Proponents of a plan to build a new football stadium on the edge of Los Angeles County are turning to the Legislature in what could be a major, 11th-hour political battle before the end of the legislative year.
Sources in numerous legislative offices confirmed Thursday that a last-minute Los Angeles stadium play was among the issues being discussed behind the scenes during the last week of the legislative session. As of yet, no bill language has been drafted and there is no guarantee that a bill will ever reach the floor of either legislative house.
The developer of the project, Majestic Realty, is seeking exemptions from the California Environmental Quality Act to build a stadium in the City of Industry, on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County. Majestic, led by owner Edward Roski, has proposed building a a 600-acre, 75,000-seat stadium complex near the intersection of Interstate 57 and Interstate 60 in the City of Industry.
The stadium proposal has run into stiff opposition from some local officials. The city of Walnut has filed a lawsuit against Majestic, contending the project violates state environmental laws. Negotiations between the two sides have since broken down.
It was unclear whether a proposed bill would be an actual effort to make an end-run around the City of Walnut's objections, or whether it was meant as a tool to force negotiators back to the table and lower the city's asking price.
But now, with the Sept. 11 legislative deadline fast approaching, Majestic has hired numerous high-powered lobbyists and Sacramento consultants to help with the last minute push.
Among those who have been enlisted to support the cause are former Schwarzenegger legislative secretary Chris Kahn and former Don Perata chief of staff Erin Niemela – both of whom are now lobbyists — and labor lobbyist Scott Wetch.
Majestic's lobbyists met last week with Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
Roski is a major political donor with close ties to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. According to records with the Secretary of State, Roski gave more than $700,000 in political donations since 2007. Among those contributions were $100,000 each to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the Villaraigosa-connected Partnership for Better Schools and Yes on Proposition S, the telephone tax measure pushed by Villaraigosa in 2008. Roski also gave $25,000 to the African American Voter Rep. Project, and numerous donations to local officials and state lawmakers of both parties.
While stoking political fires in Sacramento, negotiations between Majestic and local leaders near the stadium site have reached an impasse.
In May, Majestic Vice President John Semcken sent a letter to the Walnut City Council announcing the end of negotiations. In his letter, Semcken said Walnut's multi-million dollar wish list for agreeing to the project was unrealistic.
"They put together an enormous wish list of items that have nothing to do with project or the impact of the project," Semcken said. "As a result, until they come back with realistic negotiations with the impacts we hereby terminate all negotiations."
Calls to Semeken's office were not immediately returned.
Last week, the Whittier Daily News reported that Walnut's state Senator, Bob Huff, supports the project and that Huff's wife, Mei Mei, is on Majestic's payroll.
The paper reported that Mrs. Huff has "worked for Roski and Semcken since 2001." On Sen.Huff's most recent statement of economic interests, he reports Majestic Realty and Majestic Industry Hills, LLC each as sources of income of $10,000 or more.
The paper quotes Huff as saying his wife's connections to Majestic began "way before I was in the Assembly or before this NFL project."
Thus far, there is no official language for a bill, though overtures have been made to various senators about possibly carrying the legislation.