Carson Sports Complex Riles Neighbors
Community Demands Touger Action Against Home Depot Center
When thousands of fans bustle noisily out of the Home Depot Center stadium in the Los Angeles suburbÂ of Carson after a Saturday night event, residents in the surrounding neighborhoods close their windows in a feeble attempt to block out the sound of fireworks, screaming, cheering and the bellowing of air horns.
Many fans park on residential streets near the stadium, and then litter the ground with souvenirs, food wrappers, plastic cups and other trash as they retreat to their cars, some reportedly even urinating on residents' lawns. Avalon Blvd., the city's main thoroughfare, resembles a parking lot within ten minutes of the event's end. Vehicles crawl as departing fans try to access the nearby 91, 110 and 405 freeways.
Anschutz Entertainment Group promised to have minimal impact on the community when it leased 125 acres from California State University, Dominguez Hills and began development of the $150-million sports complex in 2001. Former Carson Mayor Gil Smith is a founder of the university and lives in a home that backs right up to the Home Depot Center. Smith said he initially supported the building of the Center, but now feels that he was deceived.
"It's a beautiful stadium and I thought it would be a great asset to the city of Carson," he said, "but between the noise and the traffic it is impossible to even enjoy the comfort of my own home."
Prior to the construction of the official Olympic-training stadium with facilities for soccer, tennis and cycling, Anschutz Entertainment Group presented an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to the Carson City Council. According to the EIR, the Home Depot Center was not expected to significantly alter traffic flow in Carson or increase the amount of noise in surrounding neighborhoods. Carson Mayor Jim Dear and the city council approved the report and construction of the stadium began. Midway through the construction process, however, developers amended the EIR to show that the Home Depot Center would, in fact, significantly affect the city in terms of noise and traffic.
The updated EIR said, "significant noise impacts are anticipated as a result of crowd noise, spectator noise from parking lots and increased vehicular traffic." Additionally, the plans for the Home Depot Center, which contains a 20,000-seat tennis stadium and a 27,000-seat soccer stadium, did not allocate sufficient space for parking. "A sold-out Saturday evening event will result in a shortfall of approximately 867 on-site parking spaces," according to the amended EIR.
Upon the release of the updated EIR, the University Heights Homeowners Association, of which Gil Smith was president, filed a lawsuit against the Home Depot Center, challenging the adequacy of the report. Smith said his association filed a lawsuit not only for itself, but to protect the interests of all Carson residents. A settlement was reached and the Home Depot Center agreed to reduce noise, provide traffic control and notify all Carson residents who live within a 2-mile radius of the center every time an event is held there.
"We're very candid with the people of Carson. They're our neighbors," said Martha Saucedo, Vice President of Community Affairs at the Home Depot Center, adding that the center has made every effort to comply with the established agreements. "We adhere to the agreed-upon noise levels and make residents aware of each event."
But University Heights resident Chanelle Brimmer said those things have not happened. "It is frustrating when it takes 15 to 20 minutes to get out of your own neighborhood," Brimmer said, "and I know that the Home Depot Center said we would receive flyers and event notices, but that commitment is not consistent."Â
Brimmer also said that operational noise from the center has hardly improved. "I've heard set-up crews out there as early as 3 o'clock in the morning!" she said.
While those situations are "regrettable," Saucedo said they are out of the center's control because many crews are outside contractors, unfamiliar with the agreements. But she said the Home Depot Center has gone beyond EIR requirements in several areas.Â
"We hire a company to hand out four to six thousand notifications to surrounding neighborhoods," Saucedo said. "We want our neighbors to be aware of every game, concert and fireworks show."Â
Gloria Lewis, who lives a mile away from the stadium, said she's often startled by the fireworks displays. "On nights when they have something special going on - or what they deem is special - we have to listen to fireworks for 30 minutes and I rarely receive notification," Lewis said. "I never wanted the Home Depot Center to be built. I moved to Carson because I wanted to live in a bedroom community."
Some Carson residents don't seem to know where to go from here. Smith said that while the University Heights Homeowners Association could take the Home Depot Center to court for not complying with the previous settlement terms, much of the association's savings were depleted during the lawsuit in 2001 and many residents have given up hope. "Residents say 'Oh well, we fought the good battle, spent the $30,000 and we didn't get what we went after," Smith said. "We're here and that facility is there. Now we're trying to live with it." Â
However, other residents say they hope the city council will take action. "I don't think there's anything we, as residents, can do at this point. The city council needs to take a stand and enforce the center's compliance," Lewis said. Â
But while Mayor Dear has acknowledged the validity of residents' complaints against the center, he called the stadium a "catalyst for economic development" and has praised the center for putting Carson on the map.
"People are getting off the freeway now when they never would have before, because we're becoming a destination community," Dear said.