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Breaking Down AEG's Stadium Bill

By Eric Richardson
Published: Saturday, September 03, 2011, at 08:14AM
Farmers Field Gensler

Rendering of AEG's proposed Farmers Field, which would rise next to Staples Center and L.A. Live.

Assembly speaker John Perez and State Senator Alex Padilla on Friday introduced a bill to speed approvals for AEG's proposed $1.2 billion Farmers Field project. With just four working days left in the legislative session, the pair have their political work cut out for them in getting the bill passed.

The then-conceptual bill has been the subject of much talk in recent months, with AEG and city officials touting jobs and economic development, and advocacy groups decrying any move to bypass California's environmental protections.

Just what does the bill do, though? Now that it has been introduced and can be found online, we can finally take a look at the specifics, and just how they are different than the exemption given to the City of Industry stadium proposal in 2009.

Streamlining Challenges: The big carrot the bill holds for AEG is a streamlined process for any challenges brought against the project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Challenges under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) have delayed major projects for years, and AEG has stated emphatically that it is not willing to wait through that process.

SB 292 would send any challenges straight to the Court of Appeal, and sets a tight timeline on when cases must be filed and heard. Challenge petitions must be filed within 30 days of the city's Notice of Determination on the EIR, and opening briefs are due 40 days later. AEG's reply brief would be due 25 days after that, with the petitioner able to file their own reply 20 days later. The court must then hear and decide the case within 60 days.

That's 175 days total, for those scoring at home. Another 30 days could be tacked on if a case is appealed to the state's Supreme Court.

Early Mediation: The bill also sets up a mediation process for issues raised during the draft EIR's public comment process. The mediation is nonbinding, but if the commenter and AEG agree on mitigation during mediation, the measure is required to be implemented and cannot be brought as a lawsuit later.

Cutting Down Traffic: Under the bill's terms, AEG is required to implement measures that would achieve a "trip ratio" (cars divided by spectators) that is 10% lower than any other NFL stadium. Just how AEG should do that is vague, though the bill says that "[a]ny trip reduction measure used at another NFL stadium shall be presumed feasible."

If AEG doesn't meet those numbers, the city would be able to require additional traffic mitigations such as transit capacity expansion, charter buses or station expansion.

The Industry Exemption: So how is this similar or different from the 2009 exemption given to Majestic's proposal to build a stadium in the City of Industry?

Majestic had done a full EIR for a previous project proposed on the site, and argued that it should be able to use that document instead of a new one since the stadium use was less intensive than the original project proposed.

The developer went to the state to seek the exemption only after the environmental documents had been certified and lawsuits had been filed.

Majestic did end up going to mediation and settle with the City of Walnut, with the city getting traffic measures and a community fund. Other challenges were thrown out when the bill went into effect.

By contrast, SB 292 would allow all challenges to go through, but would require them to be dealt with quickly.

What's Next? Perez and Padilla have four working days to get SB 292 passed. Friday, September 9, is the last day to pass a bill and put it on the Governor's desk in this session.

And if they don't get that done? At last week's hearing Downtown, State Senator Kevin De Leon said the legislature could be called back for a special session later this month.

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