Gov. Brown signs bill to boost LA stadium

The developer behind a $1.2 billion plan to build a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles got a boost Tuesday with a law that will help it avoid lengthy court fights.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill at a Los Angeles Convention Center ceremony with executives from Anschutz Entertainment Group, which is proposing to build a 72,000-seat stadium next to the convention center.

With California’s unemployment rate in double digits, Brown said the stadium plan would create 12,000 construction jobs and 11,000 permanent jobs.

The bill would expedite resolution of any legal challenges to AEG’s project, sending lawsuits over its environmental impact directly to the California Court of Appeal and bypassing the Superior Court. The appeals court would have to make a ruling within 175 days.

AEG would thus avoid a protracted and costly court battle that could hold up construction of the stadium, which could break ground as early as June if it passes environmental muster and secures an NFL team.

In return, AEG, which owns the Staples Center and L.A. Live entertainment complex next to the convention center, pledged to build a ”green stadium” and make it public-transit friendly.

The bill’s co-author, state Sen. Alex Padilla, a Los Angeles Democrat, said the bill sought to accelerate the project because of the jobs it would create.

”With unemployment over 12 percent and over 13 percent in the Los Angeles region, we do need to act with a sense of urgency,” he said.

A rival group, Majestic Realty, has proposed building a stadium in the City of Industry, outside Los Angeles. It obtained its own earmarked bill in 2009 when legislators gave it an exemption from some environmental laws and protection from lawsuits over environmental issues.

Some environmentalists said they supported the AEG bill after the developer agreed to submit a full environmental impact report, purchase carbon credits locally to offset emissions and take measures to lessen the impact of traffic for the life of the stadium, among other items.

Warner Chabot, chief executive of the California League of Conservation Voters, said he was pleased those measures were included in the bill since it already had the votes to pass.

”We don’t like the principle of doing special legislation for a single project,” Chabot said. ”It sets a bad precedent, but it would have set a worst precedent for the community without these things.”

Padilla said public works projects are often granted similar protections. ”It’s not anything new or unprecedented,” he said.

The Planning and Conservation League’s legislative director, Jena Price, said her group continued to oppose the bill, largely because it was ramrodded through the Legislature, bypassing committee review and going straight to a floor vote.

Still, she noted that the bill reflected a compromise that did not give AEG the same wide-ranging exemptions given to Majestic Realty.

”An eleventh hour bill is never a smart one,” she said. ”It’s one more step in taking away the voice of local communities.”

AEG is expected to release the full environmental impact report in early January.