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Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition Settles Lawsuit Challenging Proposed Downtown Stadium

Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition and AEG have agreed to terms to settle a lawsuit filed by the Coalition and individual LA CAN members and supporters.  LA CAN, Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA and Comunidad Presente, as the lead members of Play Fair, secured commitments on a wide range of community health benefits and measures, including funding for affordable housing, air quality improvement projects, improvements serving bus riders, additional parks and open space, neighborhood improvement plans, and a community team to promote health and protect tenant rights in the surrounding area.

Wesley Walker, a member of the Play Fair at Farmers Field Resident Panel: “We got involved in this issue because of the important community health issues like housing, public safety and access to jobs.  The settlement agreement includes many measures to meet the community’s goals in these areas.”

The settlement includes many community health programs and public participation processes that were recommended by impacted residents during the public approval process over the past months, but went largely ignored by the City.  Among other things, the agreement between AEG and Play Fair includes:

  • A $15 million Housing Trust Fund to preserve and create extremely low-income housing in Pico-Union, South L.A. and Downtown Los Angeles.
  • $1.9 million for air quality and bus rider improvements, to be identified by the communities
  • $300,000 for a team of a housing organizer and a promotora focused on tenant rights and improving housing conditions for at least three years of work focused on a two-mile radius of the stadium
  • Supplements to the neighborhood park commitment, including additional funds and community planning and design processes
  • Neighborhood improvement plans for South LA, Downtown and Pico Union, with funding for improvements identified through community processes
  • The establishment of a two-year pilot project regarding transit and  transportation plans for stadium attendees
  • Requirement that the City’s living wage will be the minimum for all on-site jobs
  • Establishing that 40% of all local hires in permanent jobs will be prioritized for “disadvantaged” workers
  • Establishing access for very small street vendors to the plaza and public spaces on event days
  • Numerous community input and notification processes for public safety impacts, construction impacts, and other concerns
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“The Economic Development Project of our Generation” is Approved Without Any Questions or Analysis

Today the LA City Council voted on the Stadium and Convention Center Project – a billion dollar deal that will impact the City and its residents for the next half century. Councilmember Paul Koretz called it “the economic development project of our generation” and “probably the most important decision that any of us will make in our political careers.”

Despite the significance of the vote, however, the City Council approved the project without any significant questioning or scrutiny.  In fact, the meeting was really a cheerleading session and a parade of sports celebrities, instead of a serious, informed Council meeting with actual debate regarding a more than $1 billion, 55-year deal with a company about to change hands.

Instead of receiving any presentation at all on the details about the complicated plan they were about to vote on, Councilmembers heard endorsements from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Rodney Peete. Instead of raising questions about the number of community health and financial issues that have not yet been resolved or mitigated, Councilmembers repeatedly thanked AEG and joked about which NFL team would be returning to Los Angeles.  Councilmember Jose Huizar actually spent most of his comment time reading comments from his facebook profile aloud, instead of addressing the numerous flaws in the plan.

The Council also did not respond to any public testimony – or even listen to it in many cases.  In one instance, while a representative of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) described how the project’s pollution discharge estimates were 10 TIMES the AQMD threshold which could lead to significant respiratory problems for residents and school children, Councilmember Richard Alarcon was playing with a football in the back corner of council chambers (see below).

The outcome of today’s vote was not surprising given AEG’s use of their power and campaign contributions to steamroll this deal forward.  What was surprising is the our City Councilmembers didn’t even feel obligated to create an appearance of doing their job – let alone actually do it.

Seven agenda items related to this project all at once, and no one spoke to the details of any of them – including a legally required approval of an EIR and public acknowledgement that this project will have significant negative impacts on transportation and air quality, a blatant giveaway of air rights on one nearby long-protected property whether the stadium ever gets built, a development agreement that has entire sections without any enforcement capability, and other entitlements and permanent plan changes that impact our communities for years.  Even staunch supporters of the stadium project shouldn’t want the City to leave the project so clearly vulnerable to litigation.

Who is protecting the public’s interest?  Clearly not our City Council – two of whom are running for Mayor and many others preparing for re-election bids.  Play Fair at Farmers Field believes we deserve better, and we will continue to work to ensure the health of our communities is not trampled simply because the Council won’t do its job.

What Else Is The City Hiding?: Council Votes on Stadium Tomorrow Amidst Numerous Unanswered Questions

On September 28th, the LA City Council is set to vote on the proposed Farmers Field and Convention Center modification project. Despite unanimous Planning Commission and Ad Hoc Committee votes in support of the project, there are numerous answered questions that remain.

How will the sale of AEG impact the deal?

Why is the city ignoring members of Mayor Villaraigosa’s own “Vision Team”, who have criticized the project design as “flawed”?

Why is Councilmember Jan Perry now reversing her position that housing is an important issue when discussing the project?

The Mayor has said he new about the sale of AEG for months. If this is true, what else is the city hiding?

We know they are hiding a study that shows the impact of big projects like this on the need for affordable housing – according to this study it could be a $116,000,000 impact to the City’s housing need! Yet the City didn’t even require AEG to analyze the impacts on housing, let alone mitigate them.

In addition to these questions, there remain of host of issues, such as the project’s impact on housing, traffic, public transportation, and public space, that have yet to be addressed sufficiently.

At best, project developer AEG has created vague plans on how to meet its overly ambitious public transportation estimates.

At worst, AEG has outrightly denied the project’s impact on housing and population in the surrounding area. The company has maintained this position despite documentation that more than 1,200 units of low-income housing have been PERMANENTLY lost due to demolitions and mass, illegal evictions since the creation of Staples Center and LA LIVE.

With all of these questions remaining and issues yet to be addressed, it is to soon to move forward on Farmers Field. With so much riding on this vote, it’s time for City Council to do their duty and protect the health of those who would be most impacted by this decision. The project should benefit EVERYONE, not just billionaires.

An Analysis of AEG’s proposed Community Benefits Program for Farmers Field

Recently AEG released a document that the company is referring to as a Community Benefits Program.

The document is tied to the development of Farmers Field and, according to Martha Saucedo, Executive Vice President of External Affairs for AEG, is intended to “extend the economic benefits of this project to the surrounding communities and fund improvements that enhance the quality of life and make our community a better place to live and work.”

Click HERE to read a detailed analysis of AEG’s proposed program. A close reading of the document reveals that the proposal, though intended to “maximize the benefits of the Project to the surrounding community”, is really a document of loose goals with very few actual requirements that falls short of community benefits agreements often associated with projects of this scope.

One clear example is that there is no living wage requirement, only a goal, and no enforceable means for achieving the goal.  The document actually states, “Whether or not the Living Wage Goal is being met at the five and ten year reporting periods, the Event Center Owner shall be considered to be in compliance with this Section if it is compliance with the remaining provisions of this Section.”  There are no other provisions in this section, besides reporting.

The Community Benefits Program is just one of many documents associated with this project.  The Final Environmental Impact Report has yet to be released, which is supposed to provide mitigation measures for environmental health concerns, of which there are many in a project of this size.

via LA Times: “An NFL return to L.A.? There’s a lot of smoke but still no fire”

In “An NFL return to L.A.? There’s a lot of smoke but still no fire,” Los Angeles Times writer Sam Farmer suggests some doubts about whether or not the NFL will return to Los Angeles in 2013:

Will any teams submit that application in the 2013 window?

Doubtful. Why would a team rush to submit an application, thereby poisoning the water in its current market, before the L.A. picture was fully in focus? Focus comes only when the downtown option has cleared all of the necessary hurdles.

AEG’s Tim Leiweke believes he can get everything checked off his list before the application deadline in five months. He has momentum with the city and a track record of getting venues built, but that’s still a tall order.

Click HERE to read the entire article, which was published in the Los Angeles Times on August 28, 2012.