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L.A. city councilman questions fast-tracking of downtown stadium project

February 02, 2011|By David Zahniser | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council is expected to race ahead Wednesday with its effort to lure a new football stadium to downtown, but at least one councilman sounds ready to start tapping the brakes.

Less than a day after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and two council members celebrated the announcement that naming rights had been secured for the proposed stadium, Councilman Paul Krekorian said he is worried the city is going to "extraordinary lengths" to approve it on an accelerated time line.

He complained publicly about the amount of resources that would be needed to fast-track such a plan in the middle of a huge budget crisis.

"I'm extremely uncomfortable with the idea of having the city set aside its other important priorities in order to go to extraordinary lengths to lay the groundwork for a stadium plan that none of us have seen," Krekorian said. "I don't think we should spend any time being distracted or diverted from the most important issue of our day, which is the budget crisis, for something that is totally unnecessary to be expedited through the city's processes right now."

The council expects a $350-million budget shortfall in the fiscal year starting July 1 and still has not figured out how to balance the budget in the current year, which is in its seventh month. Krekorian made his statements in the run-up to Wednesday's meeting, when the council will be asked to create a stadium working group and recruit a financial expert, who would be paid up to $250,000 to scrutinize a stadium plan.

Krekorian also happens to represent the 2nd Council District, which stretches from Sherman Oaks to Sunland-Tujunga. That's the same district that was represented by former Councilman Joel Wachs, who is still remembered for his opposition to the use of taxpayer subsidies for the Staples Center project a decade ago.

On Tuesday, Villaraigosa and Council members Jan Perry and Janice Hahn appeared alongside officials of Anschutz Entertainment Group, the developer of the proposed stadium. During that event, Perry said the project was an "economic stimulus project" that would generate much-needed tax revenue.

Villaraigosa said the naming rights announcement showed that "football is coming back to Los Angeles." He said a "blue ribbon" committee would advise him on the merits of the stadium plan.

Despite those assurances, Krekorian voiced other concerns, such as the possibility that AEG would secure an exemption from the state's environmental laws. He said he opposes such a move and questioned whether city officials were unnecessarily rushing the approval process at the request of AEG.

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