Expedite construction on large projects? Environmentalists object to fast-tracking plan

Artist's depiction of proposed NFL stadium with Famers Field logo.
Artist's depiction of proposed NFL stadium with Famers Field logo.

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A bill speeding through California's state legislature Friday would fast-track hundreds of development projects in the state. The bill is being touted as an expansion of another bill that speeds construction on a new football stadium in Los Angeles, but critics say the statewide bill lacks the same environment safeguards.

It does that by fast-tracking any legal challenges to the project to an appeals court. It also requires the judge to rule within 175 days. Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg introduced a second bill to extend the offer to any project worth $100 million.

It's a tale of two bills. The first bill (SB 292) expedites a $1 billion plan to build an NFL stadium near the Staples Center. The second (AB 900) expedites similarly large projects throughout California.

"If it's right to help jumpstart development in downtown Los Angeles for a very important project," says Steinberg, "why isn't it right for every other region of the state that is living with the same economic conditions?"

Some environmentalist support the bill to expedite L.A.'s NFL stadium because it includes permanent guarantees to mitigate pollution and congestion. But those same environmentalists the statewide bill lacks such trade-offs. The Sierra Club's Michael Endicott testified against the bill in a packed hearing just hours before the entire Senate passed the measure.

"This bill here takes what was going to be language crafted for a single project and now vastly expands it so quickly that no one here has time to look at it," Endicott says. "It needs to be tweaked."

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg promised to produce what's called "a clean up bill" within a week and convene a working group to address the multiple concerns lawmakers and lobbyists raised. But Steinberg says waiting until next year is not an option California can afford.

The legislature's passed the measure to expedite L.A.'s NFL stadium. The bill to fast track projects statewide heads to the Assembly next.