The following testimony was presented by Tim Whalen, Acting Director of Operations,
on behalf of the J. Paul Getty Trust, at a Public Hearing at the Skirball Museum
on August 22, 2007:
August 22, 2007
Good evening, I’m Tim Whalen, Acting Director of Operations at the Getty.
The Getty Center is located on 750 acres in Brentwood, just west of the 405. Everyone at the Getty appreciates the importance of improving transportation on the Westside.
When we began construction of the Getty Center 20 years ago, it was only after very careful planning that took into consideration the many issues that could impact our neighborhood. Since that time, we have worked closely with our neighbors and with Caltrans to deal with issues of common concern. We look forward to continuing to help where we can. The Getty Center has 1.4 miles of frontage along the 405. It also has 1.3 million visitors each year. The Getty is directly affected by the proposed widening of the 405 Freeway, and we feel it’s important that we comment on this project.
During the design and construction of the Getty Center, we understood that someday the 405 Freeway might be widened to handle more northbound traffic. We spent millions of additional dollars to construct the entrance in a manner that would accommodate an additional northbound lane. The Getty does not object to Alternative 2.
We do, however, have grave concerns about Alternative 3. It poses significant risks to the Getty Center, its neighbors and users of the 405 Freeway. The EIR does not analyze, or even address, concerns we believe must be considered. Let me outline some of the issues we foresee:
• First, Caltrans proposes to narrow and relocate part of the Getty’s principal service road, which leads from our Church Lane gate to the main Getty Center buildings. That road also serves as a critical fire and emergency safety route for the entire Getty Center. Caltrans’ proposal could make access to the South Building impossible, and of critical life safety concern, would eliminate required fire department access to the Getty Center. It would force disruption or removal of an 8-foot water main pipe and other utility conduits that serve West Los Angeles. We believe this part of the Caltrans proposal jeopardizes our entire neighborhood, not just the Getty Center. The EIR should analyze these impacts, but it does not.
• Second, Caltrans proposes to build retaining walls and other structures immediately adjacent to or within the Getty property along the Getty’s 1.4-mile freeway frontage. Much of this property is steep, unstable and subject to landslides. The Getty spent over $100 million to ensure the stability and safety of our site even before one building was constructed. These slopes are stabilized with a complex matrix of enormous shear pins and an underground drainage system. These protections would be destabilized by Caltrans’ proposed retaining walls and tiebacks, causing significant risk of slope failure to the Getty, our neighbors and motorists on the freeway. The EIR should analyze these impacts, but it does not.
• Third, Caltrans proposes construction of new retaining walls immediately adjacent to the Getty Center’s main parking structure and the tram that takes visitors up to the Getty Center buildings, with shoring and tie-backs on Getty property that could threaten the structural integrity of the parking structure and the tram, causing significant risks to the Getty, its staff and visitors. The EIR should analyze these impacts, but it does not.
• Fourth, construction on the scale contemplated by Alternative 3 would substantially disrupt the Getty’s operations, including access by both visitors and staff, during the multi-year construction period, and worsen already busy traffic in the surrounding community, which the Getty has worked diligently with our neighbors to avoid. Construction of the bridge extension above the Getty Center entrance off Sepulveda would severely restrict access to the Getty Center. The plan also eliminates the bus stop at the Getty’s main entrance and could endanger pedestrians walking to and from the Getty. The EIR should analyze these impacts, but it does not.
Finally, Caltrans’ own EIR shows that Alternative 3 has miniscule benefits compared to Alternative 2. As the chart on page 122 of the EIR demonstrates, Alternative 2 reduces nearly 15,000 daily vehicle hours of delay by 2015 and more than 16,000 by 2031. For an additional $262 million – which seems to our experts far less than what this huge scope of work requires – Alternative 3 only reduces 460 hours in 2015 and 130 hours in 2031.
Getty staff has met with Caltrans technical staff and looks forward to further productive meetings so that we can share information and concerns. The Getty also plans to submit detailed written comments on the EIR in the hope that Caltrans will review issues it has not yet carefully considered, but we wanted to highlight here some of the significant environmental, life safety and community issues that the EIR does not address.
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About the Getty:
The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.
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