SBD/September 7, 2011/Facilities

Bill Expediting Legal Challenges To Farmers Field Clears Early Hurdles

Farmers Field would be a carbon-neutral stadium under proposed bill

The California State Assembly Committees on Natural Resources and on Appropriations yesterday both "voted in favor of Senate Bill 292, the bill to expedite legal challenges to Farmers Field," AEG's proposed football stadium in downtown L.A., according to Arash Markazi of ESPN L.A. It was the "first of several hurdles the bill must clear over the next three days before Friday's deadline for action on bills when Sacramento lawmakers will break for recess." The bill, which includes "no exemption from environmental laws, would allow legal challenges to the stadium's environmental impact report to be heard immediately in the California Court of Appeal, which would then come to a decision within 175 days." The expedited process "would bypass the Superior Court and avoid the protracted litigation AEG has been fearful of." In exchange, AEG "has pledged to build a carbon-neutral stadium with more public transit users than any other stadium in the country and have committed to making Farmers Field one of the only stadiums in the country to have a net-zero carbon footprint." Markazi noted although the bill "seems to have the support of most legislators in Los Angeles, the real battle will be convincing lawmakers to the north and south, which will not be easy considering the two teams most commonly linked to a move to Los Angeles if the stadium is built" are the Chargers and Raiders (ESPNLA.com. 9/6). An L.A. TIMES editorial stated, "Cutting a special deal for a high-profile developer is unfair to other builders, encourages backroom corruption and fails to address the systemic problems that bedevil growth in California. And yet, failing to pass this bill would be worse" (L.A. TIMES, 9/4).

TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY: AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke said that he expects Majestic Realty, which has proposed a competing NFL stadium, "will file or back a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the downtown project." He also said that Majestic Realty VP John Semcken "was with lobbyists in Sacramento recently urging legislators not to pass any law that would help Farmers Field avoid litigation." Leiweke: "They spent the week in Sacramento and I think they did themselves a disservice because almost everyone that came back to us was shocked at how they trashed us." Semcken "didn't deny he was in Sacramento speaking to legislators but said he and Majestic have no plans to file a lawsuit to stop the downtown stadium project" (ESPNLA.com, 9/2). SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Daniel Kaplan writes in the absence of league guidance, and "perhaps because the NFL believes competition results in the best deal, the tone and politics in Los Angeles have turned downright nasty." Leiweke, referring to Majestic Realty execs, said, "These guys throw things on the wall and see if they stick." Leiweke said of Semcken, "This man has essentially gone there and spun the truth and been wrong every time, and he knows nothing about our stadium. I don't believe a word he says" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/5 issue). 

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