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Judge Dismisses Challenge to Skyscraper Project : Real estate: A citizens' group had argued the development would create too much traffic.


In a victory for real estate developers seeking to erect several huge buildings in downtown Los Angeles, a Superior Court judge Thursday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to block one project on the grounds that city officials had not fully assessed the traffic it might generate.

Judge Richard C. Hubbell's dismissal of the suit, filed against the city of Los Angeles and two city agencies by the citizens group A Local And Regional Monitor (ALARM), clears the way for the long-delayed $750-million Metropolis project to break ground near 8th and Francisco streets. The decision is also expected to pave the way for the similar resolution of three more ALARM lawsuits that have challenged other downtown projects, claiming that they will also lead to massive traffic congestion.

"As a technical matter, the decision is not legal precedent, but it is of persuasive value to all the other judges that are considering lawsuits brought by this outfit ALARM to promote their own no-growth agenda," said lawyer David Faustman, who represented the developer, City Center Development, in the lawsuit.

John E. Vallance, executive vice president of City Center, could not be reached for comment. But he had previously said he welcomed quick resolution of the dispute because delay of the project was costing his company $35,000 to $40,000 a day.

But ALARM's lawyer, Sabrina Schiller, said she may appeal Hubbell's ruling, a move that will likely delay start of the Metropolis project for at least several months.

"There's no question we feel justified by the law on this," Schiller said.

The Metropolis project is one of four massive real estate projects in downtown Los Angeles that together would add 11 skyscrapers and nearly 9 million square feet of commercial rental space over the next decade.

The huge developments, which also include the Los Angeles Center at 6th and Boylston, RCI Tower at 9th and Figueroa and Grand Avenue Plaza at 7th and Grand, have drawn criticism from ALARM, some local politicians and real estate experts who believe that the buildings will exacerbate the current severe glut of office space and overwhelm downtown thoroughfares with traffic.

City officials and development lawyers, however, said the decision means that ALARM shouldn't resort to the courts to solve transportation problems that may stem from a single project.

"From the perspective of the (defendant Los Angeles Community Redevelopment) Agency, it is quite a significant victory," said Los Angeles lawyer Bruce Tepper, who represented the CRA. He said the ruling means the agency does not "have to balance traffic impacts on the back of a single project" as ALARM had wanted, but may consider regional solutions to traffic congestion.

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