I live too close to Century City and Beverly Hills to objectively report on the what is shaping up to be the most bitter land use battle in California: that of uber-wealthy Beverly Hills versus uber-ambitious Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Here's my best shot at an update. 

Last week the Metro board gave an historic go-ahead to the westward extension of the Los Angeles Purple Line subway. Though environmental and engineering documents for the subway have been certified for the entire 9.6-mile extension—which would pick up at the line's current terminus, two miles west of downtown, and extend roughly to the 405 Freeway – the segment that was approved stops short of that long-sought western reach.

A beleaguered, marginalized, forlorn hamlet stands in its way.  

 For the past two years, this entity has claimed that Metro is imposing itself on a powerless little town. Civic leaders have described it as David vs. Goliath, with Metro as the Goliath. Residents who are confined to 10,000 square-foot mansions and condemned to navigate Los Angeles traffic in such mean conveyances as Maseratis and Aston-Martins have launched all manner of epithet against the transportation authority because of a plan that could, they say, blow up, or cripple, Beverly Hills High School.  

 Though it is in the 90212 zip code, in the city's humble southern portion, Beverly Hills High School is nonetheless one of the finest public schools in the region, so much so that generations of students have faked Beverly Hills addresses in order to gain admission. But, according to the Beverly Hills City Council, the Beverly Hills Unified School District board, Metro poses a grave danger to future Brandons, Brendas, and Andreas.

 The community is irate about Metro's preferred alignment (link to map), which would put a station at Constellation Boulevard, in the middle of Century City, run the line directly under the school. Beverly Hills would prefer a station on Santa Monica Boulevard and a subsequent alignment that would run under Santa Monica Boulevard.

School board president Brian Goldberg thinks that future pupils should fear for their lives.

"We don't feel that MTA (Metro) has done their due diligence with respect to uncovering potential safety concerns with the number of abandoned oil wells, methane gas, saturated soil, the impact that it may have on 80-year-old buildings on the high school site," said Goldberg.

The city has requested a special hearing in front of the Metro board before the alignment is approved. It will take place May 17.

Back on campus, junior class president Jason seems more concerned about getting an education than fighting one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the nation.

"I feel as though hysterics have been a factor here," said Jason. "People are blowing this issue out of proportion, giving it more attention than it deserves." (I agreed to obscure Jason's name because he is a minor, and probably doesn't want to be associated with what he considers an embarrassing spectacle.)

Subway MapFor the past two years, debate about the subway has been the loudest conversation in Beverly Hills since the trial of Lindsay Lohan. Though Metro has held innumerable public meetings on the proposed subway dating back to at least 2006, it wasn't until late 2010 that civic raised concerns that some of the 17 alignments that Metro had published in its Alternatives Analysis might pose a problem.

Originally, the most clear and present danger – articulated by then-School Board President Lisa Korbatov – was that terrorists would use the subway to blow up the school.  This premise assumes that these terrorists have no access to a motor vehicle and have never seen Shannen Doherty's early work in "Heathers."

The debate has since shifted to less fanciful grounds.

"We're not asking MTA to mitigate terrorist attacks," said Goldberg.           

Many in Beverly Hills believe that the Constellation station is a conspiracy instituted by Century City developer JMB Realty. Or it could be that JMB is one member of a loud chorus that thinks it's silly to put the station at Santa Monica Boulevard, immediately across the street from a golf course, rather than in the middle of the second-largest office district in the city. There's discussion about earthquake faults too, with dueling seismic analyses, that seems unlikely to be resolved.

Goldberg said the school board has narrowed their protests down to two main concerns: things that would blow up if underground excavation takes place, and things that would not get built if underground excavation does not take place. School officials simply do not trust Metro to construct tunnels safely and, in particularly, avoid igniting underground pockets of methane gas.

"If we're in control…we would be able to manage that process and we will be the ones that are responsible for mitigating, not MTA," said Goldberg. "I'm not going to leave the safety of our students in the hands of an MTA board whose only goal is to tunnel underneath the high school." Goldberg stressed that the city does support the subway—just not the tunnel under the school.

A video produced by the PTA rendered some of these outcomes in gripping "A-Team"-era special effects. 

Metro officials contend that fireballs and carnage are not exactly in their best interests either.            

"If we did anything that was unsafe, not only would it undermine that project but it would undermine everything that this agency is trying to do," said Jody Litvak, community relations manager for Metro. (Disclosure: Litvak and I both serve on the board of a local civic organization.)

Litvak also pointed out that the agency has constructed dozens of underground miles in the county without incident. She said that some of those tunnels run under schools, as do segments of Bay Area Rapid Transit.

Goldberg's second major contention is that the tunnel—the top of which would be a full 50 feet below grade, even accounting for the campuses sloping topography—could impede future building projects to expand and modernize the school. He explained that the Division of the State Architect must approve any school development plans, and he feared that the presence of the tunnel could make the State Architect balk.

Metro officials say that they are more than willing to collaborate with the school district to try to accommodate future development. If only the district would collaborate with Metro.

"I'm sure we could and I'm sure we would be willing (to collaborate), but we're in a situation right now that makes it difficult because we were told some time ago that all communications between Metro staff and school district staff had to go through attorneys," said Litvak. "There's been a fair amount of saber-rattling leading one to infer the likelihood of lawsuits."

Jason, the junior class president, would prefer that all the adults in Beverly Hills quit their drama and let the subway take its course. He said that most of his schoolmates—they being the children that everyone wants to protect—likely feel the same way. He even conducted a Facebook poll to find out.

"The majority of the people who answered my poll said they didn't care, which to me translates as they're not really interested in our school putting up the fight that it is," said Jason.

He has clearly been learning lessons that the school board has not approved.

"Subways run under all over metropolitan areas. They go under commercial buildings….they go under other public buildings," said Jason. Meanwhile, he continued, "the likelihood of a fatal automobile crash is very real, despite the safety precautions and airbag regulations designed to protect us. However, we drive anyway. To fight the subway is to drive away modernization."

In the course of raising hell against Metro, no one in Beverly Hills seems to have the patience to listen his point of view.

"I feel as though this issue is highly political, governed by homeowners and businesses," said Jason. "Regardless of what I say…the board responses to its voters, so that's where the power is."

Editors of the school paper, the Highlights, did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did Gabrielle Carteris. 

Goldberg was quick to point out that Beverly Hills itself is not as powerful as some might think. 

"We don't have private citizens that are writing checks to BHUSD," said Goldberg. "The perception that somehow we have wealth and means--maybe individual families who send their kids to our schools have that—but the district is suffering."

A version of this article appeared on Next American City's daily blog.