AEG tells Carson officials ballot measure on NFL plan 'deeply flawed'

In letter to Carson's mayor, AEG executive says proposed stadium plan is 'an open invitation to litigation'


Entertainment giant AEG is ratcheting up pressure on Carson to slow a proposal to build an NFL stadium.

The owners of the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders have launched a petition drive to put a stadium initiative on the ballot or a vote of the City Council. The measure is "deeply flawed" and "an open invitation to litigation," a top AEG executive told Jim Dear, Carson's outgoing mayor, in a six-page letter obtained by The Times.

The company was clear it was looking out for its substantial interests in the city, including StubHub Center, a sports complex that includes a stadium where the AEG-owned Galaxy soccer team plays. That venue is only a couple of miles from the proposed site of the $1.7-billion football stadium.

AEG said its biggest objection to the project was the plan organizers have to skip a full environment review, and perhaps even a public vote.

In the letter, dated Monday and written by Vice Chairman Ted Fikre, AEG acknowledged Carson officials couldn't block an initiative petition even if they wanted to. But the sports conglomerate asked the city conduct "meaningful, independent" study of the stadium's environmental impacts, and that its council order a public vote.

"As one of Carson's biggest investors and business stakeholders, AEG has an interest in advocating for a responsible approach to major developments in the community," Fikre said in a statement Wednesday. "We feel it is only reasonable to ask and expect that a project of this magnitude, like others before it, be thoroughly vetted in a transparent public review."

Mark Fabiani, point man for the Chargers on stadium issues, said he had no comment.

City Atty. Sunny Soltani said Carson officials would "give due consideration" to AEG's concerns. She also noted the stadium site underwent a full environmental review for a shopping center proposal a few years ago.

"We are not surprised they would try to find ways to oppose a stadium in Carson as they have opposed the Inglewood project as well," she said of AEG.

Inglewood, where St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke has joined developers in a proposal to build an 80,000-seat stadium at the former Hollywood Park racetrack, has already approved an initiative that allows the project to skip an in-depth environmental examination.

Those plans were announced in January and approved by the end of February, the kind of speed AEG is cautioning against.

The California Supreme Court last year upheld a City Council's right to adopt initiative proposals without an extensive environmental review or a public vote.

The path these stadiums are taking sets a troubling precedent, said Doug Carstens, an environmental lawyer with Chatten-Brown and Carstens in Hermosa Beach: A big project in a small city can sail to local approval in weeks, with minimal analysis or debate.

"The public is not involved one way or the other," he said. "… It has created a real problem. I'm not sure of the solution."

AEG has funded two reports critical of the Inglewood site, which sits two miles east of Los Angeles International Airport. The company hired former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who asserted the stadium could be targeted by terrorists, and former chairman of the National Transportation Board, Mark Rosenker, who said its location under flight paths posed significant risks.

AEG announced last week it was shelving plans for its own stadium — Farmers Field in downtown Los Angeles — despite spending more than $50 million over five years on the proposed project. The company owns and operates Staples Center and the adjacent LA Live entertainment hub.

Those venues were each subject to a full environmental impact review. The one on Farmers Field, approved in 2012, was more than 10,000 pages and cost $27 million. Fikre's letter also said AEG prepared a full EIR for its project in Carson that is now the StubHub Center.

The letter follows a phone conversation last month during which Fikre and a top AEG lobbyist voiced their concerns about the proposed football stadium in Carson. AEG followed that conversation with a $5,000 donation to Dear's campaign, according to election documents.

Dear was recently elected City Clerk and will be stepping down next week as mayor to start his new job. An interim successor will be chosen from among three other City Council members.

Twitter: @bytimlogan

Twitter: @nathanfenno

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times


12:58 p.m.: This post has been updated with a statement from AEG Vice Chairman Ted Fikre and reaction from Carson City Atty. Sunny Soltani.

This post was first published at 10:57 a.m.