Monday, September 14, 2009
California It’s football season and California fans are watching the action on the field and perhaps at the state capitol as well. The State Assembly approved a historic bill that would waive environmental regulations during construction of an NFL stadium in the Los Angeles area. However, the bill has been delayed in the Senate. The project raises some questions about environmental protection versus job creation during a recession.
Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg said he wants the state to try to reach a settlement with the City of Walnut. If that happens he expects the bill will receive a vote during a special session.
It’s frustrating to be an NFL fan in Los Angeles. It’s a big market city without a team. But, that could change. The NFL is reviewing proposals to bring a team back to the city of angels. However, it won’t do so until there’s stadium. There are plans to build a 75,000 seat stadium in the City of Industry, mostly with money from private investors.
Democratic Assemblymember John Perez of Los Angeles, who supports the project, said “This is an area where many folks would love not only to go watch a football game but as well work at the stadium. And, especially at a time when our unemployment in the state of California is nearly 12 percent.”
But, the race to create jobs is pitting stadium supporters against environmentalists. Football fans say it would create about 18,000 good paying jobs, and would pour hundreds of millions into the local economy and state coffers. It’s more than a stadium. The project also would include an entertainment center and medical offices. But, to get construction going quickly, supporters asked lawmakers to waive some regulations that fall under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.
During the floor debate over the bill, Democratic Assemblymember Jared Huffman of San Rafael unsuccessfully urged his colleagues to vote against the waiver.
“You think maybe there are two sides to this story? On this thing that is being jammed through? As if it's some critical urgency that we have to act on right now? I don’t think so folks," said Huffman. "Don’t step down this slippery slope. Don’t put CEQA at risk.”
In a passionate floor speech, Democratic Los Angeles Assemblyman Isadore Hall said job creation outweighs environmental concerns during the recession.
“You have an opportunity to bring $800 million to a region and to provide 18,000 obs and you tell me that you cannot do it?! That’s ridiculous!”
However, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors asked state lawmakers to keep the environmental regulations intact. And, the nearby City of Walnut has filed a lawsuit challenging the project. The suit argues that the stadium will threaten local water supplies and create too much traffic and air pollution.
Jim Moose, a Sacramento attorney specializing in environmental law, said the economic downturn is creating a lot of tension between developers and environmentalists.
“It’s pretty rare in recent years to see these exemptions get through," said Moose. "There probably will be more requests in this economy. And, the argument that this will bring more jobs to the state is probably resonating more today that it did three or four years ago.”
In fact, some GOP lawmakers say CEQA rules should be put on hold for a lot of other projects. That’s something that makes environmentalists nervous. Democrats who support the bill say environmental reports were done on the site for another project. They say they’re good enough. There’s no word on which NFL team would relocate to the new stadium if it’s built.