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Councilman raises new questions about downtown L.A. football stadium plan

March 3, 2011 |  5:18 pm

Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl raised new questions Thursday about a proposal to build a downtown football stadium on public land.

Click to read the letter In a letter to negotiators reviewing the $1.4-billion proposal by sports and entertainment conglomerate AEG, the Westside councilman asked for details on how the developer would deliver on a key promise: that the stadium, combined with reconfiguring the city's convention center, would dramatically improve Los Angeles' ability to attract major business events.

The move comes as a blue-ribbon commission created to examine the proposal prepares to hold its first meeting Friday in North Hills.
The Los Angeles Convention Center is widely regarded as underperforming, in part because of design flaws that turn off exhibitors. The stadium’s backers, the Anschutz Entertainment Group, say their proposal would increase convention business by creating more contiguous and expanded event space next to the Convention Center, providing an ongoing financial boon of millions of dollars annually in new economic activity. And they pledge to do so at no cost to the city.

Rosendahl, who has voiced some of the strongest City Hall skepticism about the project, laid out what he called “vital questions” that need answers before the stadium can be approved.
“Cities have a history of entering into deals to build football stadiums without doing their due diligence,” he wrote to several key officials close to the negotiations. “The result often places unnecessary strain on the city’s budget, and diverts money from core services.”

Among the issues he raised:

--Could the stadium construction limit future expansion options for the Convention Center as it seeks to remain competitive with other top conference destinations?

--How would the new exhibition space on the stadium floor compare in terms of marketability with more traditional configurations elsewhere “where all the space is within the convention center?”

--How can the construction, including demolition and relocation of one major convention hall, occur without causing disruptions and potential loss of revenue from existing event customers and who would make up any losses?
--How would football demands on stadium usage potentially conflict with such things as the November Auto Show and convention exhibitors that may need to set up and tear down during weekends when the stadium is in use.
“Those questions in my mind are critical,” Rosendahl said. “My bottom line, my main goal is where does the city of Los Angeles financially get impacted, or does it not?”

The letters were delivered Thursday afternoon to the offices of Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller, Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, City Council President Eric Garcetti, First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner and Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who heads the council’s budget and finance committee. Rosendahl requested written responses to his queries from Miller and Santana.

Santana and officials with AEG said they had not seen the letter and did not have an immediate comment. Beutner, Miller and Garcetti’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Beutner is heading the mayor’s blue-ribbon committee, which is holding its first meeting Friday in the San Fernando Valley. AEG will give its first public presentation about the proposal, and business leaders and community groups have been invited to discuss the potential fiscal impact.

In an interview, Rosendahl said his letter was the first of five or six he planned to write outlining questions about the stadium proposal in coming weeks. The next missive, to be released next week, will inquire about the financing of the proposal. Under AEG’s plan, the city would issue $350 million in bonds to tear down and rebuild the Convention Center’s West Hall. AEG has pledged to pay for the bonds, but Rosendahl has questions about how the money would be paid back, if doing so would divert funds that would otherwise pay for police and other essential city services and what kind of guarantee AEG will offer to ensure that the city is not left on the hook for the bonds.

Rosendahl said he hopes that the responses to his questions shed light for taxpayers and his council colleagues.

“You and I will both have a better sense of if it’s a good deal here or not,” he said. “There’s a lot at stake.”

-- Seema Mehta and Rich Connell at Los Angeles City Hall