Gold Line pays $24-million settlement for Monrovia property
Facing a 2015 construction deadline and the uncertainty of a long court fight, the builders of a San Gabriel Valley light-rail project have agreed to pay a Monrovia property owner $24 million to settle six lawsuits related to a dispute over the price officials offered him for his land.
Under the settlement, the Gold Line construction authority will give George Brokate of Excaliber Property Holdings his asking price for 4.8 acres in Monrovia that are needed for a maintenance yard for the Foothill extension, which will run 11.5 miles from Pasadena east to Azusa.
Brokate’s attorneys had claimed that the Gold Line agency undervalued his property at $5.8 million during condemnation proceedings.
The lawsuits are part of a yearlong battle with Brokate, who lodged a separate conflict of interest complaint with the state attorney general last year. It alleged that construction authority board members held positions with other government agencies with interests that could clash with the rail project, a potential violation of a state provision against incompatible office-holding.
Light-rail officials say the settlement, reached late last week in Los Angeles Superior Court, will help the $735-million project stay on budget and meet its scheduled completion date in September 2015.
“Although we feel confident that we would have prevailed on the legal issues over time, the delay caused by the legal process and the uncertainties related to continuing through eminent domain were very risky,” said Glendora Mayor Doug Tessitor, chairman of the construction authority’s board of directors.
Christopher Sutton, one of Brokate’s attorneys, said, however, that the authority had suffered several setbacks in court, such as a court order to perform a new environmental analysis that included studies of alternative sites for the maintenance facility.
Sutton also noted that the Gold Line faced a Feb. 22 trial date in another case in which a judge refused to dismiss Brokate’s allegations that a $486-million construction contract to build the Foothill extension was awarded without competitive bids. Rail officials have denied any impropriety.
The $24 million “has been our asking price from the beginning,” Sutton said. “My client got exactly what he wanted or else he would have wanted a full trial.”
The settlement dismisses four lawsuits brought by Brokate and two eminent domain actions filed by the construction authority to acquire his land.
-- Dan Weikel
Photo: A passenger catches the Gold Line light rail at the Pico/Aliso station. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times