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Subsidy to lure NFL is blocked

Times Staff Writer

Faced with angry opposition from Los Angeles County supervisors, state lawmakers Wednesday sidelined an effort by the city of Industry to get millions of dollars in tax subsidies that could help lure a National Football League team back to the area.

Backed by developer Ed Roski Jr., who wants to build a football stadium on 600 vacant acres he owns in Industry, the city had asked for power to divert $829 million in county property tax revenue from basic government services to subsidize unnamed development projects.

But county officials, complaining that much of the money would come from their already tight budget, blitzed state lawmakers with letters and phone calls demanding that they vote against the proposal.

Minutes before its first hearing, Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), who had gutted an unrelated bill of its contents and replaced it with Industry’s bid, pulled the proposal from consideration. Her Senate district includes Industry, home to 804 people.

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The bill she changed, SB 1771, originated by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Los Angeles), would initially have provided counseling for homeowners imperiled by the mortgage crisis.

Roski, his firm and employees have contributed more than $1 million in the last five years to California political causes and candidates, including Romero and Padilla.

County Supervisor Gloria Molina, whose district also includes the city, denounced Industry’s effort as “an abuse of power,” saying that it would use redevelopment money improperly.

“They are not using it to reduce blight,” she said. “They are using it to attract a football stadium. . . . Everybody wants an NFL stadium, but I’m not so sure taxpayers should be footing the bill for that.”

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Molina was joined by county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the county’s lobbyist, firefighters and others in calling state legislators to voice opposition.

“This is a rip-off,” Yaroslavsky said in an interview, explaining his message to legislators.

The bill would have allowed the city of Industry’s expiring redevelopment program to be extended for another decade while no longer requiring state review or proof that there is still blight.

Romero said her primary reason for carrying the proposal was the city’s promise to build hundreds of units of affordable housing, with or without a stadium.

Supporters had hired a team of high-powered lobbyists, including former state legislators, who pitched the legislation as essential to the plan for affordable apartments.

“It would be great to have a football team once again in Los Angeles County, but it wasn’t an issue for me in terms of moving the bill forward,” Romero said.

The https://Industrycity of Industry is a 2-mile-wide, 14-mile-long strip of land along the 60 Freeway that is home to industrial parks, scrap yards and strip clubs.

Incorporated in 1957, it has a checkered development history.

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One of the city’s founders spent three years in federal prison for his role in a kickback and bid-rigging scheme. Roski is a major landowner and builder in Industry.

A spokesman for Roski said the site of the proposed NFL stadium is not within a redevelopment project area, and there is no plan to ask for public funds for the project.

That the bill is being supported at the same time the NFL stadium is being proposed is “coincidental in timing and unrelated in purpose,” said John Semcken, a vice president of Roski’s Majestic Realty.

Semcken said Majestic has large holdings in the redevelopment area, so it supports helping the city with economic development.

Opponents of Romero’s bill say there is no more blight in Industry, so it would be improper to divert money from police and fire services to build streets, sewers, traffic lights and other public works that would primarily serve a stadium and provide commercial development to make the area more attractive to the NFL.

City Manager Phil Iriarte said the proposal by Roski’s firm calls for private financing of the stadium, and he does not believe that any redevelopment money spent to enhance the area and its streets would be a deciding factor for the NFL.

NFL staff members have visited the Industry site and met with Roski. Though the nation’s No. 2 television market has been without an NFL team since 1995, placing a team in the Los Angeles area is not a top priority, league officials say privately.

Roski, chief executive of Majestic Realty, had partnered with billionaire Philip Anschutz to build Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, and is a minority owner of the Kings hockey team, Lakers basketball team and Staples Center arena.

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Backers plan to seek a parliamentary waiver to revive the legislation.

“There are sufficient concerns that have been raised by folks that we obviously pay a great deal of attention to,” Romero said.

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patrick.mcgreevy @latimes.com

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Times staff writer Sam Farmer contributed to this report.


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