CityWatch, Feb 4, 2011
Vol 9 Issue 10
Los Image Angeles is one of the best places in the world to live, to work, and to enjoy life. Every day people from around the world travel to LA to experience our greatness and in doing so, they remind us that LA is the city that sets the standards.
From the entertainment industry to the theatre community, from the philharmonic orchestra to the museums, from our rich arts & culture to our championship athletic teams, LA is the Capital of Greatness!
Against that backdrop, it makes sense to ask “Why don’t we have a National Football League team?”
It’s certainly within LA’s vision for greatness to welcome private developers who want to invest in a beautiful state-of-the-art football stadium and contribute to an enhanced convention center as part of the ongoing revitalization of downtown LA.
Accessible by the Metro, convenient to Angelenos from all over the city, adding to the vibrant LA Live attractions, a football stadium could have a tremendous positive impact on Los Angeles.
However, for this scheme to move forward, I contend that these standards must be met:
1. The vision must be clearly articulated. Great cities are built on a foundation of Public Safety, Public Works, Public Health and Public Education. The Farmers Field press conference took place with Mayoral cheerleading while the streets in Van Nuys were collapsing and homes were being evacuated.
LA’s vision for moving forward must be based on resolving the budget crisis, delivering city services, responsible land use policy that protects the people who live here, and great sports and entertainment that enrich the lives of the people who partner in LA’s greatness.
This vision must end the typical “either/or” propositions that the Mayor and the City Council have made de rigueur in these types of proposals. It’s time for the City of LA to commit to win/win proposals and to remember that this is Los Angeles, the NFL wants us, the developers want us, the world wants us. We’re in a powerful position and our responsibility is to set the standard, not lower it.
2. The plan must get very specific very quickly. LA’s Farmers Field is already drawing the same criticism that was leveled at the ‘84 Olympics when in the planning stages. Opponents were fearful of issues such as traffic congestion and financial risk, but LA proved to be a champion.
The ‘84 Olympics in Los Angeles brought out the best in everybody, setting an Olympic standard for operations in business model, in profits, and in traffic congestion relief. LA’s ATSAC went online for the ‘84 Olympics, setting a standard for traffic control.
Peter Ueberroth took to the air in a helicopter on opening day to survey the traffic meltdown and discovered that traffic was actually lighter than usual. This was the first privately financed Olympic Games and it resulted in a surplus of $250 million. The standard has been set.
The plan for LA’s Farmers Field stadium must unfold with a full commitment to meeting stringent environmental impact, social impact, and economic impact standards that actually raise the bar, not lower it. The current murmurings indicate that the sheer size of this project is causing momentum that not only cuts red tape but also cuts through regulatory controls that protect the people of Los Angeles.
The plan for LA’s Farmers Field must start with a standard of excellence, the same excellence that we will expect from the NFL team that plays in Farmers Field, and apply it to every element of the proposed stadium and convention center enhancements.
Now is the time to set a world-class standard for solid investor-driven funding, for sustainable construction and operation, for connecting with the community and enriching the lives of the people of LA. After all, when LA gets it together, LA does great things.
3. The budget must be a real budget, not a press conference budget. While the Mayor and the cheerleading squad were doing cartwheels over the $700 million commitment from Farmers, the fact that the city is penciled in for $350 million in bond guarantees slid right past.
Now is the time for the City of Los Angeles to establish a standard for sound financial behavior, not budgetary window dressing and sound bite accounting. Most of all, this budget must demonstrate clearly that the City of Los Angeles is not contributing to this financial proposition, but is indeed committed to benefiting financially.
This budget must reflect municipal pride in the City of Los Angeles, not desperation. This is Los Angeles! The world needs us, the world wants us! It is an abdication of responsibility if the Mayor and the City Council allow the price of AEG’s admission to drop simply because they get all excited over an autographed football and promises of VIP seats in the Farmers Field Skybox.
The budget must demonstrate clearly that the City of LA will benefit in the profits, that we will come out of the deal as winners, and that we will not in any way, shape or form subsidize the developers of Farmers Field or the future owners of LA’s NFL team.
4. Ultimately, it’s got to work for everybody and we’re already off to a bad start. A deal that has been brewing for two years hits daylight with a ticking clock. This is the City Hall behavior that must stop. Now is the time to firmly establish an open and transparent process that becomes the standard for all that we do. This is not “punting” on a decision, it is simply engaging in the business of running a city by acting like adults, while avoiding the seduction of the Skybox.
The Farmers Field proposal should prevail if it can meet the high standards of excellence that we set. At the same time, it should fail if it relies on variances, subsidies and exceptions.
Ultimately, the future of Farmers Field and LA’s NFL team must be judged based on results, often harsh but always fair. That’s how the game is played.
In many ways, this is a great idea but it comes along at a really bad time. The Mayor and the City Council must focus on city solvency, on the delivery of city services, on responsible land use, on education, on protecting our charter commitments to libraries and parks and arts & culture and the needs of those who are most vulnerable such as our children, our seniors, our disabled.
Through it all, it’s always a bad time to do hard work, but our commitment to greatness demands that we allow the developers and the investors to hit the high LA standards, creating a win-win situation that benefits us all.
It’s important to note that the AEG seduction is in play, that AEG is engaged in an end-run on the starstruck City of LA, heading for Sacramento in an effort to lower the environmental standards and gain inappropriate exceptions.
LA’s Mayor and our City Council have an obligation to serve the people of LA and to protect this city from developers who seek to lower our standards.
That being said, let’s partner in greatness!
(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net. Disclosure: Box is also a candidate for 4th District Councilman.)