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An NFL Stadium in Downtown? 10 Planning Recommendations for AEG, LA

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View of stadium, LA Live
As discussions with AEG about an NFL stadium in Los Angeles continue, we’re starting to think this thing actually might happen! (If the NFL wants it to, of course.) But amid all the talks, here's a list of 10 recommendations -- a mix of proposed community benefits, neighborhood concessions, and Planning Department initiatives --that the city and AEG should consider as they plan Farmers Field. Will the city and AEG do them all? Probably not, but it can't hurt to set high expectations.---Carter Rubin

1) Transform the Pico/Flower Metro Rail station into a transit hub for the South Park neighborhood by asking AEG to pony up for improvements.

On a typical day roughly 80,000 boarding are made on the Metro Rail Blue Line; there's a currently a stop a block away from Staples Center at Pico Boulevard and Flower Street. On top of that, the forthcoming Expo Line and the Regional Connector will both feed into this station.

As you can imagine, on game days the Pico/Flower station is going to be a busy place as tens of thousands of fans arrive from all corners of the region. As for some specifics, AEG should pay to increase the platform length and add additional seating and shade structures. The most critical piece, however, should be a signature pedestrian overpass over Flower Street so that attendees can walk directly from the platform to the other side of the street.

2). Create an endowment for inner-city sports programs.

Curbing obesity in her district is one of City Councilwoman Jan Perry's biggest initiatives. Backing developers is another one. So here’s where Perry, AEG, and local businesses can do some profound good for the community: Create an endowment for youth sports programs in the inner city. Use the excitement generated by the NFL’s arrival to reinforce the importance of play and exercise. Run the programs at Farmers Field, or open up space at Staples for mini-games.

3) Run shuttles to and from the stadium on game day from around the region à la the Hollywood Bowl.

Part two of avoiding a traffic nightmare is a park-and-ride shuttle system like the one operated by the Hollywood Bowl. Game day attendees should be able to walk, bike or drive to a dozen or so centers across the L.A. area to grab a round trip shuttle for nominal fee, say $5, which would be a quarter of the cost of parking. It’s a pretty simple concept, but someone has to pay for it; the City of L.A. doesn’t exactly have a pile of money to throw at it.

4) Make a park for South Park by converting nearby surface parking lots into park space and public plazas.

For all of LA Live’s activity and buzz, it has the persistent problem of feeling totally cut off from the neighborhood it inhabits. And the entertainment complex is surrounded by a block-wide moat of parking that crushes any hope for civic vitality. Converting some of the adjacent parking into public open space would humanize LA Live’s environs, provide a place to picnic for tailgaters who didn’t drive to the game, and create a permanent public benefit for local residents.

Such a park would dovetail nicely with the CRA’s plan to create a pedestrian plaza along the Figueroa Corridor. And besides, changing over, say 10 acres, is a drop in the bucket compared to the 545 acres of surface parking in the vicinity. (We'll throw this in, too: How about a soothing large-scale water fountain or water feature for the area?)

5.) Solve the urban tailgating issue.

This is a hardest one. But is is possible for the city and AEG to create a situation where fans can urban tailgate? Yes, AEG probably wants all those fans eating at LA Live's restaurants and bar, but in an era of taco trucks, CicLAVia, and other inventive uses of space, is it not possible to invent an urban tailgate experience for fans? (Streetsblog also has this issue on the radar.)

6) Have the Planning Department consider the ripple effect to Pico-Union.

Put up Farmers Field near the Staples Center, and a sea change will come to surrounding neighborhoods. And the effects may be detrimental. For instance, what’s to stop property owners in the Pico-Union neighborhood from tearing down their buildings to make parking lots for football game and event-goers? The city should consider zoning regulations in surrounding neighborhoods like Pico-Union, while also encouraging investments in those areas.

7) Re-think what can be done with those Nokia Plaza signs.

You know those 50-foot-tall monuments to commercialism in Nokia Plaza at LA Live? They way they drone on constantly with Toyota ads and U2 concert footage? To make those signs more bearable, the developer should carve out a six hours a week for alternative artwork. For instance, show short films and documentaries from students at the LA Film School. Or show digital art displays. Captivate those fans' eyeballs with a mix of art and commerce.

8) Give all ticketholders a free day pass on Metro.

Here's the math: $6 for a Metro Day Pass, times 65,000 tickets, times 8 home games a year = $3.12 million a year. Not such a steep price to keep the 110 from turning into a parking lot.

9) Ensure safety: Talk about it, have a plan, and talk about it some more.

The stabbings at the USC-UCLA game last December, the recent attack of a Giants’ fan at Dodger Stadium, and two years of riots outside South Park Safety?yeah, the issue of violence and sports can’t be swept under the rug. From an urban planning and safety issue, both the city and AEG need to study how other cities manage crowd control and ensure safety for all patrons of major sporting events. Fans are responsible for their own actions, but what actions – be it alcohol control, to the built environment, to having an allotment of AEG-backed funds for enhanced police presence – can be put in place to help ensure safety? This isn't a minor thing---this morning, the City Council was debating similar issues in light of the recent attack at Dodger Stadium.

10) Get the Minnesota Vikings.

Because we already have the Minneapolis Los Angeles Lakers. Because four NFL teams in California is more exciting than three. And because they have a franchise record of 413-336-9, so we could do worse.

---Carter Rubin is a freelance writer on transportation and land use issues in Los Angeles. He frequently contributes to Metro’s blog The Source and LA Streetsblog, but he does not represent either organization in this article. He also worked for the Grammy Museum at LA Live for three months and it was the best summer job ever.