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Category: Coliseum

Black lawmakers object to parts of Coliseum-USC deal

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All nine members of the Legislature's black caucus are urging state officials to scrap parts of a deal that would allow USC to run the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Letter: Black caucus opposes parts of USC-Coliseum deal
The lawmakers, who said they support the idea of USC managing the Coliseum, where the school's football team plays, object to the inclusion of nearby parking lots they say should be turned into parks in the South Los Angeles neighborhood. USC demanded the parking lots as part of the management agreement.

"Your role is not to be boosters for the USC football program," said the letter from the caucus to Robert Stein, chairman of the California Science Center board, which owns the parking lots and the land on which the Coliseum and several museums sit, collectively known as Exposition Park.

DOCUMENT: Read the black caucus' letter

"This proposal is an affront.... Giving up control of the parking lots virtually gives away control of the park, which is totally unacceptable," the letter said.

Newly elected Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles) is a caucus member whose district includes the Coliseum. He noted that surrendering the parking lots would break a promise made two decades ago by the state to eventually convert unused lots surrounding the Coliseum complex into green space, for a neighborhood that sorely lacks parks.

DOCUMENT: Read the 1992 master plan calling for more parks at Exposition Park

"When the entire Legislative Black Caucus looks at the parking lots, we see green space. We see families. We see picnics. We see soccer fields," said Jones-Sawyer, formerly Los Angeles City Hall's top expert on real estate issues.

The group also opposes an element of the deal that would allow USC to also control the aging Sports Arena, part of the Coliseum property that could be razed for a potentially lucrative soccer stadium. The deal envisions the university taking over the sports venues for up to 99 years.
Exposition Park Master Plan
"As drafted, it appears that the board would give up all oversight of future plans if a soccer stadium is to be built. Might that soccer stadium also include a shopping mall, student housing, USC offices?" the caucus wrote.

The caucus rejected an assertion written into the deal that if the Coliseum Commission, which currently governs the stadium complex, goes out of business, the state will be on the hook for $70 million in upgrades. The commission promised to make the improvements in a lease signed with USC in 2008. The complex is operated jointly by the state, county and city.

State Sen. Rod Wright (D-Inglewood), vice chair of the caucus, said the Coliseum's governing charter protects the state from the stadium's debts. "I really doubt that we're going to lay off teachers and take services away from poor people so that we can fund a football stadium for a private school."

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2 ex-Coliseum workers plead not guilty to embezzlement, conspiracy

Two former employees of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum pleaded not guilty Monday to theft and conspiracy charges in their first court appearance since being charged last month by city prosecutors.

Ulises Luna, 33, and former payroll clerk Maria De La Torre, 38, were accused by the Los Angeles city attorney's office of stealing Coliseum funds by cashing falsified salary checks. In all, eight people have been charged in the corruption scandal at the historic stadium.

Luna and De La Torre each face five misdemeanor counts of grand theft, embezzlement, conspiracy, receiving stolen property and passing a forged document. They also are accused of one count each of illegally possessing a check.

If convicted on all charges, they could be sentenced to a maximum of three years in county jail and be required to pay restitution.

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USC would gain control of taxpayer-owned parking lots under proposal

A proposed agreement between the state and USC would give the private university control of taxpayer-owned parking lots that serve the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and several public museums at Exposition Park.

Released in draft form Tuesday, the proposal is part of a lease package that allows USC to take over operations of the Coliseum, home to the school’s football team, and the companion Sports Arena for as long as 99 years.

It would also grant USC the option of razing the Sports Arena and developing the site as a professional soccer stadium.
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Coliseum: Two more ex-employees charged in theft of funds

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Prosecutors filed theft and conspiracy charges Wednesday against two former employees of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, bringing to eight the number of people charged in the corruption scandal at the historic stadium.

The city attorney brought misdemeanor charges against former warehouse worker Ulises Luna, 33, and ex-payroll clerk Maria De La Torre, 38, accusing them of stealing Coliseum funds by processing and cashing falsified salary checks.

In the complaint, prosecutors allege that De La Torre continued to issue checks to Luna after he was laid off late last year and split the proceeds with him. Luna collected at least 10 checks totaling nearly $4,000 between January and April of this year, according to the complaint.

Full coverage: Coliseum under scrutiny

Three former Coliseum managers, two prominent concert promoters and a stadium contractor were indicted in March on numerous felony counts in a district attorney’s investigation. The probe followed Times reports of financial irregularities at the taxpayer-owned stadium and companion Sports Arena.

Luna and De La Torre are due in court next month, when they will be ordered to post bail.

Each faces five counts of grand theft, embezzlement, conspiracy, receiving stolen property and passing a forged document. They are also accused of one count each of illegally possessing a check. 

If convicted on all charges, they could be sentenced to a maximum of three years in county jail and be required to pay restitution.

Luna was laid off in December 2011. De La Torre later resigned and has paid back $1,500 to the Coliseum, prosecutors said. 

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Tougher USC security rules win praise from students

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

Reaction at USC was mainly positive Tuesday to new security rules that will restrict access to the school late at night.

Some, however, expressed concern that the campus would become too walled-off as a result of the policies adopted in the aftermath of shootings on campus last week.

Undergraduate student body President Michael Geragos called the measures “a great step toward ensuring safety on campus” and added that “any inconvenience that this might cause the students is outweighed by the positive impact it has on student safety and wellness.” Geragos, 21, a senior from Pasadena, said that students were pleased that administrators said they did not want the new rules to isolate the school from the surrounding communities.

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

“This is definitely a good idea at night,” said Danny Razzano, a freshman from Irvine. “I think it will prevent the thing that happened at the Halloween party from happening again because the people involved were not USC students.” But beyond any new security measures from the university, the 18-year-old said that all students should be cautious late at night and look out for one another. “Kids from the suburbs may not understand we live in an urban environment now and it’s easy to be naive about people,” he said.

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USC announces new security measures in shooting aftermath

PHOTOS: Shooting at USC Halloween party

In the wake of last week’s shooting on campus, USC on Tuesday announced a new set of heightened security measures, including visitor restrictions and mandatory identification checks on anyone seeking to enter the main campus between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. 

In addition, outside promoters will be banned from working on USC social events held at campus facilities or on nearby Fraternity Row, according to USC President C.L. Max Nikias. Last week’s shooting, which wounded four people -– none of them USC students -- occured outside a Halloween party that had been promoted by a non-USC firm that invited young people from across the city.

The new rules, which will be rolled out immediately and fully implemented by January, will make USC’s main campus a somewhat more closed place, Nikias conceded in a telephone interview. But he described it as “a small inconvenience given how strongly I feel about the safety and security of the campus.”

PHOTOS: Shooting at USC Halloween party

He said the vast majority of non-USC visitors will not be affected, including those who attend concerts, lectures or athletic events that begin before 9 p.m. He said that USC will remain a campus “that welcomes all our neighbors” for recreation, entertainment, education and community programs.

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L.A. Now Live: A daily conversation with The Times newsroom

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky used his position as a Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum commissioner to score a pair of prized tickets to the 2004 Super Bowl.

The question is, did he pay for them? That's a matter of sharp dispute. A spokesman said the supervisor paid $750 in cash for them, without a record of the transaction, and gave them to a constituent he would not identify.

But two people who said they provided Yaroslavsky with Super Bowl tickets insist he got them for free and requested them for his own use. Yaroslavsky's receipt of the 2004 tickets came to light through Times inquiries involving the corruption scandal at the Coliseum, which has resulted in the indictments of three former stadium officials and three people who did business with the publicly owned venue.

Times staff writers Rong-Gong Lin II and Paul Pringle will join us at 9 a.m. to talk about the Super Bowl tickets, as well as the corruption scandal at the Coliseum.

Whether Yaroslavsky paid for 2004 Super Bowl tickets in dispute

FULL COVERAGE: Coliseum under scrutiny

By all accounts, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky used his position as a Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum commissioner to score a pair of prized tickets to the 2004 Super Bowl.

But did he pay for them? That is a matter of sharp dispute.

A spokesman said the supervisor paid $750 in cash for them, without a record of the transaction, and gave them to a constituent he would not identify.

FULL COVERAGE: Coliseum under scrutiny

But two people who said they provided Yaroslavsky with Super Bowl tickets insist he got them for free and requested them for his own use.

State law generally requires elected officials to report gifts of tickets on public disclosure forms. Yaroslavsky did not report the tickets.

Yaroslavsky's receipt of the 2004 tickets came to light through Times inquiries involving the corruption scandal at the Coliseum, which has resulted in the indictments of three former stadium officials and three people who did business with the publicly owned venue.

Those officials and others also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of stadium money on luxury cars, golf tournaments and massages, among other perks, according to interviews and Coliseum records.

Yaroslavsky's spokesman, Joel Bellman, said the supervisor first approached the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission, a nonprofit group that promotes the city's stadiums.

Bellman said Yaroslavsky made it clear to the group that he did not want the tickets for his own use as a Coliseum representative but was getting them for a constituent.

Kathryn Schloessman, president of the group, told The Times that her organization gave Yaroslavsky the 2004 tickets for free, believing he would attend the game to lobby NFL executives to return professional football to the Coliseum.

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Science museum chief has 'serious concerns' about USC deal

California Science Center President Jeffrey Rudolph says he's worried about parking around the museum

The president of the California Science Center says he has "serious concerns" that USC's proposed takeover of the neighboring Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum could restrict public parking and cause disruptions at the state museum, which soon will be home to the space shuttle Endeavour.

Science Center President Jeffrey Rudolph said Wednesday that he is worried that USC's bid to control state-owned parking lots near the Coliseum could limit their availability to Exposition Park's three museums. Rudolph also expressed fears that the museum operations could otherwise be overwhelmed by large events USC would stage at the taxpayer-owned Coliseum, apart from Trojans football games.

The Science Center board is considering USC's request to assume management of the parking lots under the private school's deal with the Coliseum's governing commission to run the stadium.

FULL COVERAGE: Coliseum under scrutiny

"We have significant, serious concerns -- as I believe others in [Exposition] Park probably would -- about operating and being able to operate our facilities," Rudolph said.

The Coliseum Commission approved the USC takeover in May after a financial scandal left the agency at the brink of insolvency. Three ex-Coliseum managers, two rave promoters and a janitorial contractor have been indicted on corruption and conflict-of-interest charges. A criminal investigation of the Coliseum management followed a 2011 Times report on financial irregularities.

In July, The Times and a 1st Amendment group, Californians Aware, sued the Coliseum Commission, alleging it violated open-government laws by deliberating the decades-long lease with USC in secret and withholding stadium records from public inspection. The commission has said it acted legally. The suit is pending.

Rudolph raised questions about the USC lease after some Science Center board members called for a quick resolution to the school's pursuit of the parking lots and dismissed the idea that museum staffers should be available for a public hearing on the merits of the deal.

"We can't function without parking," Rudolph said in an interview. "I'm talking about the ability to ensure there's parking available for school buses for children coming to the Science Center ... the African American Museum, the Natural History Museum and for families that come here."

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Tens of thousands celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe at Coliseum

Guadalupe

Tens of thousands of believers filled the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday afternoon to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe — the long-revered symbol of the Catholic Church — in an hours-long event organizers called the "largest celebration of the Virgin Mary in a generation."

The bilingual "Guadalupe Celebration" included prayer, song and traditional dance, along with remarks from Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles and other religious leaders. It also featured a symbol important to the church: A half-inch scrap of the cloak upon which believers say an image of the Virgin Mother miraculously appeared.

Catholics — particularly those of Mexican descent — have long cherished Our Lady of Guadalupe, whom they believe appeared before Juan Diego on a hillside outside Mexico City in the 1500s. According to the church, a dark-skinned Mary asked the poor Indian convert to tell the local bishop she wanted a chapel built for her people.

But the bishop was not convinced, and asked for a sign that the message was in fact from the Virgin Mother.

Mary appeared again and told Juan Diego to gather roses and place them in his cloak. When he opened the tilma for the bishop, the roses fell out, revealing an image of Mary on the cloth.

The cloak is housed in Mexico City, although the half-inch piece processed through the Coliseum on Sunday is enshrined at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. Known as the Tilma of Tepeyac, the fragment is believed to be the only piece of the cloak in the United States.

More than 100,000 free tickets were distributed for Sunday's celebration, organizers said, and although the 90,000-seat stadium was only about half-full, the event drew attendees from throughout Southern California and beyond.

When news spread about Sunday's celebration, Gomez said, the reaction was "unbelievable."

"It's an incredible response," he said. "As soon as we started talking about getting together for the festival for Our Lady of Guadalupe, people got really interested."

Reyna Camora, 41, came to the Coliseum from North Hollywood with three generations of her family. The group wore white T-shirts bearing a silver outline of the Virgin Mother.

They waited in line for about two hours, Camora said, but they were glad to have the opportunity to celebrate the Virgin Mary at such a large event.

"We have faith in the Virgin," Camora said. "We're so joyful to be here."

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— Kate Mather 

Follow Kate Mather on Twitter or Google+.

Photo: Kimberly Beltran, 10, and Rosario Beltran, 8, hug while waiting for the opening ceremony of the Guadalupe Celebration at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Sunday afternoon. The Beltran sisters were part of a large group who performed in a Matachines and Aztecas dance procession to honor the Virgin Mary. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

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About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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