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City officials have questions about plans for Staples Center memorial for Michael Jackson [Updated]

July 2, 2009 |  4:08 pm

Officials said they are close to locking in Staples Center for a Tuesday public memorial for Michael Jackson. But city leaders said they still have questions about how they would deal with the event and who would pay for the city resources needed to pull it off.

Sources familiar with the planning told The Times that the Los Angeles Police Department's deployment for the event would involve thousands of officers and be bigger than last month's Lakers' victory parade.

At a news conference this afternoon, AEG Live's chief executive, Randy Phillips, said he had been conferring with the Jackson family and that their desire was to hold a memorial service at Staples Center, the scene of the singer's final rehearsal. Phillips said the ultimate decision about the date and format of such a program lay with Jackson's mother, Katherine.

“It’s all up to Katherine,” Phillips said, adding that he expected an announcement from the family’s publicist.

Last month, the city’s political leaders debated whether taxpayers should pay all or part of the $2-million cost of the Lakers'  parade, which stretched from Staples Center to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and various business leaders, mindful that the city was weighing layoffs and furloughs, managed to raise enough money privately to keep the public from picking up the tab.

With a Jackson memorial service, city officials are unclear on just how large the turnout might be — or whether it would spill out into surrounding parking lots.

 “We’ve done Laker parades. There’s no precedent for this,” said Councilwoman Jan Perry, who is  serving as acting mayor because Villaraigosa is on vacation in Africa and City Council President Eric Garcetti is in Japan.

City Controller Wendy Greuel also was trying to find out more information, an effort hampered by the fact that, on her second day on the job, her office in City Hall East still lacks e-mail access.

Councilman Dennis Zine said he and other council members were consulting throughout the day Thursday about the potential costs and planning required for a Jackson memorial at Staples Center.

Zine said he was concerned about whether the LAPD would have time to plan for an event of that scale — particularly since many officers will be working overtime during the Fourth of July weekend.

“You don’t have a lot of time to work up tactical plan and notify the officers. A memorial is a time of reverence but there’s always rabble-rousers that seize the opportunity — like they did with the Lakers’ parade…. If you have thousands of people show up — and you’re over capacity — what are we going to do with the people? … Who’s going to maintain control?” Zine said.

He noted that because of the holiday, council members would not have a chance to discuss how — or if — the city could absorb the costs for an event likely to draw thousands of people.

“There’s no way we should pay for a memorial. We don’t pay for memorials,” Zine said. “I don’t think they even know the cost because they don’t know how many people would show up…. The council has to approve an over-expenditure by the Police Department…. With our budget, there are some major concerns. We’re $530 million in the hole. But whatever happens we will make sure it’s a secure environment.”

[Updated at 4:30 p.m.: “I hope we are going to have something to announce by the end of today, but I don’t know yet,” said publicist Ken Sunshine, who was hired Wednesday to represent the Jackson family. “Once we announce something officially in terms of a memorial, all of the details have to be buttoned down and there’s a lot of details and there’s a lot of sensitivities and everyone should respect that.”]

-- Harriet Ryan, Maeve Reston, David Zahniser, Maria Ellen Fernandez and Cara Mia DiMassa