Farmers Field or Blade Runner Stadium? | Features | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Farmers Field or Blade Runner Stadium? 

The downtown NFL arena deal allows a sea of billboards, congestion and millions in public costs

Thursday, Sep 8 2011

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Perhaps as soon as late this fall, the "transportation portion" of a preliminary EIR will be completed by a team hired by AEG, according to the City Council's chief legislative analyst, Gerry Miller. "Don't worry," Leiweke says, "because professional football games are played on Sunday, when there is little traffic along the 10 and the 110."

Traffic, shmaffic, according to Leiweke, who's been quoted as saying, "You can fire a cannonball down the 110 on Sunday and you wouldn't hit a thing." On the Farmers Field website, AEG makes the claim that "to limit congestion, Farmers Field will utilize four freeways and over 20 interchanges (on-/off-ramps), and continue to use the successful traffic and parking model employed by Staples Center, L.A. Live and the Los Angeles Convention Center."

AEG spokesman Michael Roth says AEG expects traffic will move in and out of Farmers Field like it does with a Lakers game, because people leave early to get home.

click to flip through (7) PHOTO BY SIMONE PAZ - Farmers Field, upper left, portrayed with speeding freeway traffic -- and no billboards.
  • Farmers Field, upper left, portrayed with speeding freeway traffic -- and no billboards.

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"This is L.A. Have you looked at a Laker game with 10 minutes to go?" Roth asks. "The stands are half-full. Same at Dodger Stadium. We never have horrendous traffic problems at Staples. On Sunday, at 10 in the morning, 11, at noon, the 110 is desolate."

Many neighbors dispute that claim, but even if true, a Lakers sellout game is just 18,000 people. An NFL football sellout is 72,000 — nearly four times as many humans and their cars.

Quentin Fleming, a consultant who teaches strategic management at USC's Marshall School of Business, was at a June meeting in Mar Vista where Leiweke and an AEG traffic engineer again touted downtown's easy-in/easy-out access.

Fleming couldn't believe what he was hearing. "AEG's claim defied reality," he says. "If the stadium is going to be as 'successful' as AEG claims, traffic is going to be a nightmare."

Traffic experts say the most likely surface streets to require significant upgrades would include Venice and Pico boulevards, South Grand Avenue, Olympic Boulevard, Ninth, 11th and 12th streets, Figueroa and Flower streets, Olive, Hill and Main streets, South Broadway and South Union Avenue in Pico-Union west of the 110.

The City Council's Memorandum of Understanding with AEG fails to mention any of this. And the key report paid for by the city, its "Comprehensive Economic Analysis," manages to say exactly nothing about traffic — or the millions of dollars in roadwork the stadium will necessitate.

AEG's choice of location — in the center of a crowded downtown entertainment destination — has some traffic experts scratching their heads. It doesn't make sense to Lisa Schweitzer, associate professor at USC's School of Policy, Planning and Development. Schweitzer also is part of the METRANS Transportation Center team at USC and California State University, Long Beach, charged with analyzing large transportation issues in the region for the U.S. Department of Transportation and Caltrans.

"The 10 and the 110 are already a mess, and AEG is wrong about a couple things," Schweitzer says. "AEG is assuming no one travels on Sunday. That's not true. Weekend traffic can flare up. People go shopping on Sunday. They go to the beach. They go to Home Depot and Walmart. People do things on Sunday they don't have time to do during the week. The 10 and the 110 can get bad on Saturdays and Sundays."

James E. Moore II, a USC professor and director of the school's Transportation Engineering Program**, says, "We have no business making the stadium decision without this level of [traffic] analysis in all dimensions."

Despite nearly a year of talks between the Villaraigosa administration, City Council leaders and Leiweke, "Thus far the analysis has not been done," Moore says.

Like Schweitzer, Moore isn't buying Leiweke and AEG's claim that downtown congestion during weekend football games from August to mid-January — Saturday college tilts, Sunday NFL matches — will be minimal. Some 20,000 fan-filled cars will meet crowds of Angelenos as they return home from trips to the desert, mountains and other locales. Downtown's many weekend events "have impacts on the freeway and street congestion," Moore says. "It is true of Dodger Stadium, it is true for the Coliseum and Staples Center, and it would be true of the proposed facility."

The downtown neighbors see all this up front. Mark Lee and other business owners and residents of the heavily Latino Pico-Union neighborhood, just across the 110 from the Convention Center and proposed stadium site, are scared for their little corner of L.A., a hodgepodge of mom-and-pop businesses and old homes inhabited by working-class and poor Angelenos.

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