After losing out to Inglewood in their bid to get an NFL team, Carson officials expressed confidence Wednesday that leading developers would still be drawn to the vast empty acreage on top of an old landfill they hoped would host a stadium.
The 157-acre space abutting the 405 Freeway has been touted as ideal for such things as hotels, sports stadiums and shopping malls for decades. Many of those efforts stalled because of the multimillion-dollar price tag of cleaning up toxic waste that is a legacy of the site's past life as the Cal Compact landfill.
But Mayor Albert Robles said with the state having already approved that cleanup and the city finally owning the site, developers are knocking at the city's door.
"We are disappointed, but we are excited about our future," Robles said.
The city had already conducted extensive talks with one of the nation's largest developers with an eye to a new shopping center, Robles said. But after the National Football League owners' decision Tuesday to award Inglewood an NFL franchise, interest from property developers around the country has escalated and the city is exploring several options, the mayor said.
"I think the NFL process was a roller coaster ride … but there were many positive things out of it," Robles said.
For one thing, he said, the city is now nationally and even internationally known.
The city-operated Carson Reclamation Authority took control of the property last year. Under a complex land deal, the city gave rights until April for the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders to develop a stadium at the site.
"After April, for the first time, the city will be in complete control of the destiny of this shovel-ready, hugely valuable, strategically located property," Robles said.
In seeking the NFL stadium, the city was able to overcome the landfill's most problematic legacy. The Cal Compact dump collected both liquid and solid waste from 1959 to 1965, when it closed.
The Carson City Council in May approved the sale of $50.5 million in bonds to complete environmental work. That and an additional $30 million from a prior owner's insurer are funding the cleanup, City Manager Ken Farfsing said.
A water extraction system has been pulling out thousands of gallons of groundwater polluted with solvents. Extraction wells to remove methane and other gases are also operating, city officials said.
The cleanup measures have mitigated most of the lingering pollutants, and last year California's Toxic Substances Control Department found the site to be safe.
City officials said they have worked on detailed plans for a shopping destination with fashion outlets and a big-box retail store. But those plans are on hold and the City Council next week will weigh other offers before moving forward.
"This is one of the last swaths of land for development in the Los Angeles area and very lucrative property," Farfsing said.
Given the site's history, no residential development is planned, Farfsing said.
"If the league must revisit this issue, Carson stands ready," Robles said. "Our site will be exclusively available as a stadium site until at least April, when our current agreement with the Chargers and Raiders expires."