Analysis: Few Obstacles Left for Gold Line

A recent court victory and a key MTA funding exemption could finally put the Gold Line Foothill Extension back on track.

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."

Stephen McCarthy November 05, 2011 at 12:16 AM
Funny, when people say "It's not about the money" it's always about the money. The property is vacant, has been for a long time, and without the Gold Line facility, likely to remain that way for a long time more. If Mr. Brokate had a viable alternative plan for his property, or if there was some kind of social or historical significance to what is there, I'd buy his argument. This is not like Rod's Grill in Arcadia fighting to keep a business going in the face of a bigger business misusing eminent domain (despite the Supreme Court's ruling of a few years ago) for it's own gain. This is a project that benefits the entire San Gabriel Valley. Brokate's actions cost ALL of us, the taxpayers who have to foot the bill for his legal tactics. The trial judge was pretty clear in judging against him. Of course, given the fact that property values are still low, he should have taken the first offer instead of now being forced to settle for what will be "market value" at the time ED is cleared. Tough Luck Pal!
Daryl Hons November 09, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Stephen, I agree with you 100%. I am not for government bullying a property owner, especially one who has an investment in a going business or home. However, if this property is vacant (it's hard to determine from the surrounding streets where the property boundaries are specifically located) and Brokate has no plans for it, I say the greater public good should prevail. I know there are all kinds of arguments about LA not wanting the maintenance facility, not the other cities in the San Gabriel Valley, but at some point a decision needs to be made. Yes, Monrovia loses tax potential from the property but it also gains taxes from the people who will work there, as well as businesses benefiting from those workers eating lunches or shopping. As far as people saying that no one wil ride the train, that's preposterous. Anyone who has driven to the parking garage at Sierra Madre Villa station after 9 a.m. to get a parking spot will attest to ridership. With gas prices rising, and no viable energy alternatives in sight, we need MORE of these projects, not less. Used in a thoughtful and minimally disruptive way, I say thank goodness for eminent domain.


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