Los Angeles Business Journal

State Sued Over 'Farmers Field' Law

By Deborah Crowe Thursday, August 30, 2012

A coalition of environmental activists, anti-poverty groups and law professors on Thursday filed suit against the state of California to challenge the constitutionality of a state law they say gives unfair special treatment to Farmers Field developer Anschutz Entertainment Group.

AEG plans to build a downtown L.A. football stadium next to its L.A. Live entertainment complex in hopes of attracting an NFL team to the city. Senate Bill 292, signed into law last year, speeds up environmental review of the estimated $1.1-billion project, in part by bypassing initial review by the Los Angeles County Superior Court and sending any challenge directly to the state Court of Appeals.

The developer said the special legislation was necessary in order to keep lawsuits from delaying construction of the 78,000-seat stadium and jeopardizing talks with the National Football League.

But the Play Fair at Farmers Field Coalition said the so-called custom legislation violates a section of the California constitution that gives superior courts original jurisdiction, and another section that prohibits special legislation where a general law is applicable.

The coalition said the $1.35 billion project has significant potential health, environmental and other impacts on surrounding communities, and deserves the review provided for under the California Environmental Quality Act.

“Taking away jurisdiction from the L.A. Superior Court like this – that’s unheard of,” said Dan Stormer, attorney for the coalition. “The idea that just because billionaire financier (Phil Anschutz) has an important project, you can alter a foundational precept of our democracy is crazy.”

The coalition includes the Los Angeles Community Action Network, a low-income housing advocacy group; Physicians for Social Responsibilty-LA; downtown residents Pete Ares and Steve Richardson, and two professors at Loyola Law School, Karl Manheim and Gary Williams.

An AEG spokesperson said the company hoped to issue a comment on the lawsuit later today.