AEG's Leiweke pushes downtown LA streetcar

A portion of the route for the proposed streetcar system in downtown Los Angeles.
A portion of the route for the proposed streetcar system in downtown Los Angeles.

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AGE president Tim Leiweke, operator of Staples Center and LA Live — and the man behind a prospective NFL football stadium — is one of the biggest backers of a proposed streetcar system in downtown Los Angeles. The route includes his venues.

Leiweke and other supporters told a downtown news conference Tuesday that the streetcar would bring significant economic development to the area.

“It gives us an opportunity to finally have a great urban area to compete with Portland, Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago and New York," Leiweke said.

A study commissioned by Leiweke and other backers found that the streetcar would create $1 billion in new economic development and create 9,300 jobs.

Leiweke said the four-mile circular streetcar would bring more businesses and conventions downtown.

“If we can unite all of downtown LA so that everything’s connected – the hotels, the restaurants, the nightlife, and the residential – it means our ability to get bigger events, attract better conventions, attract bigger sporting events," Leiweke said. "The streetcar connects everything.”

The streetcar's price tag is $125 million.

Under a plan backed by the Chamber of Commerce and downtown City Council Members Jose Huizar and Jan Perry, the city would tax local property owners to pay for about half of the cost.

The head of the Central City Association Carol Shatz, who supports the plan, acknowledged that her members remain leery.

“Our property owners have not signed off completely," Shatz said. "They need to see what that assessment is going to be.”

Streetcar supporters said they hope to persuade the federal government to fund another 40 percent of the cost with transportation matching funds.

LA's Community Redevelopment Agency already has committed $10 million to the project.

Leiweke dismissed concerns about using tax dollars on the streetcar - or his company's NFL stadium proposal.

"It would be easy to sit here and throw rocks at this idea, or the idea of an NFL football stadium," he said. "It’s 10 times easier to criticize than to have vision."

The proposed streetcar would run along Figueroa in front of the Staples Center, then jog over to either Olive Street or Grand Avenue and go north to First Street. It would come back south on Broadway and take Pico back to Figueroa.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is conducting an environmental review of the project.