Will Governor Stop Legislature’s Environmental End-Around for Billionaire NFL Developer?

10_16_09_Giants_Stadium.jpgWhen I lived in East Rutherford, NJ, I learned firsthand how NFL car traffic can change a weekend. Photo: Steve Trapani/Flickr

Earlier this week, the State Senate joined the Assembly in passing legislation exempting the 75,000 seat planned "NFL" Stadium in the City of Industry from having to undergo a CEQA environmental review before construction can begin.  Press reports on the politics surrounding the exemption were extremely even-handed to the point of obscuring some of the issues that created the controversy and fueled the anger of the surrounding communities.  Because Governor Schwarzenegger still has to approve the exemption, there’s still some value in reviewing the history of the project and the politics that surround it.

Because it’s not enough to just discuss the politics, as soon as I can find a copy of the traffic and transportation element of the environmental review that has occurred, Streetsblog will provide analysis of the work that has been done.

In 2004 Billionaire Ed Roski submitted an EIR to construct a retail and entertainment
complex on the proposed 600-acre site that would be the site of the Stadium.  The EIR was approved by the City Council for the City of Industry, population 800. In 2008, Roski proposed an NFL stadium for the site, and needed
to prepare a supplemental environmental impact report.  That report was certified by the Council in February of this year.  The City of Walnut immediately sued saying that they were unable to receive a copy of the EIR until 18 hours before the deadline.  That lawsuit was settled for $9 million in traffic and environmental improvements in the city.

However, a second lawsuit was filed by eight Citizens of Walnut calling themselves Citizens for Community Preservation Inc.(CCPI)  It was the threat of this lawsuit that "forced" the Senate and Assembly to grant a CEQA exemption for the Stadium, the first time the legislature has stepped in to resolve a legal matter in a CEQA lawsuit, opening the door for other rich developers to lobby their way out of compliance with environmental reviews.

The process that has brought us here has been a convoluted one, and hardly an example of great government.

First, the only body that will clear the environmental documents will be the City Council for the City of Industry.  Thanks to the legislature’s help in giving Roski an end run around state law, a city with the population of 800 was the only body needed to certify the documents that will effect millions of people and will create an untold amount of pollution caused by people driving to the game.  Of course, because the environmental documents for the stadium are only a supplement to an EIR for a different project, the public hasn’t even gotten a full local environmental review for the stadium.

Second, the reconcilement process between CCPI and Roski’s Majestic Realty Co. were poisoned from the start.  Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is portrayed as a hero of compromise in most press accounts of the issue for not holding a vote on the exemption immediately and working with Majestic and CCPI to reach a compromise.  Steinberg has already taken credit for the $9 million payout to Walnut to resolve their case.

Of course, that Steinberg publicly stated that the Senate would pass the legislation if compromise couldn’t be reached made the odds of such a compromise nigh impossible.  Think about it, would you bother compromising away millions of dollars if you knew that if you waited long enough the legislature would give you everything you wanted?

Third, the legislators don’t seem to get that their injecting themselves into a lawsuit is an awful precedence even if their cause is just.  Curbed has the full statement by Senator Tempore Isadore Hall, III (D- Compton) after the vote that declares that they are "ready for some football," and contains this gem.

Exploiting a last minute legal maneuver, a group of eight residents
sued stadium proponents and sought over $800 million in additional
mitigation measures. Without the legislature relief in ABxxx 81, stadium proponents will continue to be bogged down by this frivolous lawsuit and will not be able to compete for an NFL team in early 2010.

Traditionally, it’s a judge that decides what lawsuits are frivolous and which ones aren’t.  I wonder what Hall’s reasoning will be when other developers find environmental laws to tedious to be bothered with?

Another amazing quote comes from Senator Gloria Romero, last seen on Streetsblog complaining about congestion pricing and slamming the early efforts to create Measure R.

The vote came after a group of Walnut residents
citizens couldn’t reach a settlement on their lawsuit challenging the
project’s environmental study.
"Like in football, at a certain point the clock runs out," said state
Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles.

Great sports analogy Senator!  Of course, I’m unaware of any sports where the offices that create the rules can change the amount of time on the clock during the game, and it certainly isn’t a feature of the NFL despite what Patriot fans might lead you to believe, but  now I know that if you were commissioner it’s something we can look forward to.

Incidentally, if you’re curious which of your local legislators are for sale voted for exempting billionaires from state laws, you can find the Senate and Assembly voting records for this legislation here.

16 thoughts on Will Governor Stop Legislature’s Environmental End-Around for Billionaire NFL Developer?

  1. According to Maria Elena Durazo facebook page (executive secretary–treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO) this is a good thing: Struggling families who desperately need good jobs scored a huge victory this week when the Senate cleared the way for the construction of a planned NFL stadium complex, which will be the leagues first “green’ stadium. The project will crea…te 18,000 good paying, union jobs, including 12,000 in construction and more than 6,700 permanent jobs.

    This case reminds me of how the Sierra Club was recently banned from the Hopi Tribe’s land. Something about how they needed to eat right now.

    I’m very confused as to what to think. I have plenty, plenty to be able to choose without havnig to sacrifice, so I don’t know.

    I was anti stadium until I read this comment by Maria and until I noticed on my bus rides virtually half of the train was looking through the want ads and that half of the people I know don’t have jobs and then I started thinking 18,000 union jobs, we need 18,000 union jobs in LA, we need them very badly.

    Do we need more traffic? No.
    Do I hate sports? Yes I do Dodgers included please everyone stop asking me about the game, I don’t care.
    Do I like the stadium concept of things being built in exburbia, especially something as big as a potential football stadium, no not all.

    But does anyone have any advice to people who want to pay rent now. Anyone know how we are going to get jobs to people now.

    Browne

  2. It’s a tough question, Browne. While job creation is outside of the “beat” that I write it has to factor into decision making especially in this economy.

    However, I view this similarly to how I view AnsaldoBreda in that jobs is the motivating reason to make a policy decision that shouldn’t be influenced by job creation. The people that live near the stadium, and Walnut has 100k residents, are going to have to live with the impacts of that stadium for generations. The best chance to get the transportation system right is to have a full environmental review, and truncating that process has excluded any real discussion of transit alternatives so all those fans are going to be driving. Just like the disaster that is the Dodger Stadium Parking Lot.

  3. I’m not against the environmental review. I think that part of this issue is very heinous. I think all of the proper things should be done, but I just mean on a more universal scale where is the line? And why don’t people think this is bad?

    This country is so desperate for jobs now many people are like screw the future, so something has got to be done about that. That very real thing has got to be addressed in some way by the sustainable movement.

    The legislatures who voted for this I bet if they hadn’t their constituents who need jobs would have been very angry. It’s just all about perspective here. We think providing the names of people who are trying to just push this through are bad, because we’re thinking about the environmental impact in regards to future terms and future is obviously important, but other people aren’t think that far ahead. And I can’t just dismiss why they aren’t thinking that far ahead. I could just go they are stupid and they don’t care, but I don’t have a mortgage or a kid.

    I don’t even trust that 18,000 union jobs will be created. I don’t trust millionaires. I love Walnut. Have lots of friends there. I lived there for a time. I know that area very well. It’s an adorable area, but I’ve worked in La Puente, Baldwin Park and El Monte and those communities need jobs (the kind of good jobs this stadium claims it will provide,) so its like whose needs are more important.

    Walnut has the money and the resources to market their side better and chances are if it came down to a public fight whose children are going to have people online to fight for their interests in the PR fight, Walnut will, South Hills will. No one will hear the side of La Puente, West Covina, El Monte or the few people who live in the City of Industry and I think that’s the problem with the sustainable movement at times, but that’s the problem with every movement, one sides voice always gets drowned out by cash.

    And to me there are more than two sides here. It’s not just rich developer against the cute suburban community.

    Yes for a news article you have to stay focused. This stadium should not be exempt from environmental review, but after the article is written and you have a comment section it’s hard for me not to ask myself why is it so easy for people to do this and I’m trying to think beyond evil millionaire paying off the dirty politician angle, yes that angle very well maybe in play, but what if its not, what are the other reasons someone would think this is a good idea.

    Browne

  4. People should literally be in the streets protesting this.

    To have the legislative branch interfere with a legal proceeding after a billionaire lobbies them hard enough is so undemocratic, so corrupt that I really can’t believe it was done so blatantly.

    I honestly cannot think of a more public display of utter contempt for the legal process since the Supreme Court stopped the recount in 2000. And people are just glossing over it like it’s nothing.

    And I LIKE FOOTBALL. Heck I like Roski (GO CUBS!). But this is HORSESHIT.

    Oh yea and the bottomline is, after this damn monstrosity is built without appropriate traffic mitigation it’s going to be US – Joe and Jane Taxpayer who pay for it. And how much are these billionaires planning on hosing us down for to build the stadium that will be empty 350 days out of the year?

  5. What really bothers me about this is all the projects with truly green intentions, they are forced to go through expensive and time consuming environmental reviews. The high speed rail, the light rails, the subways, even bike lanes in San Fransisco got delayed after a law suit forced them to do an EIR. All of those projects create jobs too, and make positive changes on land use development. How does a foot ball stadium that everyone knows will turn into a traffic nightmare of cars with few transit connections get except from the process. This sets a precedent of any billionaire can work their way around the system for a fast track while we all wait for years for our trains and bus lanes to get started.

  6. And by the way anyone who thinks the massive infusion of public funds into building sports stadiums (especially football stadiums, which are empty 85-98% of the year) actually provides an economic benefit just google/pick up a book by Stanford economist Roger Noll.

  7. People can only care if they have the resources to care.

    Many people who are progressive think people are stupid or apathetic, but truly in my opinion I think people are just tired and overworked and in debt and they just can’t worry about these issues that seem so big. How can they care about this, when they can’t even afford to feed their kids.

    I am in 100% in agreement with you in regards to the core issue, but its the other issues I’m concerned with.

    To me these other issues are important because this kind of stuff happens when the masses are neglected. The group of people in LA Country who don’t make as much money and are high school educated have been neglected too long. Their education, their jobs, their housing and now they will accept anything, this is how the rich get in control. This is why the middle class in this country was or is so important.

    Now people are so far down on the ground they are going to turn to god, hate, and outward indicators of community. If a big scary millionaire says they need to pollute their community to get jobs they are going to believe in the millionaire, because that’s the only people talking to them, yeah the millionaire is a liar, but being lied to is better than being ignored.

    People don’t give a damn about the law if they are hungry.

    Browne

  8. Another question we have to ask is why has big union in LA continued to be on the side of destroying the planet AND can the green movement communicate the job angle to the people.

    What good union level wage jobs can the green movement provide? I haven’t looked into this so if anyone has any ideas or know of any good jobs that can support a family on and this is real question not being a smart ass, please give me some answers.

    And why in general do the places that provide the best jobs for the majority tend to have such shifty business practices? I think about what built America, car companies, cotton, steel, oil all of those four things provided America the money and power to be America and three of those industries built the middle class and one of those industries oil funds the arts (Rockefeller Foundation, J Paul Getty foundation, pretty much every grant that is coveted in the arts, nonprofits and environmental world is owing to the destruction of the environment and shady business practices, think Ford Foundation by the very people who the grants are named after, so everyone has got to know how horrible these dead guys were) maybe job creation and dirty business is something you can’t avoid.

    I hope that is not the case. I’m just wondering. Where can I find some job ideas for people who want to work for someone else for an ethical company?

    Again I’m going to state I’m in 100% agreement with Newton this is a very bad precedent, but isn’t this how America has always done business. If you have enough money you can rewrite the rules, rewrite history, make what you do and who you are ok?

    The amount of jobs its going to create is not worth it in the very, very big picture, but how did all of us get where we have gotten. I think we all got here by one of our parents getting very lucky with a big crumb.

    Think about this the This is Not a Cornfield that public state park in Chinatown was created owing to a grant by the Getty Foundation and Annenberg. Getty got his money in oil. Oil fuels cars. It kills the environment. To me big oil is the exact opposite of the livable streets movement, but many of the people in the sustainable movement are funded by very rich foundations and those were founded by very rich people who have done very horrible things. (Annenberg wasn’t so nice either.)

    Is it worth it? Was all of the destruction worth it to have a little museum a little park, thousands of art projects…I mean I guess that’s what we should ask. Are the things that are enjoyed by the few worth it for the suffering of so many.

    And I ask myself that everytime I look to see what foundations have funded many art/sustainable/nonprofit projects. I think is this all worth it?

    I think whatever answer I figure out will be able to answer this question and the stadium question.

    Browne

  9. I agree with Browne that job creation is important; however, just as many jobs would be created if this stadium was built in a more centralized location.

    Aside from the obvious dirty politics and the horrendous precedent this sets, the real problem is that an honest EIR would have exposed the traffic and smog issues caused by locating a stadium so far from its fan base, with no valid means of mass transit. The trend for stadiums throughout the country is to locate in downtown areas, precisely to mitigate these traffic and transit issues, and to be closer to their fan base.

    That brings up the issue of team support for a stadium in an outlying area. The Rams are in St. Louis today in part because their fans did not follow the team to Anaheim. After all these years of clearly demonstrating that most Angelenos really don’t care whether this city has a team or not, what makes anyone think that 75,000 people will be willing to make that drive to City of Industry?

    Roski’s folly is most likely to result in a failed team and a white elephant of a stadium — after causing years of harm to the metro area. But that’s our government in action.

  10. A great Web site (and the book that preceded it) reporting on the arcane forces of public sportzpalast financing is Field of Schemes: http://www.fieldofschemes.com

    As for the ideal NFL proposal, it would involve luring back the Raiders to Los Angeles. We would build at great expenses a brand new stadium in downtown Los Angeles.

    It would be built diagonally across from Union Station at the parking lot now used by buses. It would be built in the urban format of Petco Park in San Diego and AT&T Park in San Francisco, both of which require minimal additional parking and let the existing supply of parking structures in downtowns handle the cars. It is also across from Union Station, which has urban rail, commuter rail and Amtrak access to much of California.

    But the transit service is just a minor benefit. The best reason to build a Union Station-adjacent stadium for the Raiders is that it ideally accommodates Raider Nation with the County Jail and a swarm of bail bond shops next door. It would be a one-stop shop for degeneracy.

  11. “Jobs” my toe.

    This region has found any excuse to make “81 people” into enemies of the public and to use every means fit to move their interests aside in order to prop up some pipe dream of a rich man.

    My short list:

    “Chinatown” the tourist attraction built after the real Chinatown was bulldozed to make way for Union Station.

    Dodger Stadium where La Loma, Palos Verde and Bishop used to stand.

    Building the 110 freeway to “improve business” in Highland Park and South Pasadena (the last hold-out in opposition).

    Building the 10, 5, 710, 105 freeways in the name of “progress” and “jobs”.

    We’ve got enough sports complexes. Football needs to be played at the colliseum, next to the future Expo Line stop in the hear of L.A. – where it belongs. Exurban sports complexes are a bad idea.

  12. Oh. and speaking of jobs, and strictly on an anecdotal basis, I have a friend of mine who left L.A. two months ago for a rural part of California.

    He needed some money, so he showed up for work as a bell pepper field worker.

    The farm managers were shocked that he would show up for that job, insisted he would not be allowed to pick peppers as he was too valuable to do that and put the man behind the wheel of a tractor full-time. This occurred on the spot, the morning he showed up for work and the following day.

    There is a great deal of decanting of people back into the countryside that is yet to come – to perform the tasks that generations of Americans used to perform. Instability in the commodities markets make agriculture that is tied to human labor and that supplies local markets a viable option where it wasn’t before.

    “Jobs”, hah. That labor lady got bribed, and so did the rattle snakes who voted to augment the CEQA process in this case.

  13. Like the LA Live scandal that went equally unnoticed by the public at large, developments of this scale are never truly about middle class jobs or economic viability but rather about the extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of the few. We could give CEQA exemptions to revitalize the LA River, build bikeways and transit lines, any number of projects that would provide meaningful employment, build a vibrant and sustainable economy, and all while benefiting public well being, but we don’t; instead we’re hoodwinked by exploitative, imperialist mega projects over and over again.

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