A troubled land deal between Monrovia and the Gold Line Construction Authority has two possible outcomes, and the winning option will likely be decided by how much each option costs in the end.
The GLCA to keep the Gold Line Foothill Extension on track, and the agency is now deciding whether to enter into a deal with the city to purchase the land or . GLCA negotiators must calculate which choice will cost the least, and the cheaper alternative will almost certainly prevail.
At this point, the cheaper option appears to be a deal with the city.
Each side has ratcheted up the rhetoric in recent weeks as they attempt to get the best possible deal. Monrovia officials with the GLCA and should not have to bear the burden of settling a lawsuit that is complicating the deal.
The GLCA then announced that Monrovia is the only place it can build a critical maintenance yard along the Foothill Extension and argued that Monrovia can either sell the land or have it seized on the cheap.
As each side jockeys for position publicly, they also continue to negotiate privately. The GLCA board of directors met in closed session Monday night, and agency spokeswoman Lisa Levy Buch said they are working to craft a new proposed arrangement. Eminent domain, she made clear, is not the ideal route for the GLCA to take.
"They've obviously looked at that option and it's an option that's being pursued but it's not an option we really want to use," Buch said.
City Manager Scott Ochoa also sounded cautiously optimistic in an interview Monday.
"We have continued to talk with Gold Line [last week], and they did continue to try to make progress toward facilitating a mutually agreeable compromise," Ochoa said. "We were very appreciative of the offers and gestures, but there are still a number of questions that Monrovia needs answers to with regards to what their offer is and what a compromise may contain."
The most recent demands that the city has made public called for the sale of the for $39.6 million, with an additional $12.5 million tacked on to pay for the potential loss of sales tax, property tax and fee revenues that the city could miss out on if it didn't develop the land itself.
The city also asked for $16.5 million more in public improvements to be completed at the , Monrovia's massive mixed-use development that will be built around the city's Gold Line station.
But if a deal cannot be reached, GLCA could end up acquiring Monrovia's land via eminent domain for only $17 million, which is what the land was recently appraised for, according to Ochoa. However, that price tag does not include the ultimate cost of slogging through the eminent domain process--a process the city has promised to make as difficult as possible.
Buch said she did not know what the cost of an eminent domain action could eventually be, but Gold Line Chairman Doug Tessitor .
Ochoa declined to say how long a court battle could delay the eminent domain action, but noted that the GLCA estimates that it would take more than a year to seize the land of George Brokate, the property owner . A similar timeline for condemnation of Monrovia's property would cost the Gold Line untold millions of dollars.
"We believe if they pursue an eminent domain action, we would defend the city's interest to the extent that it would put them well behind their schedule," Ochoa said.
The ultimate cost of seizing Monrovia's land, then, could easily surpass what the city is currently asking for it.
Eminent domain would also be a losing proposition for Monrovia, which would end up collecting a minimum amount for its property while spending thousands trying to stop the condemnation. Delays would also hamper the city's ability to develop around the Gold Line.
The GLCA board will consider the condemnation on July 5 if no deal is worked out before then. It's in the best interests of both parties to come to an arrangement before then.