Caltrans will file a lawsuit against Daniel Forge so it can seize part of his property through eminent domain in order to  install fish ladders in Solstice Creek

By Olivia Damavandi

The California Transportation Commission in a hearing last week authorized Caltrans to sue the owner of the BeauRivage restaurant property in order to seize a portion of it by eminent domain.

The state wants to take the property in order to conduct a six-month, $430,000 project it hopes will help reinstate steelhead trout into Solstice Creek, which runs through part of the property. The project involves the implementation of fish ladders-structures that help the natural migration of the fish-to allow the fish to swim upstream of the parking area of the restaurant’s property, located near the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Corral Canyon Road.

Caltrans is expected to file the lawsuit against BeauRivage property owner Daniel Forge in Los Angeles Superior Court within the next year, Steve Maller, deputy director and chief engineer for the CTC, said Monday in a telephone interview. A hearing will follow, at which the court will decide whether to grant Caltrans possession of a portion of the property.

“I’m not surprised by [the outcome of the CTC hearing last week], that’s the way it goes,” Forge said Monday in a telephone interview. “They walk on your property like they own it.”

The court will also decide on the amount of Forge’s monetary compensation if he and Caltrans are unable to come to an agreement themselves. The court’s rulings will be final, unless Forge decides to appeal the matter to the appellate court and the State Supreme Court, Maller said.

Forge announced several weeks ago his intention to sue Caltrans if it decided to pursue the eminent domain process. Jeff Jennings, a former city council member and attorney, is representing Forge.

“We’ve had a meeting with some Caltrans representatives,” Jennings said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “We’re talking with them but I don’t have any details to provide.”

The state’s attempt to acquire part of the parcel has exasperated Forge, who claims the project would handicap his business by eliminating significant parking space and by shutting down the north entrance of the five-acre property. Forge also said the state has neither tried to negotiate nor offer him any monetary compensation.

“Of course [Caltrans] will try to low-ball me, they’re going to try to get away with murder,” Forge said. “I can always fight over what they want to grant me. If they offer me a thousand dollars, I can tell them to go to hell.”

Caltrans, however, asserts the project will in no way impact the property and that it has made numerous attempts to negotiate with Forge.

“Caltrans made multiple attempts to meet with the property owner and did offer monetary compensation but the offer was rejected,” Caltrans Public Information Officer Kelly Markham said last month in a telephone interview, declining to disclose the amount of proposed compensation or number of offers.

Furthermore, Markham said, “Just the stream bed would be occupied, none of his actual property, so this notion that we are somehow impacting his business and stealing his property is false.”

Caltrans is seeking two easements: a permanent one to build fish ladders in Solstice Creek, and a temporary one along the banks of the creek that would allow construction to take place.

“The permanent construction easement will allow them access for maintenance purposes onto the fish ladders,” Maller said last month in a telephone interview. “But that’s no big deal, a truck comes every few years and within a few hours they’re out of there.

“The entire property remains in the hands of the property owner,” Maller continued. “Not an inch of his property is being taken from him.”

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