By the time I reached the Mar Vista Recreation Center Monday night, the placed was overcrowded with Westside neighborhood activists and union people braving a hot, stuffy room to have their say on the proposed downtown National Football League stadium.
The crowd extended outside the rec center. Neighborhood representatives hammered Tim Leiweke, the stadium developer, with questions so painfully detailed that they could have only come from veterans of many neighborhood council meetings. The union members, one by one, hailed the stadium as a sure cure for unemployment in Los Angeles. Alice Walton, who runs the City Hall Maven blog, twittered furiously, reporting on the proceedings for those fortunate enough not to be there.
In any case, we all could have stayed home. There was no need for comments. The meeting showed this deal is wired for City Hall approval. As the late broadcaster Chick Hearn used to say when the Lakers clinched a victory, ''You can put this one in the refrigerator. The door's closed, the light's out, the eggs are cooling, the butter's getting hard and the Jell-O is jiggling.''
Leiweke, president of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, which wants to build the stadium, pretty well tied up the deal when he told the town meeting at the rec center that he is reducing the amount of the bonds he is requesting from the city from $350 million to somewhere in “the high 200s.” This would reduce the city’s interest payment on the bonds, which should give the few City Hall doubters reason to vote for the deal. AEG can do this, he said, by paying for two parking structures for the stadium, rather than using city bond funds.
Two potential city council skeptics told me it sounded pretty good to them. Bill Rosendahl, who convened the town meeting in his district, said Leiweke’s revised proposal was “a very great plus.” Paul Koretz, who represents a neighboring Westside district, said, “the project keeps improving. Anything that reduces the city’s cost is a real positive.”
Leiweke dominated the show. Coat off but still wearing a vest, he was a star salesman as he touted the stadium, which would be located at the convention center, near AEG’s Staples Center and its LA Live development. As it should be with a great salesman, he didn’t dwell on a potential obstacle—the clout of Ed Roski and his Majestic Realty Co., promoters of an NFL stadium in the city of Industry.
As Victor Valle reported in his excellent book “City of Industry: Genealogies of Power in Southern California,” Roski all but runs Industry, a San Gabriel Valley city with few residents, many industries and warehouses and a huge redevelopment agency. This agency could finance the stadium with bonds and Roski doesn’t have to worry about city council approval. Roski got the state legislature to waive a pesky requirement for an environmental impact report. He can bedevil Leiweke with lawsuits, probably claiming violations of the environmental requirements Roski had lifted for his own stadium plan. He is a master of the Southland’s low-life politics.
With all this facing him, Leiweke has to move fast. He told me that he must have a deal with Los Angeles completed by the end of July so he can go to the NFL with evidence that he and his boss, Phil Anschutz, are ready to procure an NFL team for his stadium. He’s got to do this before the NFL prepares its 2016 schedule, which he hopes would include an LA team. If there’s a delay at LA City Hall, Roski, with his Industry redevelopment financing in place, could grab the prize.
Roski, however, must deal with another factor, the three guiding principles of the real estate business--location, location, location.
To succeed, an NFL team would need the kind of free spending big shot fans—some rich, others faux rich—who buy the high-priced Lakers tickets, except many more of them. You find them in the most affluent parts of the Westside and the West Valley. in the entertainment industry complexes, as well as in downtown businesses and law firms. Would they rather go downtown, now Jack Nicholson country, thanks to the Lakers and their most famous fan? Or could Roski lure them many miles over the freeways to the San Gabriel Valley and the city of Industry, a rich but plain place with its warehouses and political power?