Jul 26, 2011

Our View: Some welcome Gold Line news for the Valley

This article was published in the Pasadena Star-News on Tuesday July 26, 2011. Original article can be viewed here.

THE excellent news for transit progress in the San Gabriel Valley came through late Friday: The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Authority and the city of Monrovia had settled a key part of their dispute over the fractious matter of putting together a large parcel of land for a rail yard in the city.

The need to create the operations and maintenance yard had been the last major impediment in the way of getting the east-Pasadena-to- Azusa extension from getting started. Several area cities turned down the entreaties of Metro and the Gold Line. So when Monrovia officials came forward with the plan to use the large parcel in an industrial part of the city south of the Foothill (210) Freeway, it was very welcome news.

The deal was always going to be complex, with the big city block in question involving as it does a hodgepodge of publicly owned land and properties owned by a variety of private parties. Area transportation needs aside, obviously everyone would be jockeying for the best financial deal possible for themselves. Sometimes – very, very rarely, in our view – it is necessary for a government entity to declare the need for eminent domain and take property at fair market value in the interest of the greater public good. But one of those landowners, unbeknownst to the Gold Line, had apparently cut a deal with the city of Monrovia seven years ago declaring that no eminent domain proceedings ever be used against it.

Those issues still aren't cleared up. But the agreement reached between the light-rail authority and Monrovia means that 13.8 of the proposed total of 24 acres will be locked down, so that funding from Metro will be released allowing the project to get underway.

The deal still needs formal approval from the Gold Line board of directors, which should occur this week, and from the Monrovia City Council, which for some reason is delaying its decision until September. But we trust the squabbling council can get its act together, stop finger-pointing at a public transit authority that, after all, is negotiating in calm good faith after having been ambushed with the unwelcome eminent domain surprise – and sign off on the agreement its city staff has reached.

Other difficulties await, including the future negotiations with the major landowner in the parcel, whose attorney has created a novel legal strategy claiming that the Gold Line's board members can't serve because they are also elected officials from area cities. While that odd argument won't prevail in the courts, the legal shenanigans will add to the delays for the people of the San Gabriel Valley and our ability to get around without cars.

But we'll take the latest good news as just that – one more foot of track laid in the right direction toward the ultimate goal of a light-rail line from downtown Los Angeles all the way east to Claremont and then the Ontario Airport.