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Assembly approves special treatment for downtown L.A. stadium

September 7, 2011 |  4:29 pm

Downtown stadium proposal
The state Assembly on Wednesday approved legislation to smooth the way for construction of a $1.2-billion football stadium in downtown Los Angeles after Democratic leaders promised it would provide thousands of jobs for an economically distressed city and would set new standards for reducing traffic and air pollution. 

Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles), a coauthor of the special bill, said the project by Anschutz Entertainment Group would comply with the state’s tough environmental laws even as it provides court review of any lawsuits challenging the 72,000-seat stadium project in a "timely manner." 

"Farmers Field will be the most far-reaching and environmentally friendly stadium in the United States," Pérez told his colleagues.

Pérez said other projects also will be able to benefit from the special, speedy review that AEG would receive. An additional bill is being mulled in the state Senate to expand the exemption to new projects with a price tag over $250 million that win special environmental certification as green buildings. It would be joined to Pérez's bill in order for it to clear the upper house.

SB 292 was approved in the Assembly on a 59-13 vote. It would require any environmental lawsuit against the project to be filed directly in the court of appeal and for a decision to be made within 175 days. That would allow investors and the NFL some confidence that the project will not face years of costly delays, supporters say. 

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) said the project, which also includes modernizing part of the Los Angeles Convention Center, is critical to help the state out of its economic slump.

"Folks, we are in a crisis" Gatto said.  "We have tremendous unemployment. "

The developers say the project would create more than 10,000 construction jobs and a similar number of permanent jobs once the stadium opens.

But Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) said if the stadium ends up wooing an existing California team, such as the San Diego Chargers, it would only be moving jobs from one city to another within the state.

Huffman told Assembly members that he opposes "special" legislation for one project at "the 11th hour" of the legislative year.  He said it will encourage others to seek the same favor.

"It does set a precedent. I am troubled by that," Huffman said.

Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton) said the law should not be different for developments "backed by a multibillionaire who can hire an army of lobbyists." 

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Graphic: A visualization of a proposed new football stadium in downtown Los Angeles.

Credit: Anschutz Entertainment Group