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Jerry Brown signs bill that limits delays to L.A. stadium project

AEG's plans to build an NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles get a boost with a new law. Gov. Jerry Brown signs a similar bill to streamline environmental reviews of other large construction projects.

September 28, 2011|By Kate Linthicum and Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times
  • At the Los Angeles Convention Center on Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown announces a new law that will help speed AEG's plan to build an NFL stadium downtown.
At the Los Angeles Convention Center on Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown announces… (Katie Falkenberg / For the…)

Tim Leiweke, the chairman and chief executive of Anschutz Entertainment Group, stood in front of the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center on Tuesday and told a roaring crowd: "Tear it down!"

The order was a bit premature, given that Leiweke will probably have to wait until June at the earliest to break ground on the 72,000-seat NFL stadium that AEG hopes to build at the site.

Still, the massive project inched closer to execution Tuesday when Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a controversial bill that limits lawsuits that could delay it. Speaking at a news conference with Leiweke, labor leaders, a gaggle of lawmakers and two high school football teams, Brown said California's high unemployment demands "big ideas and big projects."

Along with the stadium legislation, he also signed a similar but more far-reaching bill that grants certain large construction projects faster judicial reviews of environmental issues. Both bills are focused on "cutting red tape all over the state," Brown said. "There are too many damn regulations."

But not everyone cheered Brown's move.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors said public and nonprofit projects should also be eligible for expedited judicial review. And the environmental community has found itself divided over the bills, even though both require projects to include green features.

The stadium bill was supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council but opposed by other environmental groups, including the Sierra Club.

Kathryn Phillips, the Sierra Club's California director, said the governor and Legislature are "flailing" about in an attempt to find ways to create new jobs but have chosen the wrong method.

"They are not going to help the economy," Phillips said of the bills. "They are just going to hurt the environment."

Now that AEG has deals with the state and the city — last month Los Angeles officials approved a draft deal with the firm — it must focus on its next and most critical step: luring a team.

In recent weeks, Leiweke has met with the owners of several NFL franchises, although an AEG spokesman would not say which ones. The teams that could be in play are those based in San Diego; St. Louis; Minnesota; Jacksonville, Fla.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Oakland; and San Francisco.

No team is better positioned to move than the San Diego Chargers, which have a year-to-year lease at aging Qualcomm Stadium and a contract that allows them to relocate without threat of a lawsuit from the city.

But Philip Anschutz, AEG's billionaire owner, and the Spanos family, which owns the Chargers, are at odds over how much of the team would be sold and the price of that share. Anschutz is seeking as much as 49% of the franchise, and at a steep discount, which at this point doesn't interest Chargers President Dean Spanos, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Even without a team, AEG has begun seeking sponsorship deals for the project, and in the coming months, it will begin selling luxury sky boxes. Those contracts will help the firm secure financing for the stadium.

Meanwhile, consultants hired by AEG are wrapping up an environmental impact report, which will be released in January. After a review process, the City Council will take up the report and the other details of a complex development deal that call for Los Angeles to issue hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds to relocate a wing of the Convention Center to make room for the stadium.

According to the law signed Tuesday, any legal challenges to the stadium would have to be resolved within 175 days. AEG spokesman Michael Roth said construction could begin, at the earliest, in June, which would allow the firm to meet its goal of having the stadium completed by 2016.

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.

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