The Monrovia City Council took the first step Tuesday to save its redevelopment agency (RDA) from being eliminated by approving an ordinance that would allow the city to pay the state to keep the agency alive.
Under the provisions of two new state laws, cities across California are required to pay the state to keep their redevelopment agencies afloat. Though Monrovia officials hope legal challenges will overturn the laws, the council paved the way to pay $1.1 million in what officials call "ransom money" to save the agency.
"We do reluctantly recommend this to you," said City Manager Scott Ochoa after City Attorney Craig Steele explained that the alternative was to liquidate the agency and turn over the proceeds to the state.
Under the ordinance, the city essentially agrees to make a $1.1 million payment to the state next year and about $262,000 each subsequent year for the right to keep its RDA intact if a fails to overturn the laws requiring the payments.
Robert Silverstein, an attorney for local property owner George Brokate, took the podium Tuesday and again threatened to sue the city if it approved the ordinance.
Silverstein argued that the city law would violate environmental impact regulations because it would cause future redevelopment projects to be rushed through without proper environmental review.
"The proposed approvals will result in unmitigable impacts to the environment from the reasonably foreseeable accelerated approval and construction of redevelopment projects through the city's rushing to get them in 'under the wire,'" reads a written objection letter he submitted to the council.
Steele dismissed the objections as "another sort of scare tactic" from Silverstein, in an effort to stop his client's property from being condemned by the GLCA for use in a proposed rail maintenance yard facility project.
"This is purely an administrative step required by the state legislature," Steele said of the continuation ordinance. "There is nothing in this ordinance that refers to any activity that would result in any physical changes to the environment."
After Steele and Ochoa responded to Silverstein's remarks, City Councilman Tom Adams lashed out at Brokate, saying he was offended that Brokate and his attorneys have disparaged the city's redevelopment efforts.
"Through redevelopment and a lot of good people's efforts, most of Monrovia looks a lot better than Mr. Brokate's property," Adams said.
If Brokate does sue, it will mark the fourth active lawsuit he has pending against the city and GLCA. He sued the city in March for allegedly breaching a settlement agreement and inviting an eminent domain action against him.
He also sued the GLCA in February, claiming that the construction authority failed to conduct a proper environmental review in its plan to locate a rail maintenance yard in Monrovia. Earlier this month, he sued the GLCA again, this time asserting that board members like Glendora Mayor and GLCA Chairman Doug Tessitor cannot legally sit on transportation boards and city councils at the same time.
Brokate and his attorneys also sued the city and lost last year when they argued that the city violated open meetings laws by turning over the maintenance yard environmental review process to the GLCA.
Though more lawsuits may be looming, the passage of a "continuation ordinance" will allow the city to move forward with projects that are already underway, including a maintenance yard deal with the GLCA, according to Ochoa.
Negotiations in that deal have after the .