Bypassing voters, Inglewood approves NFL stadium (updated)

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Saying it was an opportunity too good to wait on, Inglewood’s City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved a proposal for an 80,000-seat NFL stadium outright, rather than put it on the ballot this summer. The developer said construction will begin by the end of the year.
“We didn’t bypass the election," Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. said after the vote. "We acted in accordance with the law and took the option that said the council could adopt it.”

The California Supreme Court ruled last year that such a move would be legal. 

Approving the project immediately puts Inglewood ahead of a competing proposal in Carson, where officials announced plans Friday to build a $1.7 billion NFL stadium. The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders said they would jointly pursue the project, while at the same time continuing talks in their hometowns.

The vote followed four hours of discussion and public comment, the vast majority in favor of the stadium. Those who opposed it generally complained about its effect on traffic.

"This is L.A.. There is traffic everywhere," one fan said during a turn at the microphone.

“It’s three against 300," said another — and his numbers weren't far off.

Hundreds of fans packed the city council meeting, many decked out in jerseys and even horned hats bearing the Rams logo, the football team that left L.A. two decades ago.

Like Peyton Manning running the hurry-up offense, both Carson and Inglewood have been trying to move as fast as possible to get stadiums built.

A stadium and performance venue

St. Louis Rams owner and real estate mogul Stan Kroenke bought 60 acres of land adjacent to a site in Hollywood Park in 2013 and has teamed up with the owners of that 238-acre site to expand its redevelopment to include a stadium and performance venue.

The team converted its lease on the St. Louis stadium to a month-to-month contract recently, meaning it can leave the city after the 2015 season.

Because of requirements imposed by the California Environmental Quality Act, projects this big can take years to build. To speed it up, both developers had said they would try to gain approval from voters — or elected officials — to get around the time-consuming environmental review process. 

Officials in Carson haven’t even begun collecting voter signatures,  the first step in the process of getting out of CEQA.

But Butts said the Carson announcement didn't sway him.

“The Carson project had nothing to do with anything," he said. "The reality is that land isn’t even owned by the team. They don’t have an architect. When you run a race in your head, you certainly don’t look to the side, and you certainly don’t look back.”

During the Inglewood city council meeting Tuesday night, a consultant compared stadium noise in surrounding neighborhoods to that of bird calls.

Expedited economic and environmental reports released this week promise the Inglewood project will generate 40,000 new jobs, mostly in the city itself, and generate more than a billion dollars worth of local economic revenues in Inglewood a year.

Tuesday night, a city consultant estimated the stadium would boost Inglewood's budget by $13.2 million 10 years from now.

Some economists are skeptical of rosy projections of the economic impacts of stadiums.

This story has been updated.

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