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Coalition prepares lawsuit against state NFL stadium law

August 29, 2012 |  1:00 pm

 AEG pictures an NFL stadium, to be named Farmers Field , on public land adjacent to the L.A. Convention Center. Credit: AEG

A coalition of community groups and environmental activists plans to file a lawsuit Thursday challenging a state law that accelerated the legal review process for a planned downtown NFL stadium.

The group, known as the Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition, will ask a judge to strike down Senate Bill 292, which limits the amount of time that the stadium's environmental analysis can be legally challenged.

The coalition, which includes such organizations as the Los Angeles Community Action Network, called the bill an “unnecessary and unfair attack” on the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act. The bill allowed any legal challenge against the 72,000-seat stadium to bypass Superior Court review and head directly to the Court of Appeals.

Dan Stormer, an attorney for the coalition, said neighborhoods that surround the stadium site deserve the same environmental review process afforded to thousands of other projects up and down the state. He also argued that the special legislation for stadium developer Anschutz Entertainment Group posed a threat to the state's environmental law.

"What they’re saying is that this project is simply too big to be limited by the mundane requirements of our environmental protection laws," said Stormer, an attorney with the civil rights firm Hadsell Stormer Richardson & Renick.

"That ... has consequences for a community of almost a million people in our downtown area. It affects housing, it affects traffic, it affects air quality, it affects all manner of environmental protections and says we’ll just go around those."

AEG and Maria Elena Durazo, head of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, successfully pressed the Legislature to pass the special stadium law last year. The bill was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and drew vocal support from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group that normally seeks to have companies follow the state’s existing environmental review process.

The City Council is expected to vote next month on the environmental impact report for the 72,000-seat stadium, which also involves the demolition and reconstruction of a wing of the Los Angeles Convention Center. The document, released earlier this year, runs 10,000 pages and relies on the assumption that one in four ticket buyers will get to the stadium without a car on weekdays.

Even with that expectation, stadium planners expect 19,000 cars to flood downtown on game days, according to the draft document.

A representative of AEG did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But in previous interviews, AEG President Tim Leiweke has said his company would make the stadium “carbon neutral” and persuade ticket buyers to change their car-loving ways on game days.

“Farmers’ Field is the first attempt to utilize the transportation system and bring 25% of the guests without getting in their cars,” he said in April, when the project’s environmental impact report was turned in at City Hall.

The lawsuit comes three months after the Legal Aid Foundation and other groups sent a 77-page letter declaring the stadium analysis falls "far short" of requirements in the state's environmental law. The group said the report did not back up AEG's claim that the stadium would provide economic development opportunities to residents of Pico-Union and South Los Angeles.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

twitter/davidzahniser

Photo: AEG pictures an NFL stadium, to be named Farmers Field, on public land adjacent to the L.A. Convention Center, a $1.35-billion project. Credit: AEG

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