Menlo attorney fighting high-speed rail Central Valley project's launch | News | Almanac Online |


Menlo attorney fighting high-speed rail Central Valley project's launch


(An expanded version of an earlier-published story.)

Peninsula cities lost a legal battle last week against the state's high-speed rail project, but another active lawsuit is being prepared for a May 31 court date, with support from Atherton and other local players.

The lawsuit is pending in Sacramento County Superior Court, and concerns work authorized by the California High-Speed Rail Authority on the Fresno-to-Bakersfield segment of the planned rail project. Mike Brady, a Menlo Park attorney, is representing the plaintiffs: Kings County, a Hanford-area farmer, and a Hanford resident.

The Atherton City Council on Feb. 20 unanimously approved contributing $10,000 in support of the lawsuit, drawing the money from an existing $30,000 fund earmarked for the town's fight against the rail authority's plan to run the train along the Caltrains tracks through communities including Atherton.

Mr. Brady said the lawsuit is set for trial in the Sacramento County courtroom of Judge Michael Kenny, who last week dealt a blow to another lawsuit filed by Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto.

Does that ruling bode ill for Mr. Brady's lawsuit? "Not at all," he said. "Our lawsuit is the only one in the state that says that the whole project is illegal."

The lawsuit dismissed last week, he noted, challenged the rail authority's adherence to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), whereas the litigation he's pursuing on behalf of Kings County in the Central Valley involves the authority's plan to begin construction of the rail system before it is legally permitted to do so.

"Proposition 1A has a very important requirement: You can't start construction unless you have all the money in the bank, committed, or secured" for a usable segment of the railway, he said. The authority, he added, identified the usable segment it plans to build early in the project as a line from Merced to the Los Angeles basin, at an estimated cost of $31 billion. "But the authority only has $6 billion," he said, with no immediate prospects to raise the additional funds. Yet, the authority has said construction may begin in the Central Valley as early as July.

The rail authority also plans to build a conventional diesel rail system on a portion of the Central Valley system, Mr. Brady added. That, he said, will also violate Proposition 1A's requirement that authorized funding be spent on an electrified high-speed rail.

Proposition 1A, he said, has "very complex provisions and safeguards and restrictions which are designed to protect the state ... from financial risk. ... These are very detailed, and the Supreme Court of California has required these restrictions to be strictly enforced." The lawsuit alleges that there are about 10 violations of the restrictions in the rail authority's plans for the Central Valley's portion of the project.

Council action

Councilmen Jerry Carlson and Bill Widmer raised the question of giving financial support to the legal effort, a request reflected in a letter from the Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail, which is headed by Atherton resident Jim Janz.

"There is an excellent chance that the litigation filed by Kings County and the individual plaintiffs can stop this project," according to the coalition's letter. "However, while this is a strong case on the merits, it is also a 'David and Goliath' effort. Attorney Mike Brady is handling the case on a pro bono basis, but is facing the state of California and the attorney general's office, with literally hundreds of attorneys and unlimited resources."

Councilman Widmer urged the council to "put our money where our mouth is" in supporting the lawsuit, referring to Atherton's long-standing opposition to the rail plan.

Councilman Carlson said that spending one-third of funds already put aside for challenging the project "would be appropriate. Our community would certainly benefit from our actions if this lawsuit is successful."

Council members emphasized the need to encourage other Peninsula communities to contribute funds to the effort, and Mr. Widmer said he hoped Atherton's action would "shame them into doing something."

Mr. Janz told the Almanac that, as of late February, Burlingame had agreed to help fund the lawsuit. The coalition is still waiting to hear from Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Belmont, he said. He estimated the cost of the litigation at $50,000 to $100,000.

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Like this comment
Posted by Kinte
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 5, 2013 at 9:31 pm

CA HSR is a swindle for sure, and the CAHSR Authority is doing everything they can to keep your tax dollars flowing into their agency and then on to the big labor unions in the state. It's payback for helping get Jerry re-elected. That the terms of Prop 1a have largely been ignored, and Sacramento couldn't seem to care less is nothing sort of the Governors office flaunting the law.

Some recent articles on the swindle in progress:

EDITORIAL: Put the brakes on high-speed rail plan
Web Link

Financing for California high-speed rail still shaky
Web Link

Valley high-speed rail hiring policy adds to concern

Read more here: Web Link
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Flight
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm

As a Menlo Park resident, I hope the city stays clear of this frivolous lawsuit. Pretend it's a battle of good vs. evil / bloated / union / giant etc., but it's really NIMBYism at it's most self indulgent.

Like this comment
Posted by Howard
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 6, 2013 at 3:18 am

Let's use the 10 K from Atherton to cater a ground breaking ceremony.

Like this comment
Posted by Jordan DeStaebler
a resident of another community
on Mar 6, 2013 at 9:07 am

This lawsuit is absolutely absurd. As stated earlier, NIMBYism at its worst. A waste of taxpayer money all around. Can hardly wait to be riding the CASHR down the Peninsula to more enlightened destinations.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2013 at 1:06 pm


you're going to have a looooong wait.

Like this comment
Posted by voter and taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm

What is happening with HSR was not what the majority of voters approved. I am glad this lawsuit is in play. The project has become a boondoggle. There is no viable business plan, as required before construction can begin.
Those who want HSR at all costs seem willing to believe their desired end justifies any means to get there. That's a criminal attitude.

Like this comment
Posted by Sue
a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2013 at 2:08 pm

On behalf of all taxpayers, small business owners, local farmers and ranchers, in what use to be the Great State of California, thank you for standing up to the Goliath thugs!

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 15, 2013 at 8:21 am

Reuter's news reported today that there's a new report that MSR will cost California taxpayers between $124 and $373 MILLION each year in operating subsidies.

As I've said, taxpayers need to put on their seat belts. Passengers don't have to - with the new track configuration, it's no longer HIGH speed rail.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 15, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Hmmmm. since it was sold on not requiring subsidies, I wonder what the HSR Authority will have to say? Not that it will be anything meaningfull, just more of their BS. But it will be interesting anyway.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 15, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Do you know how you can tell when the HSR Authority is lying?

Yeah, me too.

Unfortunately, the taxpayers of California will foot the bill...

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Jun 5, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

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