By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
There was no mention of the stadium during the first full hearing on the project at the City Council on May 1. And according to Don Spivack, deputy administrator of the CRA, planners there never even considered the prospect of a football stadium.
Tim Leiweke finally broke the ice on the impending deal May 2, when he presented plans for a billion-dollar sports and entertainment district to the L.A. Chamber of Commerce. The complex would include a theater and at least one hotel -- which developers say will require city financing -- and now the new stadium.
The news came as a shock to Spivack, who first told a Times reporter, “A stadium is not part of our plans,” and then stopped talking, referring all calls to the Mayor‘s Office. Observed Tom Gilmore, a developer with extensive interests in the historic core downtown, “The CRA ended up with a giant omelet on their face which they really had nothing to do with.”
Even Councilwoman Perry, whose district encompasses both Staples Center and the proposed stadium, was kept in the dark about the plan until she read about it in the sports pages. And while she supports the project, Perry seems nonplused by the sudden turn of events. “It takes the whole conversation sideways,” she said during a break in council chambers last week. “The whole question of redevelopment is now about the football stadium.”
Perry also found herself the target of a turf war waged by Councilman Nick Pacheco, whose district lies to the east of downtown. Pacheco had proposed that he take over some of Perry’s downtown domain as part of the redistricting process already under way; days after the stadium became public, he proposed a new map that would give him claim to South Park.
“He changed his mind about the boundaries as soon as the Staples plan came in,” said Perry aide Sylvia Robledo. “First he wanted Little Tokyo, then he wanted South Park. It‘s all about getting what he perceives to be rich areas.”
Pacheco said last week that he is simply seeking to cure the gerrymandered district boundaries drawn the last time the council adjusted for population. His plan to pull South Park into his Eastside district is one of several proposals now being weighed by a council committee.
County officials reacted sharply to the news of a planned stadium. The county is always wary of redevelopment projects, as much of the revenue to finance new construction is derived from siphoning off county taxes.
The county had already compiled a detailed critique of plans to include the Staples-sponsored sports and entertainment complex as part of the redevelopment zone. But when the prospect of a football stadium was added in, county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky pressed to sue. A lawsuit was filed this week.
For all the consternation generated by the sudden unveiling of the stadium plan, the stealthy nature of the project has succeeded so far in stifling the sort of public debate that has doomed past efforts to revive football in L.A. When Ed Roski and several other parties last floated bids to lure the NFL, in 1999, a variety of sites were proposed, but city officials said emphatically that the Coliseum was the only site compatible with the scheme of L.A. development.
Councilwoman Perry said much the same last week, but with an air of resignation. “It’s the obvious first choice,” she said Thursday. “There‘s less impact on traffic, fewer conflicts with town homes and condominiums.” But Perry is not ready to battle over logistics. “They’re going to spend their money where they want to,” she said after the Staples Center announcement.
Nor has anyone addressed the fundamental question of whether a large stadium, likely to sit empty most of the year, represents a genuine asset in an urban setting. “Is a football stadium an economic and pedestrian engine?” Tom Gilmore mused in an interview. “The jury‘s still out on that.”
And while the team from Staples Center demonstrated strong support last week, that reckoning may yet take place. “Right now we’ve got an established redevelopment district,” Councilman Eric Garcetti commented last week. “Somebody‘s got to show us that the stadium is going to be better than what we’ve got planned.”
Garcetti, who is chairman of the council‘s economic-development committee, said he had no problem with the conduct of the Staples team so far, but said that the stadium is now a matter of public interest. “It’s critical that this get a full hearing,” Garcetti said. “This is going to be a group process or it‘s not going to happen.”