SBD/August 31, 2011/Facilities

AEG Unearths Dispute Regarding Wife Of Farmers Field Critic

Leiweke says AEG's recent comments have been in response to Farmers Field critics
AEG has "launched an unusually direct and public attack on one of the most prominent critics" of the developer's proposal to build Farmers Field in downtown L.A., according to Zahniser & Therolf of the L.A. TIMES. L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich "had planned for the county board to take a position Tuesday opposing AEG's bid for special state protection against environmental lawsuits." But AEG revealed that his wife "had been seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from the company's affiliate in Shanghai, posing a potential conflict of interest." As a result, Antonovich "abruptly abandoned his proposal Tuesday, canceling the vote and handing AEG a victory." Antonovich said that he "was 'blindsided' by AEG's allegation and disputed the notion that there was a connection between his proposal and his wife's consulting work." He said, "My wife was not involved in football. She was in the entertainment industry. She was a famous actress in China." Antonovich noted that he "had not informed his staff or county lawyers that his wife had a financial dispute with AEG." Zahniser & Therolf note AEG "has become increasingly aggressive in its arguments for the $1.2-billion stadium, putting pressure on state lawmakers to provide relief before their recess Sept. 9." AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke recently "lashed out at Majestic Realty," also aiming to build an L.A.-area NFL stadium. Leiweke yesterday said that AEG's "recent assertions, coming just days before the Legislature goes into recess, were an effort to respond to critics" (L.A. TIMES, 8/31).

THE WAITING GAME: In Orange County, Scott Reid reported AEG's "failure to provide" the L.A. Planning Department with documents for the environmental impact report regarding Farmers Field "has surprised city officials and raised questions about just how far along AEG is in the planning of the project." AEG in March "filed a notice of preparation" for the EIR with Planning Department officials, the "first step in completing a study that must be approved by the city agency for the project to proceed." More than five months later, the city officials "are still waiting" for necessary documents. Hadar Plafkin, the L.A. Planning Department's environmental review coordinator, said, "Truthfully, it (AEG) may have filed a little prematurely." While AEG officials "repeatedly have said the project has a tight deadline in order for the stadium to open in time" for the '16 NFL season, Plafkin said that his department "won't be rushed" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 8/30). Meanwhile, in L.A., Dakota Smith notes the L.A. County Board of Supervisors "will likely have some role in approving" the Farmers Field project. The board "appoints five members to the Joint Powers Authority, the group that oversees the Convention Center," and Board of Supervisors Public Information Officer David Sommers said that "any changes to the debt structure of the Convention Center or the site's land use would require consideration by the JPA." But Sommers added that "until a final deal is hammered out with the city and AEG, it's unclear whether the JPA will be asked to weigh in" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/31).

WHO'S IN CHARGE? A SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE editorial states the success of AEG's effort to build Farmers Field is "one of the wild cards that may determine if the Chargers remain" in San Diego. AEG's campaign to win city approval "seems to be working." But the editorial continues, "AEG’s argument is a form of economic blackmail: The project may die if politicians don’t get into the game. ... If -- and it’s a dicey if -- San Diego were to approve a stadium, would our developers get such a sugary deal? On principle, we believe the rules could be streamlined. But whatever they are, they should be the same for everyone, from an individual remodeling a home to a developer planning a stadium" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/31).
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