third way."
Last week, Kuehl said she was simply stating a preference and that, if elected to succeed Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, she would take no action to stop the subway route already approved by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board.
But in the debate Sunday between four of the eight candidates seeking Yaroslavsky's seat, Shriver told Kuehl that her statements come at a sensitive time for the project as backers seek federal money to help pay the $6.3-billion cost.
Yaroslavsky and other Los Angeles County officials are headed to Washington this week to confirm the project's financing, Shriver said. They plan to meet with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and federal transportation officials, he said.
"What will happen in that meeting if suddenly someone raises their hand and goes, ‘Excuse me, one of the people who may succeed Zev Yaroslavsky has a ‘third-way’ idea. Do you think we ought to hold up the financing to figure out what that third way is?''' Shriver said at the Leo Baeck Temple on the Westside. “That’s a significant danger to the financing process."
West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran agreed with Shriver, saying a decision on the subway route has already been made. Former Malibu Mayor Pamela Conley-Ulich sided with Kuehl, citing the seismic risks of building under school buildings on the Beverly Hills High campus.
"I think it’s only fair to get more input,'' Conley-Ulich said. "Maybe we should have it above the ground."
In a public statement last week, Yaroslavsky said there is no "third way" and that any attempt to alter the route now could kill the project. On Sunday, Yaroslavsky said the project is being funded in three separate phases. The section under Beverly Hills High is in a later phase.
Kuehl's position, made public Friday when the Beverly Hills Courier endorsed her candidacy, delivered a spark of controversy to what had been a relatively quiet race less than three weeks before voters go to the polls June 3.
Transportation advocates have criticized her position and even some of her supporters have expressed concern. On Sunday, Kuehl refused to back down, saying that her statements alone could do nothing to hurt a process that is already well under way.
"I offered to bring people together to see if there was a way to work it through,'' she said. "But I'm not going to get up in any meeting, anywhere, and say I don't want the Purple Line to go through."