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Carson Puts Out Feelers to Lure Raiders

May 31, 1987|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

For the past two months, Carson officials have been quietly meeting with Los Angeles Raiders management to discuss building a stadium on a former landfill near the intersection of the San Diego and Harbor freeways.

If the effort is successful, city officials believe the national prominence of the Raiders will help the city improve an image marred by municipal scandal and the presence of smelly refineries and other heavy industry.

The issue will be aired publicly for the first time Monday when the City Council considers a request by Councilwoman Sylvia Muise to schedule a study session on the idea.

Raiders Not Talking

For the Raiders, city officials say, the deal could mean a brand-new stadium with improved freeway access. Or, they acknowledge, the Raiders' interest could be nothing more than a negotiating ploy to obtain leverage in protracted wrangling with the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission over redesigning that aging stadium.

The Raiders, whose lease on the Coliseum is up in 1991, are not talking about their negotiations with Carson.

"We're not saying anything. We are just listening," said John Herrera, senior administrator for the team. "All we've done is listen to communities that have approached us. (Carson officials) are inquiring as to what it is going to take to put a stadium in a community."

Although Herrera declined to identify what other cities are interested, published reports have named New York, Miami, Sacramento and Pomona as possible new homes for the Raiders.

Problems at Coliseum

City interest in the 180-acre site, which has a long history of failed development proposals, including a football stadium for the Rams, was reawakened in late March after Frank Gutierrez, chairman of the city Planning Commission, decided on his own to approach the Raiders.

Gutierrez said he acted after reading of the Raiders' difficulties with Coliseum officials.

After the Raiders expressed interest, Gutierrez informed city officials, and the city staff began gathering background information on the site. As part of the effort to lure the Raiders, the City Council designated a committee April 20 to see what can be done with the land.

City Administrator Richard Gunnarson said the negotiations with the team, which he termed exploratory, face a lengthy list of formidable obstacles, including:

- Acquisition of the land, which is now in bankruptcy and faces $45 million in claims against it.

- Cleanup of the site, which was used by oil companies to dispose of drilling mud and sludge. Cleanup and site preparation could cost as much as $50 million, Gunnarson said.

- Construction of a 70,000-seat stadium, estimated to cost between $65 million and $75 million. Access roads could cost more than $10 million.

Finding money for the deal will not be easy, Gunnarson said. A key issue would be how much the city and other government sources would pay and how much the Raiders would provide.

Financing Ideas

Preliminary ideas to finance the project include deferring $5 million in street improvements, approaching the state Department of Transportation and other transportation agencies for road improvements, receiving federal and state environmental cleanup grants, and selling bonds for the stadium.

"It is conceivable that it is a bad deal for the city," Gunnarson said. "The numbers may not be there."

But if all the obstacles are overcome, he said, the stadium could be built within two to three years.

Known now as "Jack Rabbit Hill," the vacant site, overgrown with weeds, is used mainly by youths riding dirt bikes.

From 1959 to 1965--before the city was incorporated--the land was used as a private landfill and became known as the Cal Compact site.

Carcinogens Dumped

It was during that period that layers 30 feet thick of garbage, oil-drilling mud, oil-tank bottom sludge and other waste were deposited, said Adolfo Reyes, acting community development director. In addition, state and city records show that such noxious substances as chlorinated hydrocarbons, halogenated aromatics, heavy metals, asbestos and cancer-causing PCBs were dumped at the site.

The city has a list of the 24 principal dumpers, which includes all the major oil companies, said Gunnarson. Environmental law states that part of the cost of the cleanup must be born by the firms responsible for dumping hazardous material, he said. Other assistance could come from the state Superfund for cleaning up hazardous waste dumps.

In 1979, when the Rams were deciding where to relocate, Carson officials first began thinking about using the site for a stadium.

The city commissioned a study that said the project would make sense, but the Rams, who were in a hurry, elected to go to Anaheim, which already had a stadium, Gunnarson said.

A development group that included actor Kirk Douglas subsequently purchased the land and obtained a permit to put a mobile-home park on the site in the late 1970s, Gunnarson said.

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