A judge ruled Wednesday that the Gold Line Construction Authority improperly conducted an environmental report that cleared the way for a $120 million maintenance yard in Monrovia, potentially forcing the transportation agency to restart the time-consuming environmental review process.
Monrovia property owner George Brokate sued the GLCA in February and contended that the agency did not properly study alternative sites for a rail . Superior Court Judge Ann Jones ruled against Brokate initially but reversed her decision Tuesday in a ruling that has major implications for the future of the $735 million project.
In granting Brokate's attorney's motion to vacate her earlier judgement, Jones wrote that the one alternative maintenance yard site considered by the GLCA in Irwindale "did not provide a reasonable and realistic alternative to the Monrovia site."
"The order today is finding that we are right and that the EIR was inadequate," said Brokate's attorney, Robert P. Silverstein, in an interview. "These people are chronic violators of the law."
In a written statement, GLCA CEO Habib Balian said that the judge incorrectly determined that the Irwindale site was outside the scope of the maintenance and operations yard project area and therefore an insufficient alternative to the Monrovia site.
"The basis of today’s ruling is quite confusing to us, as it seems to be based on a factual inaccuracy—that the alternative site evaluated for the M&O facility was outside the Pasadena to Azusa project area,” said Balian in a written statement. "In fact, the alternative site evaluated in Irwindale not only sits directly along the project alignment, it also meets all other requirements set for the M&O facility. In the end, it was just found to be environmentally inferior to the Monrovia site."
Lisa Levy Buch, a spokeswoman for the GLCA, said in an interview that the agency expects an appeal will change the judge's mind.
"I think we feel pretty strongly that she's going to see that her judgment was erroneous and correct that decision," Buch said.
The next step for the GLCA is unclear. Jones will issue her final judgement in the lawsuit in the next few weeks, and if she decides the transportation agency must repeat the environmental review process, the Foothill Extension could be delayed indefinitely.
Buch said GLCA officials are still "digesting" the decision and did not yet know the full impact that restarting the environmental review process would have.
A to build the Foothill Extension would presumably be imperiled by any ruling that forces the GLCA to conduct another environmental review since the first review allowed the deal to be executed. Silverstein said he didn't know how much such a delay could cost the project.
"I can't quantify their stupidity," Silverstein said. "They're the ones that are responsible for not mismanaging things and not breaking the law."
Brokate has filed a total of six lawsuits against the GLCA and the city of Monrovia in an effort to keep his for use in the maintenance yard project.
Last week, the the Monrovia land it needs for the maintenance facility in case a deal it reached with the city to purchase the land is invalidated by a expected to come down Thursday.
Check back later for more on this developing story.