The Madeleine Brand Show

The Madeleine Brand Show is a daily, two-hour program that looks at news and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by Madeleine Brand

Can Downtown LA handle Farmers Field?

by Josie Huang | The Madeleine Brand Show

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In this rendering released by AEG, the proposed football stadium to house a NFL team in Los Angeles, California is seen. It was announced February 1, 2011 that AEG has sold the naming rights for the proposed stadium to Farmers Insurance Group for $650,000, calling the stadium "Farmers Field." AEG

The Anschutz Entertainment Group, AEG, last week released a 10,000 page environmental impact report on Farmers' Field, the football stadium it's proposing to build in downtown LA.

A lot of attention has focused on plans for how to handle transportation in the area. Last night, Angelenos got to air their concerns about congestion and parking at an informational event hosted by AEG and the city.

KPCC's Josie Huang attended the meeting and spoke to Angelenos about the proposed stadium.

Ramon Estrada is so worried about a 72,000-seat stadium going into his neighborhood that he left his job as a building manager early to get to the event at the Civic Center. He brought his 15-year-old son and wife as reinforcements, he said through an interpreter. "To make it a stronger case with our presence so they can realize that this is affecting us. It's affecting the family," Estrada said

Estrada's family live in Pico Union, a block and a half away from the proposed site. He fears traffic and parking will only get worse if a stadium is built. Visitors and employees at the nearby Staples Center, owned by AEG, already hog parking spots on his street, Estrada says, forcing him and his family to park illegally at times.

"We are a working family and we're earning minimum wage. And for them to give us a ticket and on top of that they tow our truck away," Estrada said.

The Estradas were among 100 people who came to meet with AEG consultants stationed at tables with signs that read "Air Quality," "Noise" and "Artificial light." But the project's transportation plan has been the most controversial part of a $27-million environmental impact report or EIR released last week. And that led the Estradas to the traffic consultant standing in the back corner of the room, Michael Bates.

AEG estimates 15 percent of football fans will take mass transit on the weekends, 20 percent on the weekdays. Another 3 to 7 percent, Bates says, will walk or bike to games from jobs or their homes downtown. That would be a double-digit increase in the percentage of people who currently use mass transit to get to the Staples Center. But Bates says that football stadiums draw tens of thousands more spectators who know to anticipate crowds, and will plan their travel accordingly.

"We're not suggesting that everybody is going to take transit, but there's a lot of evidence in other cities such as San Diego, 20 percent of people take transit to Qualcomm Stadium just with one trolley line," Bates said

Transportation engineering consultant and UCLA lecturer Walter Okitsu is among several traffic experts we contacted who thought AEG had made reasonable projections. But Okitsu, who is not involved in the project, added some caveats. "That there's adequate transit capacity coming to downtown. The other caveat is that there be traffic congestion and lack of parking that would scare a lot of spectators into using transit instead of driving in on their own," Okitsu said.

AEG says there is enough mass transit to support a new stadium. There's a Metro Blue line station nearby. Later this year the Expo Line will stop there, too. AEG says it will finance the building of a second platform at the station, doubling its capacity. But, at the same time, AEG plans to add parking spaces downtown and contribute money toward the planning of a northbound lane on the 101, according to consultant Michael Bates.

"It will, I think, end up being a very interesting balance between trying to incentify people to come in on transit rather than drive and park," Bates said.

AEG says one incentive could be discounting game tickets by bundling them with transit passes. The company's plans to mitigate traffic satisfied some attendees at the event like real estate agents who said a new stadium will be a boon for downtown. But resident Yvette Henry remained skeptical.

"The impact is, I think is underestimated. I haven't read the EIR but from what I hear, it just seems to me that there's really no big issues, and I'm just kind of leery of that," Henry said.

Henry says that a football stadium would make downtown a more bustling place, which she likes. But as an architect, Henry says she'll be using her trained eye in the coming weeks to figure out if that's worth more traffic. A public hearing on the report is scheduled for May 16.

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