David Zahniser - Los Angeles Times
Environmental activists and anti-poverty groups were scheduled to file a lawsuit Thursday challenging a state law that gave special treatment to the developer of a planned downtown NFL stadium by speeding up the environmental review process for its $1.1-billion project.
The group, known as the Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition, will ask a judge to strike down Senate Bill 292, which limits the amount of time the stadium’s environmental analysis can be legally challenged. A 10 a.m. news conference was called by the group to discuss the lawsuit.
The coalition, which includes such organizations as the Los Angeles Community Action Network, called the bill an “unnecessary and unfair attack” on the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act. The special stadium legislation allowed any legal challenge against the 72,000-seat facility to bypass Superior Court review and head directly to the Court of Appeals.
Dan Stormer, an attorney for the coalition, said neighborhoods that surround the stadium site deserve the same environmental review process afforded to thousands of other projects up and down the state. He said the special legislation for stadium developer Anschutz Entertainment Group also posed a threat to the state’s environmental law.
"That ... has consequences for a community of almost a million people in our downtown area. It affects housing, it affects traffic, it affects air quality, it affects all manner of environmental protections and says we’ll just go around those," Stormer said.
AEG spokesman Michael Roth said his company was confident the law would withstand any attacks. He said the special legislation is designed to protect AEG from people who want to "abuse the legal system to thwart or delay projects creating beneficial economic development."
"These measures are ... intended to put people back to work during these difficult times and fully protect and expand the public’s participation in the environmental process," he said.
AEG and Maria Elena Durazo, head of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, successfully pressed the Legislature to pass the special stadium law last year. The bill was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and drew vocal support from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group that normally seeks to have companies follow the state’s existing environmental review process.
The City Council is expected to vote next month on the environmental impact report for the stadium, whose construction would also involve the demolition and reconstruction of a wing of the Los Angeles Convention Center. The document, released earlier this year, runs 10,000 pages and relies on the assumption that one in four ticket buyers will get to the stadium without a car on weekdays.
Even with that expectation, stadium planners expect 19,000 cars to flood downtown on game days, according to the draft document.
The lawsuit comes three months after the Legal Aid Foundation and other groups sent a 77-page letter declaring the stadium analysis falls "far short" of requirements in the state’s environmental law. The group said the report did not back up AEG’s claim that the stadium would provide economic development opportunities to residents of Pico-Union and South Los Angeles.