LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to accept up to $250,000 from Anschutz Entertainment Group to finance a study of the developer’s $1 billion downtown football stadium proposal, even though concerns were raised that taking the money would taint the analysis.
KNX 1070′s Bill Cooper reports Councilman Paul Krekorian cast the lone dissenting vote.
“We take the developer’s money, we spend it, we get a report back that appears to be independent, but — in fact — everyone on planet Earth knows that money is being spent by the developer,” he said. “In my view, it would be questionable.”
Councilwoman Janice Hahn defended the move.
“It’s one or the other — we’re either going to use taxpayer dollars to fund this analysis, or we’re going to use private money,” she said.
“By the way, we use developer money a lot to pay for traffic studies, to pay for EIRs (environmental impact reports),” Hahn told Krekorian. “I don’t think you should let the fact that it’s going to be paid for by AEG cloud the fact that this is something we have to do.”
The council also created an Ad Hoc Committee on the Downtown Stadium and a “working group” composed of the city’s top budget, legislative and economic analysts to assess whether the project will truly benefit the city.
“Through our action today, we are acknowledging this great potential and developing an important framework in which to vet this project on the public record,” Councilwoman Jan Perry said.
Hahn said she is hopeful that the intense scrutiny of the project will ensure an unbiased analysis.
“I think we have to believe that (with) all these eyes looking at this — whether it’s the ad hoc or blue ribbon committee, my committee or working group — I think this is just one more tool that we’re going to have in our toolbox to look at whether or not this deal makes sense for the taxpayers of Los Angeles,” she said.
AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke was not present at the meeting, but previously said his company is willing to spend $1 billion to build a football stadium next to Staples Center to attract a National Football League team back to Los Angeles.
Leiweke insists the project will not cost any taxpayer money — an assertion that Lance Pugmire, NFL writer for the Los Angeles Times, tells KFWB’s Michael Shappee he agrees with.
The plan calls for demolishing the West Hall of the Convention Center to make room for a stadium with a retractable roof capable of seating up to 78,000 people. A new West Hall would be built on a different section of Convention Center property, and the parking lot would be expanded.
Leiweke said the project would create up to 30,000 jobs because the stadium would be used not only to host football games but also conventions, exhibitions and trade shows, boosting business for nearby hotels, restaurants and others.
He said $350 million in bonds would need to be sold to finance a new West Hall and parking lot, and to pay off debts on the existing building, but added that taxpayers would not be on the hook for it.
“If the new tax revenues generated from the city for that site are not significant enough to cover the annual debt service for those bonds, then AEG will step in exactly like we did with Staples Center and we will on an annual basis cover the shortfall of the debt service for the life of those bonds,” Leiweke told the council’s Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee last month.
Billionaire Ed Roski has a competing proposal for an $800 million, 75,000-seat NFL stadium in the City of Industry, about 30 miles from downtown.
Los Angeles has not had an NFL team since 1995, when the Rams moved to St. Louis and the Raiders returned to Oakland.
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