Sacramento lawmakers seek last-minute CEQA exemption for Kings arena
SACRAMENTO -- In an effort help meet a deadline from the NBA to build a new arena for the Sacramento Kings by 2017, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) is hoping to push through a series of exemptions from state environmental laws for a proposed downtown home for the team.
The legislation is expected to be introduced on Friday, according to multiple Capitol sources, and backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the Sacramento region.
The bill is similar to other exemptions from the California Environmental Quality Act lawmakers have granted in years past to facilitate the construction of the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara and those offered to a proposed NFL arena in downtown Los Angeles. Like those two other measures, Steinberg’s bill is emerging in the closing days of the legislative session, which ends Sept. 13.
A draft of the bill obtained by The Times also contains a provision not found in other stadium-related bills: an expansion of the city’s eminent domain powers to seize property needed to build the project.
Steinberg’s big push for his hometown team comes as the Sacramento Democrat finds himself at odds with Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) over plans to reduce the state prison population by thousands of inmates. The bad blood between the Democratic leaders has been palpable in recent days, but Steinberg needs the support of both men to deliver his last-minute assist for his hometown team.
Both Brown and Pérez have backed similar exemptions for sports facilities in previous years.
Sacramento nearly lost its basketball team when its previous owners agreed to sell the Kings to a Seattle-based group led by outgoing Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer. The NBA blocked the sale when Mayor Kevin Johnson, himself a former NBA all-star, was able to assemble an ownership group that promised to keep the team in the capital city and garner City Council support to help finance a new downtown arena.
Supporters say the arena project will generate more than 4,000 full-time jobs for its construction and operation.
Opponents of the arena are trying to qualify a ballot measure to allow city residents to vote on the project.
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