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Stadium Notes: Strahan and Leiweke Headline Friday State Senate Session

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, August 25, 2011, at 06:22PM
Farmers Field Gensler

Rendering of Farmers Field, AEG's proposed $1.2-billion stadium project

Seven-time Pro Bowler Michael Strahan and AEG CEO Tim Leiweke headline a six-panel lineup at Friday's state senate hearing on AEG's plans to bring football back to Los Angeles.

The session of the Select Committee on Sports and Entertainment is scheduled to run from 10am to 1pm in the auditorium of the Ronald Reagan State Building at 300 S. Spring.

All About the Environment: Panel five, "Examining Land Use and Environmental Concerns," offers the most interesting subject matter from a political perspective. AEG wants to get protection from the potential delays of a lawsuit brought under California's Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). An executive for AEG told the L.A. Times earlier today that the company hopes to see the state act quickly:

“If we don’t succeed in getting something this session, that will be a significant blow to the project and we would have to reevaluate the path forward from here,’’ said Ted Fikre, chief legal and development officer for Anschutz Entertainment Group.

AEG's argument is that it is fully willing to do a full environmental process—which Fikre says will cost around $50 million—but that it wants to have confidence in the timetable in front of it. The company would like to see any challenges resolved in a three month period via arbitration or limited judicial review.

Opponents argue that such a sped up challenge period would allow developers to cut corners in their environmental, knowing that they can steamroll opposition that won't have time to bring a thorough challenge.

Stadium or not, the issue is a big one for California. Business groups pushed for similar CEQA reform earlier this year, saying that the lawsuits have kept California's economy from bouncing back with new development.

Downtown, one needs only to look at the empty hole where housing was supposed to rise behind the Herald Examiner building to see the effects of a frivolous CEQA suit on proposed development.

Keep an Eye on Pico Union: It wouldn't be a surprise to see panel number six, "Balancing the Event Center and Community Needs," include a heavy dose of talk about Pico-Union, the neighborhood just west of L.A. Live and the proposed stadium.

While the word "gentrification" has been thrown around during Downtown's rebirth—usually incorrectly—the next few years could see it applied much more convincingly to the blocks stretching west on Olympic Boulevard. The harsh dividing line of the 110 freeway has so far acted as a barrier to keep development to the east, but don't expect that to last.

Convention Business: The prospect of stadium construction has claimed its first convention victim, as the Society of Critical Care Medicine has opted to move its 2014 convention away from L.A. The group's CEO tells the Associated Press that there were just too many unknowns, though it does intend to return in 2021.

Yes on Jobs: Care to guess what the answer will be to “Will Farmers Field Create Jobs?," the topic of Friday's fourth panel? Speaking are an unemployed ironworker and representatives of the L.A./O.C. Building Trades Council, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 11 and the Painters & Allied Trades District Council 36.

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