GSW response to city lawsuit: dismiss the action altogether

Golden State Water Company has filed its response to an eminent domain lawsuit brought forth by the city of Claremont last month, asking the court to dismiss the action altogether or for a jury to show them the money.

In the 102-page response, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on January 15, Golden State contends that because Claremont’s system is part of a larger system owned by them, severing it will damage the remainder of the larger property.

The San Dimas-based water company lists 16 claims to back up its request for dismissal, among them assertions that the city failed to properly appraise the value of the assets and that the city of Claremont is attempting to provide water service outside its borders, specifically within the cities of Pomona, Upland, Montclair and an unincorporated area within Los Angeles County.

Claremont’s purported attempt to provide water outside the city limits is in reference to the second of two Resolutions of Necessity (Resolution No. 2014-88) adopted by Claremont’s City Council on November 25, 2014 and available for review on the city’s website. At that time, Golden State’s attorney George Soneff submitted objections to the resolutions before council’s adoption.

In its response, Golden State also contends that the city failed to provide adequate notice of the November 25 hearing and “that the Resolutions of Necessity adopted by the city were invalid because they were influenced or affected by gross abuse of discretion in that their adoptions were arbitrary or capricious or entirely lacking in evidentiary support.”

Following the adoption of the Resolutions of Necessity, the city filed a 43-page eminent domain complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court on December 9, serving Golden State with its lawsuit on December 15.

The water company had 30 days to file its response.

According to a press release issued by the city, Claremont’s legal team is reviewing the challenge and will prepare for the legal proceedings to follow.

“In all matters of ongoing litigation, the city refrains from commenting on the contents of the case. The city will continue to inform the public on the water system acquisition process.”

The fight for ownership of the Claremont District Water System is expected to be a long one, with the upcoming months ahead dedicated to discovery for the case.

“Part of that process is to learn more about the Claremont District Water System,” says John Holloway, one of several attorneys representing the city of Claremont. “At such time, the city may get a further appraisal of the water system as part of the litigation process as more information becomes available.”

In an eminent domain case, it’s not unusual for the government to deposit “probable compensation” upon filing the complaint and then seek an order for early possession of the property based on its deposit. The owner can withdraw the deposit and still be able to claim greater compensation, but withdrawal of the deposit waives all defenses of objections to the taking. Although the city has not yet elected to deposit probable compensation, the possibility isn’t off the table.

“The city may contemplate doing so in the future but has not filed to take possession at this time,“ says Mr. Holloway.

What both parties can anticipate is a lengthy fight for ownership of the Claremont water system.

“The case will go through several phases,” said Mr. Soneff, “the first of which will be Judge Fruin scheduling a status conference to see where we are in the case.”

As of press time, no future hearing dates have been set.

To read Golden State’s full response to the city’s lawsuit, visit the COURIER website at www.claremont-courier.com

—Angela Bailey

news@claremont-courier.com

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