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AEG, Environmentalists Disagree on Need for Stadium Legislation

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, August 26, 2011, at 02:58PM
Farmers Field Gensler / AEG

A rendering of Farmers Field, AEG's proposed $1.2 billion stadium and events center.

Environmental groups and AEG disagreed about the need for special legislation to protect the company proposed Farmers Field stadium project from litigation today, even as they agreed on their desire to see the project happen.

AEG head Tim Leiweke was firm in his insistence that the company must get certainty on the timeline for any environmental lawsuits before it can continue with development.

"We cannot and will not move forward on this project with that uncertainty hanging over our head," Leiweke emphasized on Friday, "because the NFL will not commit to Farmers Field with that hanging over our head."

"The clock is ticking and so is the checkbook."

The company has asked that challenges to its environmental documents get sent to an arbitrator or a time-limited review rather than be subjected to a potentially dragged-out lawsuit.

Environmental groups believe there are existing mechanisms that the City of Los Angeles and AEG could use to speed the process. "There's plenty of time to get this case resolved under the process we have now," said David Pettit, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Suits brought under California's Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) often lead to delays of six to nine months while city officials compile the administrative record, said Pettit. If that process was scheduled to instead be completed at the same time as the project's environmental documents, Pettit believes AEG would be able to complete its project without creating CEQA precedent.

That's unlikely to be enough certainty for Leiweke. He believes Farmers Field is likely to be the subject of a lawsuit from Majestic Realty, backers of a competing project in the City of Industry.

"There's not a question in my mind that people that go around and question character are going to be people that litigate," said Leiweke, referencing a quote by Majestic's John Semcken calling Leiweke a "bad man."

"They spent the week in Sacramento," said Leiweke. "Frankly I think they did themselves a disservice, because almost everyone who came back to us was shocked at how they trashed us."

Update: Majestic sent out a statement on Friday evening denying that it would consider filing a suit.

“In over 70 years Majestic Realty has never sued a competitor and has no plans to sue a business partner. We are 100% committed to returning the NFL to our region and have shown the league and the teams the tremendous economic upside of our project," said John Semcken, Vice President of Majestic Realty.

State Senator Kevin De Leon chaired the hearing of the Select Committee on Sports and Entertainment. He said it remains to be seen whether the legislature will act before September 9, the last day to send bills to the Governor during this session.

"We're going to go back on Monday, and we're going to have discussions with the leaders of both the Assembly and the Senate," said De Leon after the hearing.

Still, he says even that September 9 date isn't an absolute.

"If nothing is done within the frame of September 9, that doesn't mean all is lost. A special legislative session can always be reconvened."


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