NFL In Los Angeles: Farmers Field Update
Everyone from AEG CEO Tim Leiweke, to union representatives, to former NFL star Michael Strahan turned out in front of a panel of state senators to weigh in on the impact they believe the project will have in the community.
“How does this city not have the greatest sport in our country?” Strahan inquired of an appreciative audience.
Celebrity endorsements aside, the hot topic du jour was anti-stadium litigation, something AEG says threatens to stymie the project.
“The only thing AEG is asking for is a limited time frame [to approve construction] so those who are trying to block the project can’t,” Leiweke said.
Those “trying to block” the stadium include Billy Bob Barnett, a Texas nightclub and property mogul who is currently engaged in battle with AEG owner and mastermind Philip Anschutz over building in the Southern state, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Barnett’s suit, AEG claims, is frivolous and would needlessly cause delays to the project—delays the company says must be prevented if AEG is to woo an NFL team to L.A.
But environmental activists who spoke Friday said by enacting a shorter time period under which anti-project litigation could be brought, AEG may well preclude legitimate dissidents from having their say (via lawsuit).
“A frivolous lawsuit will stop nothing from being built,” said Douglas Carstens, a representative from the Planning and Conservation League. “An injunction to stop building won’t be issued unless a suit has merit.”
Carstens and other speakers associated with environmental activism worry a shortened litigation period will compromise the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which in 1970 was enacted in part to force thoughtful consideration of whether large development projects benefit the areas in which they’re constructed.
The California senators moderating the hearing (Kevin de Leon, Tony Strickland, Bill Emmerson, Alex Padilla, Curren Price, Jr. and Gil Cedillo) seemed reluctant to acknowledge CEQA as a valid concern, arguing that the act itself needs reform that granting AEG’s request won’t require a specific CEQA exemption.
Carstens and the other environmental representatives remained steadfast in their assertion that following existing CEQA protocol will neither delay nor inhibit a green light for the project. Each expressed a desire to see the return of the NFL to L.A., but within the parameters currently mandated by CEQA.
In a decidedly pro-stadium crowd, the only other voice of dissent was Marta Dina-Arguello, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsbility-L.A.
“The long-term jobs [promoted by stadium proponents] are not career track jobs,” she explained, citing two studies indicating that the unemployed poor hope not just for a minimum wage positions, but for careers.
The job opportunities to be offered by the proposed Farmers Field and already in place at STAPLES Center and L.A. Live don’t fit the bill, Dina-Arguello said.
A significant turnout of unemployed union workers was on hand to suggest that in a struggling economy and a city in which unemployment stands at nearly 13 percent, would-be employees will take what they can get.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to work,” said Johnny Verduzco, a union trade worker and father of two who has been unemployed for 2-and-a-half years. Verduzco believes the construction of Farmers Field is the most viable chance for employment he’s seen in some time.
In addition to job creation, perennial Farmers Field items parking, traffic, bonds and taxpayer responsibility.
“Not a dime of public money will be going to the stadium,” insisted Gerry R. Miller, Los Angeles’ chief legal analyst. If city bonds prove to be insufficient or other financial troubles arise, AEG will be on the hook for money, he said.
AEG has set a goal of starting NFL play in Los Angeles by 2016, with legal issues settled and construction to begin after the 2013 Super Bowl.
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