A lawyer for San Fernando Valley secession groups released new legal arguments Thursday to show that Los Angeles can be forced to give up parks, libraries and other assets in the Valley without payment from the new city.
The lawyer, Clark Alsop, said it would be unconstitutional to force a new Valley city to compensate what remains of Los Angeles for municipal property in the Valley. To do so, he argued, would "require Peter to pay Paul for something Paul never used in the first place."
Alsop is a lawyer for Valley VOTE and the San Fernando Valley Civic Foundation, a group led by Studio City lawyer David Fleming and Galpin Motors owner Bert Boeckmann.
Alsop's argument came in a letter to the Local Agency Formation Commission for Los Angeles County, which is drafting a city breakup proposal for next November's ballot. The letter rebuts a Nov. 21 opinion by LAFCO's lawyer, County Counsel Lloyd W. Pellman.
"We think the county counsel's opinion is just wrong," Alsop wrote. "We would like the commission to recognize that it does have the discretion to divide up assets without necessarily requiring payment back."
Pellman found that in most cases Los Angeles cannot be forced to give up assets without payment. He said the state constitution bars the "taking" of property from Los Angeles in the same way it prohibits seizure of property from private citizens under eminent domain without "just compensation."
If LAFCO follows Pellman's advice and requires the Valley to pay for assets, it would pose a serious threat to secession, because Valley voters could presumably find cityhood less appealing if they must buy public property from Los Angeles.
In his letter, Alsop said Pellman had wrongly applied the principles of eminent domain to secession when one "has nothing to do" with the other.
It's unclear how much influence Alsop's opinion will have on LAFCO, which has already heard extensive arguments on the issue from the secession groups.
"I don't think the LAFCO commission will be swayed by anything other than a higher authority than county counsel," LAFCO Executive Officer Larry J. Calemine said.
Valley VOTE President Jeff Brain said leaders of his group were "considering our options depending on how this is received." He declined to be specific.