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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

USC's Coliseum Take-Over Bid Slowed By Parking Lots

Paresh Dave |
May 15, 2013 | 11:39 p.m. PDT

Executive Director

(Rosa Trieu/Neon Tommy)
(Rosa Trieu/Neon Tommy)
Last week's annual Revlon Run/Walk for Women near Exposition Park was expected to raise about $3 million for cancer research and support. But in recent years it also has generated more than $20,000 annually for the state government through parking fees paid by event attendees.

It's parking revenues such as those that have played a key role in delaying final approval for USC's bid to amend its lease for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Sports Arena in Exposition Park. The modifications would transfer day-to-day control of the publicly owned facilities to the private university.

USC has made the deal contigent on it separately reaching an agreement with the state to take control of the street-level parking lots in Exposition Park. University officials say control of the lots and the fees is an essential way to help pay off the tens of millions of dollars the school plans to spend renovating the Coliseum. USC has agreed to pay the state an annual inflation-indexed fee equal to what the parking lots have historically brought in.
Some civic leaders and elected officials have objected, saying the state should not relinquish control of the $4 million to $5 million that parking lots generate each year. (That figures includes revenues from a parking structure not included in the proposed USC agreement.)

Lawmakers say the state-run California Science Center has no legal right to turn over the parking lots to USC, and the State Senate passed a bill last week that would explicitly bar the transaction. The bill is now pending in the State Assembly. The author of the legislation, State Sen. Roderick Wright, sees no circumstance under which USC should manage the six parking lots in question.

The money from the parking fees fund improvements and maintenance for Exposition Park, whose tenants include the California Science Center, the California African American Museum and the L.A. County Natural History Museum.

In 2011, USC football games brought in about $30,000 on average. A July 2011 L.A. Galaxy match at the soccer game generated $145,000 in parking fees. These special events make up about half of the parking revenues. The rest comes from regular patrons to the Exposition Park attractions.

Part of USC's pitch is that it could refurbish the Coliseum, market the venues better and bring in a more revenues in general to the Exposition Park community. A subcontractor that operates the parking lots for Exposition Park takes a nearly 13 percent cut of parking revenues. It's unclear if USC would use its own employees to operate the lots.

Under the proposed agreement, USC would not be able to shut down the parking lots to develop offices or buildings on them without permission from various government agencies. The university has 15,000 parking spaces on campus. Exposition Park has about 5,000 spaces.

Pat Gibson, a transportation engineering consultant who's done work for the university, said giving USC control of the lots makes sense if USC let campus patrons park there and had a shuttle running to campus.

"It would reduce congestion and make it easier for pedestrians to move around in the core of campus," Gibson said. USC officials said they have no such plans at this point.

USC's new Shrine lot was purchased from the Shriners, who also own the Shrine Auditorium. The Auditorium is now operated by AEG Golden Voice.
USC's new Shrine lot was purchased from the Shriners, who also own the Shrine Auditorium. The Auditorium is now operated by AEG Golden Voice.
Local state lawmakers want to see one of the parking lots turn into a park. Gibson said synthetic grass could be used in a park to allow for multiple uses of the space. On USC gamedays and for other big events, cars could park on the green space.

In the meantime, USC has expanded its parking portfolio in other ways. In January, the university purchased and refurbished a parking lot one block north of campus. It sits behind the Shrine Auditorium and is open during the day for $10, the same price as on-campus garage spots. Parking in Exposition Park is $10 a day, too.

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