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City Of Los Angeles Defends Independence On NFL Stadium Negotiations

Los Angeles officials defended the city’s independence and transparency today in the process of negotiating with Anschutz Entertainment Group about the developer’s plan to build a $1.35 billion NFL stadium and new convention center hall downtown.

During a packed meeting of the City Council committee charged with vetting AEG’s proposal, council members refuted attacks that the city is not in control of the negotiations.

Members of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Proposed Downtown Stadium and Events Center repeatedly stressed that they had discussed all of the city’s negotiating points publicly.

“There are no backroom deals,’ Councilman Ed Reyes said.

Committee Chair Jan Perry reviewed the city’s negotiating points, including a commitment that no public money would be spent on the stadium and that a bond that would pay for part of the development would be guaranteed by AEG.

The developer wants to build a new $1 billion NFL football stadium on the existing site of the West Hall of the city’s convention center.

The developer has proposed building a new conventional hall that would be paid for by more than $300 million in city issued bonds, which AEG would cover through tax revenues from the new development or out of the company’s own pocket.

Officials argued that the West Hall of the convention center is decades old, in bad need of repair, and makes the city uncompetitive in attracting lucrative conventions.

“The point of this is not to get a football team,’ said Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller, who is the city’s lead negotiator on the proposal. “The point of this is to leverage a football team and a stadium to generate economic activity and generate money we don’t have today to fix a convention center that has to be fixed. We’ve got to fix it one way or another.’

Miller told the committee that city is making progress in the negotiations but that there are three sticking points that have significant affects on how the deal is financed. He said negotiations are taking place weekly and sometimes more often, and that he his hopeful he will be able to present an agreement to the city by the end of July.

AEG Chief Executive Officer Tim Leiweke has threatened to walk away from the project if a memorandum of understanding that would lay out the basics of an agreement between the city and AEG is not signed by July 31.

The committee discussed the cost and feasibility of holding public meetings outside of City Hall and outside of normal business hours.

A legislative analyst said the meetings could cost as little as $525 or as much as $3,000 if the committee wanted the event broadcast live.

The city’s chief engineer, Gary Lee Moore, and Convention Center general manager Pouria Abbassi discussed the selection this week of the architectural firm Populous to design the new convention center hall.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the committee’s vice chair, wanted to know why AEG selected the architect instead of the city. Pouria said he and Moore represented the city in interviewing seven architects that specialize in convention centers with AEG and called it an “extremely collaborative process.’

The committee listened to public comments from more than 20 speakers.

Representatives from the business community, labor groups and downtown development associations expressed support for the project and asked the committee to work hard to make it happen on time.

Central City Association Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ann Williams told the committee that the south section of downtown was deserted and nothing before the development of the area in the late 1990s.

She said the proposed football stadium project would reverberate benefits through more of downtown and adjacent neighborhoods. “Staples Center and LA Live turned the lights on downtown, and building a major events center here would light up all of Los Angeles,’ she said.

Copyright © 2011 City News Service

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