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Group that backed downtown stadium criticizes environmental report

The Natural Resources Defense Council says the document on the proposed football stadium failed to fully analyze traffic-related health risks.

May 23, 2012|By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times
  • Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group, officially delivers the environmental impact report for Farmer's Field at the steps of Los Angeles City Hall.
Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group, officially delivers… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

An environmental group that has supported a proposed downtown Los Angeles football stadium and helped the developer secure special treatment in the courts issued a sharply worded critique Tuesday of environmental documents prepared for the project.

In a 16-page letter to city officials, the Natural Resources Defense Council called on Anschutz Entertainment Group to rewrite and recirculate a recently released environmental impact report on the proposed stadium, saying it failed to fully analyze health risks created by cars that would travel to and from the 72,000-seat facility.

The additional information could be vital for neighborhoods near the stadium, including working-class Pico-Union, said NRDC attorneys David Pettit and Damon Nagami. The lack of analysis in the report's health risk assessment section renders that document "essentially worthless," they wrote.

The comments were somewhat surprising since the environmental group, considered one of the most influential in the country, helped AEG secure passage of a state law last year limiting the amount of time that the project's environmental analysis can be legally challenged. Under that law, any state court lawsuits must be resolved within 175 days.

AEG spokesman Michael Roth said "there is absolutely no reason or need" to recirculate its environmental report. He noted that the special legislation passed last year allows for a mediation process for critics of the 10,000-page analysis.

"We respect and support the NRDC's right to request mediation, which they have already exercised," Roth said.

Other organizations offered their own complaints. In a 77-page letter, the advocacy groups Public Counsel and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles said the stadium analysis falls "far short" of requirements in the state's environmental law. They said the report does not back up AEG's claim that the stadium would "provide economic development opportunities" to residents of Pico-Union and South Los Angeles.

Because of the expedited timeline for court challenges, AEG will not feel as much pressure to address the issues now being raised by the public, said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California.

"There are going to be fewer opportunities to fix [the environmental impact report] through the courts and AEG is fully aware of that," said Phillips, whose group fought the stadium bill backed by AEG and the NRDC.

The NRDC had other complaints, among them that the stadium's environmental review doesn't reflect promises made by AEG in Sacramento and to the Clinton Climate Initiative. Some of AEG's traffic proposals, such as upgrading freeways, would lead only to more car emissions, the group said.

Pettit said in a blog post that AEG has time to fix the report and still open its NFL venue in 2017. "I hope to be there on opening day in a stadium that lives up to the promises that AEG has made," he wrote.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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