State Senate OKs bill on LA stadium challenges, environmental requirements

By Richie Duchon

City News Service

The state Senate today approved a bill that would provide special legal protection for the developers proposing a $1.5 billion football stadium and convention center hall near L.A. Live and Staples Center

in downtown Los Angeles.

The bill, which now heads to the governor for final approval, would put a 175-day time limit on legal challenges to the proposal by Anschutz Entertainment Group. Lawsuits would also bypass the Los Angeles County Superior Court system, where challenges would otherwise originate, and instead go

straight to the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

AEG President Tim Leiweke has argued the protection is necessary to shield the company from lawsuits filed by competitors aiming to delay the project.

Majestic Realty has a competing football stadium plan in Industry, which won exemptions from state environmental laws in 2009.

Both companies are trying to lure an NFL team to Los Angeles, and the Chargers repeatedly surface as the most likely candidate. The region has been without an NFL team for more than 16 years, since the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum-based Raiders returned to Oakland and the Los Angeles Rams, who played at what was then known as Anaheim Stadium, moved to St. Louis following the 1994 season.

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, who co-authored the bill, said AEG’s proposal would create more than 12,000 full-time jobs. A consultant for the city put the number at closer to half of that, about 6,320 full-time jobs.

Padilla said the proposal also includes some of the strongest environmental and traffic mitigation efforts ever proposed in a stadium project.

The bill would require AEG to use environmental mitigation measures to balance out greenhouse gas emissions from private car trips to the stadium. It also requires the car trip ratio at the stadium -- the number of private cars going to games divided by the number of fans in attendance -- to be less than 90 percent of the ratio at any other NFL stadium in the country.

The bill puts the responsibility on the city to determine whether AEG has met the environmental and traffic conditions, but it remains unclear how city officials would do that.

This achieves economic development without sacrificing our environmental standards, and is exactly the responsible decision-making that California needs to move forward,’' said Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, whose district includes the proposed stadium and is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s first cousin.

Perez and Padilla touted the support of two significant environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the California League of Conservation Voters.

They also boasted the project’s future economic impact, which a state legislative analyst said were likely overstated. Citing projections by AEG consultants, Perez said in a statement that the event center would generate about $600 million in economic activity for a community that is seeing

staggering unemployment rates.’'

Mark Whitaker, senior policy analyst in the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, testified before a Senate committee last month that the projections overstated the benefits to the region. Whitaker told the Senate Select Committee on Sports and Entertainment that the majority of any economic

boost from a new stadium would be localized to the downtown area and would comeat the expense of development elsewhere in the city.’'

Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford, spokeswoman for Gov. Jerry Brown, declined to comment on whether the governor intended to sign the bill into law. She said Brown has 12 days from the time it reaches his desk to sign or veto the bill.