The Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa was supposed to be one of the first Measure R projects to break ground and a "ceremonial" groundbreaking actually happened a year ago. San Gabriel Valley officials lobbied hard for this line, saying they wouldn't support Measure R unless it was fast-tracked. Their argument for why this line should get priority over, say, the Westside subway, was that the Construction Authority already owned the right-of-way and there was no local resistance, so it was good to go. Fast-forward to now--for the line to actually start construction, the Gold Line Construction Authority needs to secure a maintenance facility. They found a plot of land in Monrovia, but a landowner, whose property could be seized by eminent domain for the project, has filed suit. He's represented by Hollywood development killer/wounder Robert Silverstein (he also sued to stop the Expo Line). But here's where it gets tricky. Monrovia Patch reports that on Tuesday, the Monrovia City Council and the Construction Authority came to a war of words when they tried to settle on a $40 million sale of the maintenance facility land to the Authority. It appears the Authority was hoping to get some financial help from Monrovia in settling with the landowner. The city seems to have thought the Authority agreed to pick up most of the tab for the settlement, but there may be some subterfuge involved and both entities could simply be playing hardball, according to a Patch analysis.
The matter was delayed until June 21--the last chance to make a deal on the facility, according to city council members. If an agreement isn't reached, the Authority would have to seek out a new facility and no other cities have offered land. Even if one did, another environmental impact report would have to be prepared (meaning delays of months, if not years). Authority chairman Doug Tessitor told Patch that, "If, for some reason, we couldn't put a deal together, I suppose in the very extreme case, this could stop the Gold Line." That could be rhetoric to scare Monrovia, which has the large Station Square development tied to the Gold Line, into additional concessions. The Authority could also try to "eminent domain" (as in a verb) the land from the city but that would likely be a shitstorm that wouldn't endear many people to the train.
The Authority didn't respond to a request for comment from Curbed. Tessitor sent a statement (actually an op-ed to all media):
"[In] March 2011, the Authority and City had come close to agreeing on a $56 million deal for the city-owned properties, based entirely on, of course, the City’s ability to sell its land free and clear without litigation or other encumbrance. In fact, the draft Purchase and Sale Agreement stated there was no threatened litigation. It was not until March 22, 2011 that the Authority was made aware of a 2004 covenant between the City of Monrovia and an adjacent property owner allegedly prohibiting the transaction between the City and the Authority, and that the City would not be able to sell its land without embroiling the Authority in very costly and schedule-threatening litigation. This property owner has since filed 2 lawsuits, one challenging CEQA and the other against the City of Monrovia contesting the sale and purchase of the City’s properties.
These facts materially change the Authority’s ability to pay $56 million as part of a deal for the City’s properties and pose a significant risk to the viability of the entire project. The Authority very much believes that the City should be involved in resolving this situation.
Given the new conditions, the Authority is seeking the City’s partnership in sharing some of the costs to settle with the private property owner and resolve the City’s lawsuit regarding its 2004 covenant with the same property owner. At this point, however, it does not appear that the City considers that it has any responsibility in the litigation or the cloud over its property.
The Authority’s options are clear: we can give into the demands of a few property owners and possibly bankrupt, shorten and/or significantly delay the project; or we can take every step reasonably necessary to complete the project to Azusa on time and within budget while preserving resources to extend light rail to the county line."
Many in Monrovia are saying they've put up all the $$ and effort for this and it's time other cities served by the Gold Line help pony up. Stay tuned...