The period for public comment on the City of L.A.'s final agreement with the developers of Farmers Field was shortened Tuesday by the city council. City officials said shortening the time frame by a week was necessary because of a need to fit into the NFL’s timeline for considering a franchise in Los Angeles.
The city council is expected to give final approval to the Anschutz Entertainment Group’s proposed stadium on Sept. 28. Typically the city allows 24 days for the public to comment on an agreement. The council voted unanimously Tuesday to reduce that period to 17 days, beginning immediately. The city's chief legislative analyst said this would allow enough time to resolve any environmental concerns before the NFL decides in March whether to relocate a team to Los Angeles.
Farmers Field is a proposed 76,000-seat stadium to be built next to Staples Center and L.A. Live. The plan is to build it on land currently occupied in part by the Convention Center’s West Hall.
“We are against reducing the public notice hearing," said Eric Ares of the Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition. "It’s important to note, too, that reducing the period only puts this project at greater risk. There are mitigation efforts around parking, transit, traffic, population, housing, green space that need to be addressed and if we slowed down, we could address those right now.”
The City Planning Commission will consider the project on Thursday. Its approval is required before the City Council votes on the project.
Also Thursday, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Downtown Stadium will discuss the escalating cost of replacing the West Hall. The original estimate of $275 million has increased to somewhere between $287 million and $358 million, according to a city report released Monday.
“In the final analysis, it has become clear that the initial cost estimates for New Hall construction were substantially understated,” according to the report. “Final costs will not be known until a construction contract is awarded and the bonds are issued.”
The new convention center wing, to be known as Pico Hall, would be paid for with lease revenue bonds and Mello-Roos Bonds. AEG would be responsible for repaying the Mello-Roos Bonds.
Councilwoman Jan Perry, who proposed shortening the time for public comment and who represents the area where the stadium will be built, said she expects to hear an explanation about the cost increases city officials present the report later this week.
“I don’t know what the basis of that is other than the passage of time and perhaps the cost of materials has gone up, but I don’t want to speculate,” Perry said.
In a Los Angeles Times column Monday, editor-at-large Jim Newton wrote: “The public is deeply skeptical that its elected officials are negotiating the best possible deal here because those officials are supported by AEG and its labor allies.”
Perry said she believes Angelenos want to know “that the statements that we make, that private money is financing this, are accurate and true and that taxpayers are not being disregarded in this process. That’s what I took from reading that.”
As for the financing of Farmers Field, the report from the chief legislative analyst and city administrative officer stated: “it should be noted that this transaction will result in the only NFL stadium constructed in the modern era that contains absolutely no public subsidies.”
The mayor's office says public comments on the stadium project can be sent via this website. Comments can be presented in person at Thursday's Planning Commission meeting (8:30 a.m. at City Hall), or the city council meeting on Sept. 28.