LOS ANGELES – A nonprofit group is challenging Metro’s approval of a proposed private, multimillion-dollar aerial tram to transport riders between Union Station and Dodger Stadium, arguing there was insufficient public input and that the project has “all the earmarks of a clandestine, sweetheart deal.”
The California Endowment’s Los Angeles Superior Court petition targets the gondola project headed by Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies LLC, which is owned by McCourt Global, a company in turn owned by former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.
The petition brought Tuesday alleges that “critical actions in matters of vital public interest were taken administratively, without public knowledge, oversight and/or involvement,” all in direct violation of Metro’s own policies.
The California Endowment is asking a judge for a court order directing Metro to immediately halt work on the project, including all Metro staff support provided in its role as lead agency for the endeavor, and to terminate its “sole-source contract” with ARTT.
“At a bare minimum, the determination that the gondola project could proceed as a sole source project must be revisited and reversed, thereby ensuring that the gondola project will be subject to public review, oversight and a competitive bidding process,” the legal action states.
A Metro spokesman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
The California Endowment did not learn of the project until last September and only after the organization and other groups sought records regarding the project, the petition states. ARTT submitted the project to Metro as an unsolicited proposal in April 2018 and declared it a privately funded public transportation project, the petition states.
“The gondola project therefore appears to have all the earmarks of a clandestine, sweetheart deal, carefully sidestepping the significant public engagement, outreach and transparency required of all Metro public transportation projects while simultaneously avoiding the scrutiny and competitive bidding required of private projects,” the petition states.
The petition further alleges that Metro fast-tracked and “sole- sourced” the project through its Office of Extraordinary Innovation, thereby depriving the public of the appropriate knowledge and input.
Since 2019, the California Endowment has met with Metro many times to request additional details on matters of vital interest to the surrounding community regarding the gondola project, ranging in topics from safety and pollution to passenger fees and right-of-way, the petition states.
“Unfortunately, in response, Metro and ARTT have provided only general `back of the envelope’ information, claiming that more detailed information, essential to determine project viability, is `in process’ and allegedly unavailable,” the petition states.