(Photo courtesy of Metro)

Expo and City Hall can’t agree on how much the latter should be paid for the land where the Downtown light rail station is being built, according to court documents.

In October, the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority filed a lawsuit against the City of Santa Monica seeking eminent domain and declaratory relief relating to the compensation for land on Colorado Avenue owned by City Hall.

The Expo Light Rail’s second phase, running from Culver City to Downtown Santa Monica, is already well underway and scheduled for completion early next year (though some city officials are hopeful it will open sooner).

The property in question is 402 Colorado Ave., where the terminus station is being constructed. It’s one of three Expo stations being built in the city by the sea.

Expo wants to buy a nearly 34,000-square-foot plot of land and get two temporary construction easements in the area. The public entities disagree over price.

“Expo is committed to completing this important light rail project and this dispute centers around what the compensation for this property should be,” Expo’s attorney David Graeler said. “Expo has a responsibility to pay just compensation for the property but also has a responsibility not to pay more than that and the parties presently disagree as to what the compensation is.”

City Hall purchased the property with rail reserves, which, Expo attorneys said in their filing, consisted of funding set aside from the Transportation Development Act.

City attorneys responded by claiming that City Hall has complied with all its agreements with Expo and Metro, including a $16.5 million lump sum cash payment.

“There was never any agreement for the City to donate the subject property to Expo or MTA,” city attorneys said in response Expo’s complaint.

They claim that Expo is trying to deprive City Hall of “just compensation.”

City attorneys do claim that Expo offered to pay City Hall nearly $14.4 million for the property, but that City Hall refused.

City Hall filed a cross-complaint on the same day it filed its response to Expo (this was back in December) claiming that since July 9, 2012,

“Expo and its contractors have, without payment of just compensation to the City, physically occupied and used” a portion of the property.

City Hall wants just compensation for the construction easement taken by Expo as well as litigation expenses and the cost of the suit thus far.
A court trial is scheduled for November, according to the Los Angeles County Superior Court website.

City Council was briefed on the lawsuit during its closed session next month, and there was nothing to report publicly after the discussion.

“Pre trial activities — such as discovery — are ongoing and the next court hearing won’t happen before November,” City Attorney Joe Lawrence told the Daily Press in an e-mail prior to that council meeting.


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