LaBonge, Hahn, and the back of Leiweke's head at today's meeting
DOWNTOWN: This morning AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke gave the first public presentation to the city on his company's proposed downtown stadium/convention center renovation, presenting the plan to a subcommittee chaired by City Councilwoman Janice Hahn and City Councilman Tom LaBonge. Let's hit up the highlight reel, sports fans...
LA Might Like to Know What Team is Coming, But...: Leiweke said today it's his belief that the National Football League will bring a team to LA, so AEG doesn't need a commitment in place before going forward with plans for a stadium. "We are prepared to move forward without the promise of a team,” Leiweke told the subcommittee. Neither of the subcommittee members pressed him for details on talks between the NFL and AEG. On the topic of specific teams, "ultimately the NFL commissioners will make a decision who will come,” said LaBonge, who seemed to like the idea that the stadium could host the Olympic games, if the games return to Los Angeles.
Lawsuits May Kill This, So Protections, Please? There was some chatter last year about possible exemptions over environmental issues for the stadium. Today, everyone got a little more clarification.
AEG will go through with a full environmental impact review, a process that could take a year. Still, Leiweke brought up the issue of a "protection" for the stadium deal. “We are hoping the city and state provide us with the same CEQA protections provided to the city of Industry, “Leiweke told the panel, indicating that AEG may seek legislation to protect the stadium from legal challenges over an EIR. “We want to make sure [opponents] can’t kill this project,” said Leiweke. Controversial legislation was granted two years ago for Majestic’s competing football stadium in Industry.
Speaking of Majestic....: Speaking in the hallway after the meeting, Leiweke said it was his belief that “six consultants” employed by Majestic were at today's hearing. “They took copious notes,” said Leiweke, not looking bothered by that fact. Reached by phone, Majestic Realty Vice President John Semcken couldn’t say how many Majestic-hired lobbyists were at the meeting, but confirmed his firm hired a consulting group to “to find out what was going on” with the AEG stadium. Additionally, Semcken issued a statement following the AEG meeting that read, in part, that "AEG is requesting an environmental waiver for the single largest development ever proposed in the City of Los Angeles, that is unacceptable.”
Here Come the City Planners: Planning Director Michael LoGrande walked into the meeting near the end of the event, so we caught up with him to find out how the Planning Department is involved in the project. Shocker: Four new city planners were hired by the Planning Department this week, with the specific aim of allocating more staff to work on the AEG NFL stadium, as well as other big projects.
The four new hires won’t necessarily be working on the stadium, but will be shuffled around so existing staff can be freed up to work on those larger developments. But AEG will pay for expenses related to planning work on the stadium, according to LoGrande. Still, the fact that the Planning Department is hiring more planners at the same time it's facing more furloughs and being asked to cut $1 million, "is a little schizophrenic,” admitted LoGrande.
Our City's Politicians Read Opinion Pieces in the LAT: During the meeting Councilwoman Hahn brought up an opinion piece in today's Los Angeles Times that raised numerous questions about the stadium, including financial issues. Will some of those questions be answered? Perhaps. A spokesperson for Councilwoman Hahn said she will submit a motion this Friday that will ask an independent outside agency to perform a financial assessment on the proposed new convention center hall and the new stadium. "The City Council wants to hear the analysis before they make a final decision on the overall plan," said Hahn.
A financial analysis isn’t unusual---most large projects undergo such scrutinization---but it’s likely this report will take longer to put together due to the size of the project, Gerry Miller, the city's chief legislative analyst, told Curbed. Among other things, the analysis would look at the bond guarantee related to financing the convention center, he theorized.
More Coverage: Check out the story from the Los Angeles Times, which covers it from a more sports angle, and City Maven, which crunches the financial numbers of this deal. Additionally, a general overview from the Daily News.