The railroad from Pasadena to Azusa has been fraught with peril, but two recent developments in the plan to bring the Gold Line Foothill Extension could pave the way for the project's completion.
Last week, the Metropolitan Transit Authority that unlocked hundreds of millions of dollars for the Gold Line project. Days later, a judge issued a sweeping ruling in a lawsuit challenging the environmental clearance of a key Gold Line maintenance yard project in Monrovia, declaring that the objections to the project to be utterly unfounded.
“This is an important victory for the project,” Construction Authority board chairman Doug Tessitor said in a written statement.
Local property owner George Brokate filed the lawsuit against the GLCA--one of --alleging that the environmental impact report prepared for the Monrovia maintenance yard was faulty. Brokate stands to lose his land via eminent domain if the GLCA succeeds in building a on Evergreen Avenue in Monrovia.
Robert Silverstein, Brokate's attorney, argued that the GLCA improperly conducted an environmental impact report (EIR) for just one phase of the Foothill Extension when it should have considered the entire project. He also asserted that the GLCA did not consider other reasonable alternative sites for the yard and predetermined the outcome of the EIR before conducting the study.
Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones disagreed, ruling decisively against Silverstein's arguments on all fronts. She said Silverstein's first argument had "no basis," the second was "legally incorrect," and the third was backed up by "no substantial evidence."
Silverstein said in an interview this week that he was "considering appealing" Jones' decision.
"We are evaluating our next steps," he said. "Obviously we do not agree with a number of the statements made by the trial court and that's what the court of appeals are for."
Brokate is certainly not finished in court, as he still has three cases pending against Monrovia and the GLCA. The most recent lawsuits filed in September argue that the city improperly approved and that the GLCA improperly awarded a to a construction venture for the Foothill Extension.
GLCA spokeswoman Lisa Levy Buch has characterized the suits as the latest in an "ongoing series of harrassing lawsuits that this property owner is dreaming up."
While Brokate's legal dossier continues to grow, his leverage in negotiating a plum settlement for his land may be waning.
The GLCA has initiated condemnation proceedings against Brokate, and a judge is set to hear arguments in a hearing scheduled for Nov. 16. Brokate is said to be asking for four times the appraised value of his land in settlement negotiations with the Gold Line, but he stands to receive much less if the GLCA succeeds in eminent domain proceedings.
GLCA Chairman Habib Balian said last week before the court ruling that Brokate hasn't backed off his set price. That could change, however, now that the GLCA has won in court.
Silverstein insists that his client's desire has always been to be carved out of the maintenance yard project. He dismissed any suggestion that his lawsuits are being used for leverage or than his client has lost any because of the recent developments.
"That's really an effort to sort of delegitimize us," he said. "We have a lot of irons in the fire and they have not even begun to see us fight."