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Cerritos’ Questionable Lawsuit Against Metro Will Impact Construction of Light Rail Line From Artesia to Union Station

January 21, 2023

By Brian Hews

A public records request by Hews Media Group-Community News has revealed that Cerritos mayor pro tem Bruce Barrows, who was appointed and not elected, is behind a lawsuit filed by Cerritos against Metro that will unnecessarily delay the construction of the popular West Santa Ana Branch Light Rail Line (WSAB) that will run from Artesia to Union Station.

Barrows and Cerritos allege a California Public Records Act violation due to Metro’s non-response for documents related to the construction of Cerritos’ preferred underground “cut and cover” station.

It is yet another contemptible maneuver by Barrows directed at the WSAB; when he was mayor of Cerritos a few years ago, he suddenly pulled the city from the Eco-Rapid Transit Joint Powers Authority, a twelve-city member JPA that works in concert with Metro to build the WSAB, with all twelve cities on the proposed rail line. Barrows also told the JPA they could not build a station in Cerritos.

When Barrows, who has never owned a business, was told years later of the future economic impact of the WSAB, he requested – and was granted – re-entry to the JPA, with the organization magnanimously forfeiting over $60,000 in annual fees.

But local politicians who know Bruce Barrows, and the flush-with-cash city of Cerritos, understand that if they don’t get what they want, the litigious City Council will sue, no matter the collateral damage to other cities or residents.

That is the aim of this current lawsuit filed by Cerritos using the Pasadena-based law firm of Colantuono, Highsmith, and Whatley; to delay a light rail train that will benefit many residents and ease traffic, delay much-needed tax revenues for cities along the line, and hurt businesses eager to sell to riders, all under the guise of a trumped-up California Public Records Act violation lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, the city alleges that Metro is withholding public documents that will show Cerritos’ underground option “is not cost-prohibitive” compared to Metro’s above-ground option – despite Metro’s study completed by its consultants.

But the documentation can be found online.

That study estimated Metro’s preferred above-ground option would cost a minimum of $246 million, with the Cerritos underground option tabbed at a minimum of $398 million, or $152 million in additional taxpayer dollars.

That study also estimated maximum costs at $687 million for above-ground and $1.1 billion for the underground option, a difference of $413 million dollars…. just for one Cerritos station.

PAGES FROM a September 2022 Gateway Cities COG meeting that can be found online at https://www.gatewaycog.org/media/userfiles/subsite_9/files/committees/2022/board-of-directors/BOD%20October%202022%20Presentations.pdf

The lawsuit then accused Metro’s Board of malfeasance, “Cerritos believes Metro’s Board instructed its staff to determine whether Cerritos’ proposed underground alternative was ‘feasible.’ Metro sought no input from Cerritos, allowing a consultant hired by Metro to conclude the underground alternative was too costly and ‘infeasible.’

“By doing so, the Metro staff purposefully ‘put a thumb on the scale’ of the analysis to weigh in favor of the above-ground construction, avoiding an honest evaluation of Cerritos’ underground proposal.”

Inside sources are telling HMG-CN that Barrows, who is best known for selling printing-press jobs, was pushing for the consulting job so he could get paid to estimate the cost of the underground station, but Metro justifiably declined.

“Cerritos believes Metro based its analysis on implausible assumptions to protect its preferred aerial bridge option from informed scrutiny. However, because Metro has refused to timely disclose public records to Cerritos as required by law, the Metro Board and the Federal Transportation Administration are now poised to approve a final project alignment before Cerritos has had the opportunity to evaluate.”

The proposed above-ground station is at 183rd and Gridley, near the two of the largest tax revenue generators in the city, the Los Cerritos Center Mall and the Plaza 183 open shopping mall.

Cerritos, Artesia and Metro have held numerous public outreach meetings, including Charrettes, which is a process that assembles an interdisciplinary team—typically consisting of planners, citizens, city officials, architects, landscape architects, transportation engineers, parks and recreation officials, and other stakeholders—to create a design and implementation plan for a specific project; the cities and Metro were firmly convinced at the meetings the residents wanted the above-ground station.

Ignoring the obvious economic benefits to a nearby Metro station in their lawsuit, Cerritos and Colantuano blatantly stretched the truth calling the intersection at 183rd and Gridley “one of the busiest in Cerritos” which is patently false.

They also stated that the intersection “will alter the main entrance to the Los Cerritos Center,” which is again false – the main entrance is nearly a mile and four street lights away on South Street.

Another falsity was that the station would alter the entrance to the Cerritos Auto Square. The “entrance” to the Auto Square is nearly one mile from the station, while the main entrance for most people shopping for cars is the South Street offramp off the 605 Freeway, which is 1.5 miles from the station.

The lawsuit also alleged “adverse impacts” in the area, “the above-ground station will cause trains to pass through every five minutes during peak commuting hours at a height likely allowing riders, among other things, to peer into second-story bedroom windows of residences along the line in both Cerritos and Artesia, they will also be noisy.”

The adverse statement was made right around the time Barrows, at a City Council meeting, proposed to move a truck route in Cerritos back to its original location. At the original location, the noisy trucks were causing havoc with residents. Cerritos’ own survey by a consultant-costing $70,000- substantiated the resident’s claims, so the city went through the rigorous process of moving the route.

And Barrows, who espoused protecting residents near the station from noise, callously moved for Cerritos staff to study moving the truck route back to its original location.

And if Barrows does not get his station, he will attempt to torpedo the construction of two stations, one in his own city and the other in Artesia, robbing both cities of visitors, economic growth, and tax revenue.

Sources have told HMG-CN that Barrows is working behind the scene to terminate the train at Bellflower, bypassing both Cerritos and Artesia if the Cerritos is not granted the costly underground station.

Meanwhile, Cerritos is spending thousands alleging Metro is violating the California Public Records Act. The lawsuit demands declaratory relief, meaning Metro must turn over the requested documents, but that is likely another delay tactic because of what is known in legal circles as the deliberative process.

The deliberative process privilege protects certain pre-decisional, internal agency information, such as recommendations and analysis, from disclosure during litigation. The documents Cerritos is demanding clearly fall under the deliberative process.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, a staunch advocate of the WSAB, told HMG-CN, “This rail project offers us the opportunity to finally deliver high-quality transit to some of our most transit-dependent and traffic-choked communities. They deserve this project, and I am doing everything I can – in partnership with leaders across the region – to make the West Santa Ana Branch a reality. The communities all along the project corridor, from Huntington Park to Artesia, have been paying in to our local transportation sales taxes – both Measure R and then Measure M – for decades, and they deserve to finally see this project get built. I am committed to getting it done.”

Colantuano and Cerritos refused to comment; a trial setting conference is scheduled for March 14, 2023 at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.

See Summons, click here


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