Chicago-based JMB Realty, which has contributed to Mayor Villaraigosa over the years and plans to develop a a 37-story "Century City Center" skyscraper, is taking quite an interest in the tug of war between Century City boosters and the Bev Hills Unified School District over where to put a subway stop for the Westside extension. The boosters maintain that Constellation Boulevard should be the location - steps away from JMB's project - but a Constellation stop would require tunneling beneath the historic Bev Hills High School campus. School officials would prefer having it on Santa Monica Boulevard, which had been the long-discussed location. Anyway, the LA Weekly lays out the various interests in the debate.
Villaraigosa has taken at least $296,000 for his pet political projects and election campaigns from JMB Realty and Westfield Corporation, two large developers whose Century City property values would be enhanced by having a subway at their doors. At a recent Century City "power breakfast," Villaraigosa publicly backed the Constellation station, telling the crowd that a subway stop "needs to be right here in the heart of Century City."
JMB's alliance with Villaraigosa dates to 2006, when the Weekly reported that the mayor received $100,000 from the firm to spend on his Committee for Government Excellence and Accountability. At the time, Villaraigosa's committee was lobbying the California Legislature for a new law giving him veto power over the hiring and firing of the L.A. Unified School District superintendent. Villaraigosa's bold and bitterly fought education reform was found unlawful by a judge.
Nobody knows how the proposal came about to spend an extra $60 million so that Century City could have a subway stop at Constellation Boulevard. But the estimated extra cost is significant, given that numerous less-powerful cities are being told by Metro that there is no way to pay for many of their own $10 million to $50 million projects from the half-cent sales tax approved by voters. The city of Hawthorne, for example, wanted $52 million for a badly needed auxiliary lane on the 405.
Hilariously, Villaraigosa's office insists that the mayor hasn't taken a position on the tussle, even though he openly embraced the Constellation option during an April breakfast in Century City. "I think you all know that I'm on record that [the subway station] needs to be right here in the heart of Century City!" he said at the time.