News and Articles

August 9, 2011

State Senate Committee to Consider Protecting L.A. Stadium Proposal from StateEnvironmental Laws

State Senate Committee to Consider Protecting L.A. Stadium Proposal from StateEnvironmental Laws

Posted: 08/08/2011 05:40:57 PM PDT
A committee of state lawmakers will meet this month in an effort to prevent environmental protection laws from hindering an NFL stadium that has been proposed for downtown Los Angeles.The committee of five legislators will convene at the request of Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, who chairs the State Senate Select Committee on Sports and Entertainment. 

De Leon hopes to ensure the project isn’t stalled by environmental laws, while at the same time protecting the environment and quality of life for local residents, De Leon’s spokesman, Greg Hayes said.

De Leon was not available for comment. He is out of the country, Hayes said.

Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) officials have previously said they would seek immunity from civil litigation that could use environmental laws to challenge the project.

De Leon is open to the idea of a legislative exemption for the stadium, but doesn’t have anything specific in mind, Hayes said.

AEG’s competition, billionaire Ed Roski Jr., received an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act in 2009 that effectively killed a lawsuit that challenged his proposed NFL stadium in Industry.

But even lawmakers who helped pass that exemption said they would be hard-pressed to support an exemption for AEG in the foreseeable future.

The State Assembly’s majority leader, Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Montebello, said the two projects are “apples and oranges.”

“I’m generally opposed to any exemptions to CEQA under these circumstances,” Calderon said. “The facts (in Industry) were just entirely different than those connected with AEG’s proposal.”

Calderon said the exemption Roski received targeted a single lawsuit, which amounted to an attempt by politicians and residents in the neighboring city of Walnut to exploit environmental laws for monetary gain.

“They were objecting for all the wrong reasons,” Calderon said. “They wanted to leverage money for city projects, I think.”

Roski’s project had already completed a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) – a requirement of the state’s environmental laws that takes years to complete.

EIRs require the developer and city to identify the possible environmental impacts of a project and propose measures to lessen them.

When Roski’s project received an exemption, he had already settled a different lawsuit by agreeing to make $9 million in roadway improvements to lessen the impact on traffic congestion in the area.

“We supported that bill because we felt CEQA can be a protection, but it can also be a tool for those trying to extract or coerce giveaways from the developer,” said Rocky Rushing, the chief of staff for Calderon.

The environmental impacts of AEG’s proposal remain undefined, as the EIR is in its early stages.

“I have to ask why we are talking about an exemption when AEG has not begun the environmental impact study,” said Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina.

“When I supported the waiver of liability for Majestic’s stadium proposal in Industry, they had already been through a full environmental impact study, a supplemental study, and they committed to millions of dollars in” measures to lessen impacts, Hernandez said.

AEG spokesman Michael Roth said the first draft of its EIR should be completed in early 2012.

“Our EIR will be full and complete, and our track record of environmental responsibility is second to none,” Roth said.

Roth also said he didn’t know anything about De Leon’s plans and the group has not yet decided whether to seek any environmental exemptions.

“I couldn’t even tell you if it’s happening or not,” Roth said.

The meeting is scheduled to occur within the next few weeks, but a precise date has not been set.

De Leon’s staff is working to coordinate the event with guest panelists, which will include AEG representatives, labor leaders and environmental experts, Hayes said.

Unlike Roski’s proposed location, nearly 600 acres of open space at the intersection of the 57 and 60 freeways, adding a stadium to AEG’s site will have “substantial” environmental issues, Calderon said.

Traffic and parking in the congested downtown space are two of the issues Calderon mentioned.

It is unclear, what if any measures will be taken to lessen those two issues.

“The Industry hills side is way out in open space area,” Calderon said. “In Los Angeles, that is a major, major project that would substantially and significantly impact the environment there and surrounding environment.”

While Los Angeles officials have previously acknowledged the need for roadway improvements, AEG officials have rebuffed the assertion and neither side has agreed to foot the bill for highway improvements.

“The bottom line is that of everything I have seen so far concerning these two proposals, I think Industry is the best location for a stadium,” Hernandez said.

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Source:  http://www.whittierdailynews.com/news/ci_18641259


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