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Building an eco-stadium in L.A.

Editorial

AEG should heed suggestions by an environmental group about its proposed downtown pro football arena.

May 24, 2012
  • AEG pictures an NFL stadium, to be named Farmers Field, on public land adjacent to the L.A. Convention Center. The Natural Resources Defense Council, which has supported the construction of a 72,000-seat football stadium, now has raised a series of criticisms about the project's potential impact on the environment.
AEG pictures an NFL stadium, to be named Farmers Field, on public land adjacent… (AEG )

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which has supported the construction of a 72,000-seat football stadium in downtown Los Angeles, now has raised a series of criticisms about the project's potential impact on the environment. Many of its concerns are well founded; rather than fight them in court, the project's developer, Anschutz Entertainment Group, ought to take them into account and use them to improve the proposal.

In a letter to the Los Angeles City Planning Department, the NRDC warned that although AEG's voluminous environmental impact report promises a number of measures to limit the negative effects of the stadium on the environment, it lacks details about how those measures will work and how they will be enforced. To take one example, the NRDC notes that AEG has proposed to limit traffic and reduce air pollution by encouraging mass transportation. But it is unclear from the report how much the company is willing to spend or do to push its customers out of their cars.

Rather than merely complain, the environmental group offers a suggestion: Instead of selling season tickets that include a parking pass — standard procedure at many stadiums — AEG should pair those tickets with a debit card that could be used to take public transportation. That's good thinking.

Some of the language of the NRDC letter is sharp. It dismisses one aspect of the report as "essentially worthless." But the thrust of the document is to recommend improvements to a project the organization overwhelmingly regards as positive, not to impede it.

The NRDC calls on AEG to detail specific proposals for reducing the stadium's energy and water use. Stadiums in Portland, Seattle and elsewhere have installed solar panels; a stadium in Taiwan is said to be 100% powered by solar energy. AEG, the environmental group wrote, should do the same. And NRDC argues for similar leadership in limiting waste. AEG says in the report that it will divert half the waste from the stadium to recycling, but the San Francisco Giants already divert 85%. There seems no reason why AEG can't meet that higher standard.

It's tempting for developers to shrug off environmental criticism. Environmental impact reports are infamously the subject of protracted and bitter litigation. Here, however, AEG has received special dispensation from the Legislature to expedite challenges to its project. With that permission comes a duty. The company should listen to concerns about the project and modify its work to deliver what it has long promised: a stadium that is not only a boon to the city's economy and a salvation to its Convention Center but also a pioneering protector of the environment. This is constructive criticism, not obstruction.

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