Developer's connection to Bev Hills subway fight

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.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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