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Elon Musk's Tunnel Everyone Is Talking About Isn't Permitted Under State Regulations

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Tesla founder Elon Musk’s fascination with building a tunnel under Los Angeles has captured the fawning attention of the tech press. Between boring profiles and inside looks at Elon’s Tunnel, no one asked: Has this thing even received regulatory approval? Nope, says LA Weekly.


The alt-weekly’s reporter Dennis Romero obtained documents under a California public records request that showed Musk’s SpaceX has been planning since last summer to build a far-less ambitious pedestrian tunnel from its office in LA to an employee parking garage across the street. How ... cool, and totally deserving of a cover story feature.

Romero scooped up some emails that also showed the short-lived endeavor is kind of a hassle, too.

In an email dated Jan. 27, Hawthorne’s city manager, Arnold Shadbehr, warned SpaceX’s senior director of facilities and construction, Brett Horton, that the firm needs permission from the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) before it can start digging. “We will submit to Cal/OSHA for the tunnel when we have a path of travel,” Horton responded. “For now, just a hole in our ground.”

Shadbehr responded that a tunnel plan will require a filing with the city that would trigger a “30-day public hearing period” so neighbors can weigh in on the proposed construction. He also stated that even if SpaceX is just digging a hole, it “better” get Cal/OSHA’s blessing for any excavation deeper than 5 feet.


A spokesperson for California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health told LA Weekly that SpaceX hasn’t contacted it about the project, and that permission had not been granted to dig. Even leaving aside the futility of building additional capacity to reduce congestion—Musk himself has said the company has “no idea what we’re doing”—this little drama has helped settle an age-old question: No, you can’t just wake up and decide to dig a tunnel wherever you want to go.