By Ken Stone
Updated at 2:25 p.m. March 19, 2018
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Torribio granted the City of Walnut’s request for a preliminary injunction. This would halt grading at the site of the 1940s-era stadium — demolished for a new one.
“The court finds that unapproved and unlicensed ‘grading’ activities will cause irreparable harm to public safety if grading applications and procedures are not followed,” Torribio wrote in a five-page order dated Wednesday.
On Monday, Walnut lawyer John McClendon said: “It’s conceivable that the process could take so long that they will not have a certificate of occupancy in time for the opening of these trials in 2020.”
He said the Mt. SAC board showed a “complete lackadaisical attitude” of “We’ll just ignore the city, and keep grading in violation of state law and cross our fingers and hope we don’t get shut down.”
“Well, they did just get shut down.”
The order, which arrived in the mail at his Irvine office Saturday but wasn’t discovered until Sunday, was delayed because the court fax machine was broken, McClendon said.
“This is fantastic,” he said of the order. “This is complete vindication for the city.”
The city attorney said Mt. SAC can’t file an appeal of a prohibitory injunction.
“They can do what’s called an emergency writ, but good luck with that” because that would be asking the appeal court to allow Mt. SAC to continue violating state law, he said. “I don’t see the court of appeals doing that.”
Violating a court order is contempt of court, he noted, punishable by jailing of the defendants, including the college district board of trustees and the school president, William “Bill” Scroggins.
McClendon said the city approached Mt. SAC with an offer to settle issues “and proceed forward in a collaborative manner,” but was rebuffed.
McClendon earlier submitted evidence that Mt. SAC had ignored five “stop-work” orders, including signs posted Feb. 22 on the perimeter fence and the school’s administration building.
On Jan. 26, Torribio heard arguments in his Norwalk courtroom on the preliminary injunction, and decided to give Walnut another chance to force Mt. SAC to stop grading.
Walnut senior planner Chris Vasquez said he attached five large signs to fences at the stadium site and took photos to prove they were up.
But in his court declaration, Vasquez wrote that he returned to the site about 5:05 p.m. and saw all signs had been removed. He submitted a photo he took of a man in a dark suit taking down a sign.
Judge Torribio said in his order: “The court finds that [Walnut] has demonstrated irreparable harm if Mt. SAC continues in its construction activities without compliance with the [Municipal] Code. Mt. SAC has proceeded with construction activities that were not approved by [Walnut] and specifically proscribed by statute.”
Mt. SAC fought the injunction, but the judge said its interest was purely economic.
“It has not presented any evidence of grave or irreparable harm,” Torribio said. “Mt. SAC is to abide by the same City laws that apply to everyone living, working and developing property in the City of Walnut.”
It wasn’t clear how long the work-stoppage would last — or even whether Mt. SAC is obeying the order.
A Mt. SAC spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday. Neither did USA Track & Field, the governing body whose board awarded the meet to Mt. SAC in June 2017. (MyNewsLA obtained the judge’s order Sunday.)
Patrick Sandusky, a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, said the USOC has no role in venue selections for USATF events.
But he said via email Monday: “We are confident that USA Track and Field and local organizers will make appropriate arrangements for America’s elite track and field athletes to live their dreams.”
Another civil suit against Mt. SAC — arguing that the cost of stadium renovation isn’t covered by a voter-approved ballot measure — is pending. A mid-April hearing is scheduled, with United Walnut Taxpayers saying Mt. SAC shouldn’t be allowed to spend Measure RR money on the project.
In its latest written arguments, Walnut said City Engineer David Gilbertson determined that Mt. SAC’s grading application was incomplete: “Low impact development/NPDES plans are still missing along with the hydrology report.”
That referred to systems and practices that protect water quality and associated aquatic habitat through a variety of measures to comply with federal Clean Water Act requirements and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
“Compliance is particularly critical here because the City’s jurisdictional waters are only 750 feet downstream of the [Physical Education Project] site, and if Mt. SAC’s proposed low-impact development/NPDES plans are inadequate, downstream City flood control facilities could receive contaminated storm water runoff from the PEP site.”
Walnut’s brief, written by attorney McClendon, also said the city requires those proposing a mass grading operation like Mt SAC’s to provide proper provisions for the “control of erosion and measures for perimeter protection (soil stabilization) such as fiber rolls, silt fencing, and/or sediment traps or basins kept in good condition in all areas.”
Scheduled for June 19-28, 2020, the Mt. SAC trials follow three editions held at the University of Oregon (2008, 2012 and 2016) and two at Sacramento State (2000 and 2004). Mt. SAC beat out 2020 bids from Oregon and Sacramento.
But if Mt. SAC can’t host the meet, Oregon might not either, according to recent reporting in the Portland Oregonian.
“We’re still waiting to learn the fate of the planned renovation of Hayward Field in Eugene,” said Ken Goe, referring to the famed track stadium on the Oregon campus. “The stadium needs to be renovated for Eugene to stage the 2021 World Outdoor Championships.
“Eugene secured that meet in 2015. The renovation was supposed to begin in 2016 and has been repeatedly delayed. At the moment, no start date has been announced, and a design for the renovated stadium has not been made public.”
Goe speculated that Sacramento or Des Moines, Iowa (site of the Drake Relays) might be options if Mt. SAC and Oregon fall through.
Tokyo hosts the next Summer Games — July 24 through Aug. 9, 2020. Track and field will be held at the new National Olympic Stadium — the same site as the old one, demolished in 2015 and set for completion in November 2019.
The $1 billion Kasumigaoka National Stadium will boast a retractable roof, with seating for 60,000 at the Games.
“A state-of-the-art stadium like Kasumigaoka is another indication that Tokyo is ready to deliver a dynamic celebration that reinforces and renews the Olympic values for a new generation,” said ESPN in 2012.
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