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Metro Lawyers Slam Cerritos’ Lawsuit to Delay  the Light Rail from Artesia to Downtown L.A.

The light rail line from Artesia to Downtown Los Angeles.

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March 9, 2023

Among other things, the answer to Cerritos’ complaint alleges the city acted unethically.

By Brian Hews • [email protected]

A public records request by Los Cerritos Community News in January of this year revealed that Cerritos Mayor pro tem Bruce Barrows, who was appointed and not elected, was the catalyst behind a lawsuit filed by Cerritos against Metro that would unnecessarily delay the construction of the much-needed West Santa Ana Branch Light Rail Line (WSAB) that will run from Artesia to Union Station.

Barrows and Cerritos alleged 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 was 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, the city 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.

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.”

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.”

This from Barrows, who pushed for an above-ground extremely noisy magnetic levitation train – Mag-Lev – along the same line with a Cerritos station at Gridley years ago.

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.

As LCCN wrote back in January, that was likely another delay tactic because of what is known in legal circles as the deliberative process; and that turned out to be true.

LCCN has obtained the response from Metro to Cerritos’ lawsuit listing seventeen affirmative defenses, of which one is deliberative process.


Click on image to read response.


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.

The response read like a first year law student response, indicating the fallacy of Cerritos’ complaint.

The response also affirmed Cerritos failed to state a cause of action, meaning Metro is questioning the legal basis for the lawsuit.

Metro also slammed Cerritos for waiting too long to file the lawsuit and acting unethically while during the process affirming, respectively, the “doctrine of laches” and that Cerritos has “unclean hands.”

Metro also claimed it was immune from liability under certain government codes that protect public entities; that Metro acted in good faith at all times; that documents Cerritos asked for were exempt from disclosure under the CA. Public Records Act, the CA. Constitution and the CA. Evidence Code.

Metro asked for the complaint to be dismissed and reimbursement for its legal fees.

The case is set for another hearing on Wednesday, March 15.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, a staunch advocate of the WSAB, told LCCN, “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.”