Rival developers have viewed Carson as an NFL stadium site in the past


The empty lot sprawls along the 405 Freeway, a brown scar amid Carson’s strip malls and oil wells.

Underneath the 157 acres of dirt lurk millions of barrels of solvents and paint sludge and even more municipal waste, the 50-year legacy from the site’s past life as the Cal Compact landfill. In a working-class city that’s perpetually trying to turn the corner, aborted developments and legal disputes have kept the land barren.

It’s part of the Carson story that started before the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders unveiled their plan in February to transform the troubled property into a $1.7-billion stadium.


Less than three years ago, two rival developers eyed the land as a possible site for their own stadium projects to end the NFL’s absence from Los Angeles.

Their failed quest is told in almost 500 pages of sworn declarations, internal emails and memos filed in L.A. Superior Court. The documents provide a look at the lengths to which Carson went in hopes of luring the NFL to the parcel or nearby tracts of contaminated land before the current project materialized.

The little-known chapter of Carson’s past efforts included secret meetings and ghostwritten letters. It pitted Beverly Hills developer Richard Rand against Leonard Bloom, a San Diego businessman, in an attempt that at times appeared to be more bluster than reality.

The past effort even pulled in some of the familiar names connected to the current project, such as Mark Fabiani, point man on stadium issues for the Chargers, and Eric Grubman, the NFL executive overseeing possible relocation to L.A.

Last November, Rand sued Carson, former Mayor Jim Dear and Bloom for breach of contract. He wanted a one-year extension to pursue the project. Carson had already given him two years and wouldn’t grant it. The city rejected Rand’s $56-million claim in January and an L.A. Superior Court judge recently dismissed part of his lawsuit. Rand appealed the decision and the case is ongoing.

“Unfortunately, he never produced anything,” Carson Mayor Albert Robles said.

In September 2012, Rand and Carson agreed to a six-page deal that made him the city’s “sole and exclusive agent” to negotiate with the NFL for two years.


“In accordance with that agreement, Mr. Rand worked diligently and expended millions of his own dollars, all in an effort to bring an NFL franchise to Carson,” one of Rand’s attorneys, Aaron May, wrote in a statement on behalf of his client.

Rand declined to comment beyond the statement. Bloom didn’t respond to repeated interview requests. His attorney, John Tamborelli, described the ongoing lawsuit as “bogus.”

Rand developed plans for stadiums at three locations in Carson: the former landfill near the intersection of the 110 and 405 freeways, 91 acres in the industrial sprawl to the southeast, and the nearby Victoria Golf Course.

The concept came to life inside a 54-page booklet for potential investors as recently as 2014. It included colorful renderings of an open-air stadium in Carson and hopeful pronouncements that the city would host the Super Bowl in 2019. Carson offered the “best climatic conditions,” the booklet said, and “ideal residential options for athletes.”

A section marked “personal and confidential” reprinted the agreement between Carson and Rand.

“Among all stadium sites under consideration, the NFL considers the Carson location as a premier site,” the booklet said.


Rand added a photo of his family smiling during a Chargers game in 2008, ticket stubs from the contest and an invitation to the owner’s suite at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

“When I first started with the NFL project,” Rand wrote in a memo to the city last August, “Carson was not within the radar screen of the NFL.”

That’s debatable. The league has flirted with the city for years, including a plan in 1998 by entertainment executive Michael Ovitz to build a Spanish-style stadium and shopping mall dubbed the Hacienda.

But Rand owned only 12 acres of the 91-acre parcel, also burdened by contamination from “hazardous materials,” according to his agreement with the city.

“He never had control of enough land to do anything,” said Fabiani, who sat through a presentation by Rand at the Goldman Sachs office in L.A. “It was always a chicken-and-egg problem.”

Fabiani, who considers Rand a friend, believed that the developer wanted a team to front the money to buy up enough property for a stadium. The discussions between Rand and the Chargers were never serious, Fabiani said.


In late 2013, according to Rand’s lawsuit filed in November, a Carson employee told him that the city was discreetly working with another person — later identified as Bloom — to woo the NFL.

An email from Bloom to Newport Beach real estate developer Jeffrey Klein in July 2013 was titled “Carson NFL.” It noted that all meetings on the subject were “under strict confidentiality ... no outsiders are to be involved.”

Bloom proposed a 68,000-seat retractable-roof stadium that could expand to 100,000 for major events. The plan included a convention center, parking structure and a “pneumatic waste collection system.” Bloom, who once owned the San Diego Conquistadors of the American Basketball Assn., estimated the facility would cost $1.3 billion.

Representatives of his San Diego-based sports and entertainment company, U.S. Capital LLC, peppered Carson officials with emails labeled “confidential.” They included letters drafted by one of Bloom’s staffers on then-Carson Mayor Dear’s letterhead and forwarded to the mayor to send as his own.

One letter hand-delivered to then-L.A. County Counsel John Krattli in November 2013 sought the transfer of Victoria Golf Course and Victoria Community Regional Park — one of Bloom’s favored stadium sites — from the county to the city. The letter asserted that the course was “wrought with thousands of unsafe gopher holes” and “has developed into a blighted area.” If Carson acquired the property, the letter said, it would provide a “prestigious development” and “top sports and entertainment needed for the entire County.”

Some Carson officials, who spoke on the condition they not be identified, doubted Bloom’s seriousness. When the city asked him to front $5,000 to appraise Victoria Golf Course, Robles said, he declined.


“How can you refuse to pay $5,000 for an appraisal when you’re talking about building a stadium that’s over a billion dollars?” said Robles, who met with Bloom on multiple occasions after winning election to Carson’s City Council in 2013. “That was an indication to me — a very clear indication — this wasn’t going to happen.”

In a July 2014 memo sprinkled with misspellings and typographical errors, Rand requested a one-year extension from the city. Rand touted meetings with at least 34 NFL officials, team owners, attorneys and businessmen. He listed Raiders owner Mark Davis, Grubman, Chargers owners Alex and Dean Spanos, billionaire Lakers minority owner Patrick Soon-Shiong and Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson, erroneously identified as an “NFL owner.”

Dates or details of the meetings weren’t provided.

“That Carson’s profile has been elevated in the eyes of the NFL was demonstrated by Commissioner [Roger] Goodell’s statement to the press that Carson is a site that has much promise,” the memo said.

The NFL executives listened politely, thanked him for the information and deferred to Carson. Rand didn’t control enough land for the league to take the proposal seriously.

A month and a half later, Rand’s sunny tone disappeared. Bill Wynder, then Carson’s city attorney, told Rand that the agreement wouldn’t be renewed and the city no longer needed the developer, according to a declaration by Keith Berglund, one of Rand’s attorneys.

In another memo — this time addressed to Carson’s City Council — Rand attacked Bloom as having “eviscerated” his agreement. Rand defended his progress, claiming that Carson was now a “viable site” because of his work.


As evidence of the meetings, Rand attached two undated photos. One included Barron Hilton, who moved the Chargers from L.A. to San Diego in 1961; the other, Alex Spanos. Letters from two local pastors testifying to Rand’s character rounded out the packet.

The agreement wasn’t renewed.

Last October, according to several accounts, a Latham & Watkins attorney representing the Chargers approached Carson City Atty. Sunny Soltani about the team’s interest in building a stadium in the city. Earlier that summer, the Chargers focused on the former landfill site owned by the Starwood Capital Group.

This was the first indication to Carson’s City Council that another viable stadium option existed. This one included a team. This plan felt different.

Twitter: @nathanfenno