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L.A. Council group appointed to take closer look at downtown stadium plans

March 29, 2011 |  4:03 pm

Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti on Tuesday named a five-member “ad hoc” committee to scrutinize a private developer’s plan to build a National Football League stadium in downtown Los Angeles.

“Especially in these tough times, we must be aggressive both in pursuing opportunities to create jobs and in protecting Los Angeles’ public resources,” Garcetti  declared.

Among the issues to be looked at, Garcetti said, are taxpayer and budget protection, job creation, prospective revenues generated and the impact on traffic and the environment.

Chairing the committee will be City Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose district includes the proposed stadium site. Perry is also a declared candidate in the 2013 mayoral elections.

Other members named to the ad hoc panel are Councilmen Bill Rosendahl, Tony Cardenas, Tom LaBonge and Ed Reyes. The committee is likely to have a high-profile presence, considering the substantial buzz already enveloping the stadium plan -- despite its still-uncertain status and the absence of any formal commitment from the National Football League.

Anshutz Entertainment Group, the conglomerate that already owns the Staples Center and L.A. Live complex downtown, is proposing to build the $1-billion-plus “Farmers Field” stadium right next door. AEG officials have repeatedly vowed that no taxpayer money would be spent on the project, though some observers have questioned that assertion.

AEG wants to build the stadium on land currently occupied by the West Hall of the city-owned Los Angeles Convention Center. AEG is offering to lease the space for what it calls a fair market value once the West Hall is torn down.

However, AEG’s proposal also envisions the city issuing some $350 million in municipal bonds to replace and upgrade the West Hall. The developer has estimated that new taxes and other revenues from the stadium project should cover most of the city’s 30 years of debt service on the bonds. AEG says it would make up any shortfall.

But several council members have expressed doubts about the wisdom of such a potentially risky undertaking in financially stressed Los Angeles. Facing a massive budget shortfall, the city has already shed thousands of jobs and reduced some services.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has endorsed the concept of a downtown stadium and appointed a blue-ribbon panel to examine the proposal. That panel is expected to issue a report in the coming months.

Meantime, the city’s planning department has scheduled a “public meeting” downtown Wednesday afternoon to discuss on environmental issues related to the stadium project. The session is slated for 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Meeting Room 501 ABC in the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 South Figueroa St. Attendees can park for free at the West Hall parking garage (entrance on Pico Boulevard).

-- Patrick J. McDonnell at Los Angeles City Hall