Owners of an outdoor mall in Little Tokyo are entitled to up to $37.1 million in compensation for underground easements acquired by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for construction of the major rail project in downtown, an attorney for the business owners told a jury Thursday, but a Metro lawyer said a fair amount is about $5 million.
The differing viewpoints came during final arguments before a jury hearing trial of the Los Angeles Superior Court eminent domain suit filed by Metro in July 2014 against Japanese Village LLC. The work at issue is part of the ongoing $1.5 billion regional connector project that will link a major gap in the city’s public transportation center.
Attorney Robert Crockett, on behalf of Japanese Village, challenged the credibility of some of the witnesses who testified on behalf of Metro and gave their views of the impact of the project on his clients’ businesses, a mix of shops and office spaces.
“Sometimes government employees are willing to lie and stretch the truth to hurt people,” Crockett said.
Crockett said Metro gave much better treatment to the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the nearby Colburn School, where the subway built years ago runs adjacent to both structure rather than directly under them as with the Japanese Village project.
“I don’t understand why Japanese Village doesn’t receive this kind of protection,” Crockett said, adding that such measures are “reserved for the extremely wealthy.”
Crockett predicted that trains traveling through two tunnels being constructed under Japanese Village will result in”decades of rail noise” in addition to tipped buildings, cracks and concrete falling from ceilings. He showed jurors photos of one set of ceiling cracks he believes were caused by the construction.
“They sent nobody out here to look at the problem,” Crockett said, “That really bothers me.”
Crockett also said Metro was “cutting corners” to get the project done.
But Metro attorney Gregory Bergman said the $37.1 million compensation proposed by Crockett contrasts with the $19.1 million suggested by Japanese Village’s own appraiser and he urged the panel to disregard the larger amount. He said the damage claims and predictions mentioned by Crockett were overstated and that the Federal Transportation Administration has monitored the project “every step of the way. There was no cutting of corners.”
Bergman said Japanese Village tenants will benefit from the project because many more transportation riders will come into the area. He chastised Crockett for saying that some Metro witnesses were untruthful.
“You would have to believe that every engineer was putting their licenses at risk,” Bergman said.
–City News Service
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