AEG’s Tim Leiweke issued his ultimatum to the city a week ago: Approve the basic terms of the deal for his downtown NFL stadium with all its tax breaks, massive loans and hidden subsidies by July 31 or its dead.
It did not take long for city officials to unconditionally surrender to his threat — not that anyone should be surprised since this has been a done (back room) deal from day one.
On Wednesday, the City Planning Commission started the process of fast-tracking the formality of making sure Leiweke and his Denver billionaire boss Phil Anschutz get whatever they want whenever they want it.
Using the frequently abused “Special Meeting” provisions of the law, the Planning Commission’s President, architect William Roschen, put this item on today’s agenda (Planning Agenda 6-9.pdf) with just 24 hours notice to the public of the 8:30 a.m. meeting:
Discussion of creation of a subcommittee to review and discuss with City staff the proposed Convention Center Modernization and Farmers Field Event Center Project. The Project Site is generally bounded by Chick Hearn Court on the north, Figueroa Street on the east, Venice Boulevard on the south and the 110 Harbor Freeway on the west.**
The bold face type and asterisks are the commission’s, presumably a nod in the direction of what passes for transparency at City Hall these days.
It’s as if the commission is saying, “See, we made it perfectly clear that we are creating a subcommittee so it can sit in the back room where the deal is being concocted and allow us to pretend we thoroughly examined what’s planned and can waive all laws, rules and policies that might queer this project.”
The only thing that makes this a matter of urgency that could justify a special meeting is Leiweke’s ultimatum — the second time he’s put a deadline on approval.
The last one expired in March without action by the city because it isn’t so easy to give away the farm for Farmers Field when libraries are closed, fire stations are shutting down, streets are crumbling and the financial situation is getting worse every day.
You have to wonder why city officials are even going through the pretense of a public process.
The mayor has been aboard for two years, probably because he’s guaranteed his own luxury box for the rest of his life, and only one Council member, Bill Rosendahl, has raised any questions about protecting the public interest.
The problem is constructing a narrative that justifies the city paying to tear down half its debt-laden Convention Center, borrowing $350 million more to rebuild it as part of “stadium/events center” to enrich an out-of-town billionaire.
We only have Leiweke’s gold-plated word that L.A. will be besieged with conventioneers and tourists by the millions because the NFL is back in town and that luxury hotels will sprout all over downtown thanks to Farmers Field.
What we do know for sure is that to get a luxury hotel at LA Live and rebuild the Wilshire Grand the city gave up hundreds of millions of dollars in occupancy taxes to the owners as well as granting them lucrative rights to giant digital billboards.
Leiweke, in his altruism, insists the low-wage service jobs created by the stadium and hotels will solve L.A.’s 14 percent unemployment problem as well as City Hall’s insolvency problem.
This is “the best deal
that’s ever been made for any city in the history of the NFL,” he
says, without a hint of irony that it’s the best deal ever proposed for the
benefit of AEG which will reap all the profits from having not one but two
teams playing at Farmers Field.