The way attorney Robert Silverstein tells it, he and his client have been asking for $24 million for the last two years.
Silverstein represents George Brokate, a local property owner who repeatedly sued Monrovia and the Gold Line Construction Authority in an effort to keep his land from being seized via eminent domain. Though Silverstein positioned his client as a crusader against government abuse, there was a price he'd accept to make all the disappear.
Last Thursday, the GLCA agreed to pay it.
"We did not come down one penny," said Silverstein in an interview. "They should have done the right thing from the beginning."
Instead, the GLCA fought Silverstein for the last two years, piling up attorneys fees before --$24 million--that Brokate had always asked for. The price was more than four times what the property was appraised for by the Gold Line.
The question becomes, then: Why didn't the GLCA save itself the time and money by buying out Brokate two years ago?
Habib Balian, CEO of the GLCA, said his agency believed the lawsuits to be without merit but stressed that officials needed time to weigh the costs of litigating against paying a settlement.
"These things have to evolve, you have to get to a point where you can justify settling," Balian said. "I think you just have to wait. You have to get more information."
The GLCA lawsuits eventually came to a point where it became possible that they could significantly jeopardize the future of the $735 million Foothill Extension project, Balian said.
"There were scenarios where the project could have been delayed two years," Balian said. "If the lawsuits played out in court ... we would have had to stall our schedule. If we had to do that and pay any delay damages to the contractor or be in a psoiton where we would have to cancel the project, it could have cost the project a $100 million and a two-year delay."
Silverstein maintained that the Gold Line always had two options: Carve his client's land out of the project, which the GLCA insists was impossible, or pay his client at the rate it agreed to pay Monrovia. The GLCA reached a deal to pay about from the city for its maintenance yard project, a sum well beyond what the land was worth.
"I think [$24 million] is a reasonable price, and that was in part based upon the fact that we were seeking parity with what the Gold Line intended to pay Monrovia for its neighboring property," Silverstein said.
Now that Brokate's suits are settled, the deal with Monrovia remains the last major hurdle for the GLCA to clear. Because the GLCA reached that deal with Monrovia's redevelopment agency, and a state law has , Gold Line officials are now pursuing .
The two sides maintain that their original, all-inclusive price of $56 million remains on the table. Balian said the ideal course of action is for the GLCA to reach a settlement with the city for that amount in eminent domain proceedings.
"That's the most efficient way of getting access to the property on our schedule," Balian said.
Once that land is acquired, the Foothill Extension should be on schedule and under budget, Balian said.
"I think all the pieces are coming together," he said.