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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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Page 5 of 7

He says he was promised by city staff that the upcoming EIR will provide the answers to these many questions. But Rosendahl, formerly a local political talk-show host, knows the pitfalls of such assurances. People sue over the "answers" provided in Environmental Impact Reports, in part because those details can downplay the negative effects of development on a community's environment or livability. If Brown and the Legislature exempt AEG from key requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act, and the new law's language leaves enough vagueness and wiggle room for AEG, honest challengers to the Farmers Field EIR could be quashed.

Shanteau notes that in the EIR, "The impacts will be identified by the traffic engineer paid for by AEG. Are there likely to be impacts? Well, yes," he laughs. "The freeways in L.A. are not efficient. The first intersections next to a freeway are almost always bottlenecks."

Schweitzer's gold standard calls for replacing the ramps leading from the 10 to the 110 and replacing the 10's exit onto Grand Avenue. But she says the proper Farmers Field upgrade will never happen because "there's no money and no political will" to tackle such an undertaking in these fiscally strapped times. "If they're going to make it work, they're going to have to really reach out to public transit. It's a better strategy than saying, 'Traffic is light on Sunday.' "

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

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AEG believes that persuading NFL fans to use mass transit is one answer to traffic congestion, while other solutions are "still to be determined," says AEG spokesman Roth.

"We're committed to light rail," Roth says. "Tim [Leiweke] was in Portland [in mid-July] taking a look at their system. ... Our goal is to have a Super Bowl where 50 percent of the people walk to the game from public transit stations and hotels."

But Schweitzer says a key part of the transit plan — a proposed 1.7-mile streetcar between ritzy Bunker Hill and Staples Center/Farmers Field, championed by downtown city councilman Jose Huizar — will be a hole down which to pour taxpayer money.

Schweitzer estimates the cost to be $150 million, dismissing the streetcar idea as "a very expensive toy that takes a lot of money to build and operate."

Perry, who hopes to ride her leadership of the council's Stadium Ad Hoc Committee to the mayor's office, says she, too, is counting on public transit to make it all work.

"If you go look at the Blue Line platform after a hockey game, it's pretty packed," Perry says. "We have the Blue Line, the Red Line, 50 or 60 other bus lines. I want AEG to help us maximize that potential."

Even Pettit, the NRDC attorney fighting the special legislation AEG is demanding in Sacramento, says of possible future NFL games, "I'd love to get on a train, go downtown, drink all the beer I want, get back on the train and go home."

But for now, it seems a stretch to imagine persuading a major portion of Southern California NFL ticket-holders to rely on mass transit.

The issue was touched on — barely — at the City Council's July 29 meeting. AEG is going to build parking lots for 4,000 cars, with a net gain of 1,600 parking spaces after it tears down parking at the city-owned Cherry Street Garage and Bond Street Garage. AEG also plans to use extensive parking spaces at the TCW building at Figueroa and Ninth and another parking structure on Flower, buildings AEG already leases for Lakers parking, Roth says.

For all the talk of mass transit and streetcars, AEG is assuming 20,000 cars will stream downtown for games and Farmers Field concerts.

Around Los Angeles City Hall, the cheerleading for AEG is so thick it's easy to forget that Leiweke and company aren't the only football game in town.

Majestic Realty, led by developer and longtime player on the L.A. political scene Ed Roski, wants to build a stadium 15 miles east of Los Angeles, at the Grand Crossing site in the City of Industry, with 75,000 seats and 22,400 parking spaces.

Roski's stadium is just over a mile from the 60 (Pomona) freeway, one of the least congested freeways in the Los Angeles region, used by east-west commuters as a relief valve when the 10 is impacted like a wisdom tooth.

Compared to squeezing a stadium onto cramped space at the 10 and 110 freeway interchange downtown, a stadium built near the 60 is a traffic no-brainer. The 60 in the City of Industry is less jammed for more hours of the day than the 110, 10 or 5 downtown. Majestic Realty's Grand Crossing site would absorb more game-day traffic — far more cheaply and easily.

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