The developer of Staples Center is rushing to get final approval of its massive second phase entertainment/retail /hotel project before outgoing Los Angeles City Council members and Mayor Richard Riordan leave office on June 30.

Failure to meet that deadline could result in months of potentially costly delays to the sprawling arena-adjacent project.

L.A. Arena Land Co. cleared the first hurdle in its sprint by gaining Planning Commission approval last week. But it must still win over the council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee, the full City Council and Mayor Riordan before June 30 to avoid putting its plans on hold while new representatives get up to speed.

"Our focus has been on getting sort of across the finish line by the end of June," said Ted Tanner, senior vice president of L.A. Arena. "We obviously have a huge investment in this property and hope that we can move forward."

With an estimated cost of $1 billion, phase two of the project is designed to include a 1,200-room hotel, 7,000-seat performing arts theater, up to 800 apartments and several retail stores, restaurants, offices and more. It also contains plans for an expansion of the L.A. Convention Center and the construction of a 600-room hotel.

The project is expected to take between eight and 10 years to complete and would replace parking lots to the north and east of Staples Center.

The expansion would mostly be financed by billionaire Philip Anschutz's company, Anschutz Entertainment Group, and News Corp.'s Fox Group. Developer Ed Roski Jr. plays a relatively small part in the deal.

Staples officials said they do not plan to depend on any public subsidies for their part of the project, but that some subsidies may be requested to help finance the larger of the two hotels, for which a developer has yet to be selected.

Public funds were used in the development of Staples Center, secured by letters of credit from L.A. Arena Land Co.

Community input

Hoping to help move the approval process forward, the developer is working with community members to gain general public support for the second phase.

L.A. Arena Land officials and a coalition of local organizations, residents and unions could reach agreement on a "community benefits package" as early as this week that would establish standards for everything from hiring practices to affordable housing for the project, officials said.

Negotiations between the developer and the Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice, a group representing the estimated 200,000 residents living in the area, began last year and officials said last week they had reached "an agreement in principle" and had only to work out the details.

"We want and are actively seeking their support and advocacy," Tanner said.

Gilda Haas, leader of the coalition's negotiating team, declined to reveal details about the agreement until it is finalized, but said that L.A. Arena Land had agreed to hire local workers, provide living-wage jobs, create affordable housing and support the establishment of a permitted-parking district in the area surrounding the project.

"What we've agreed to, in principle, is our basis of support for this project," Haas said.

L.A. Arena Land officials also are pursuing the backing of the labor community.

A group of five unions and developers are expected to soon announce details of a labor agreement for the estimated 5,500 permanent positions that would be created by the second-phase project, officials said.

Negotiators revealed little about the deal, but David Koff, a spokesman for the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, said it would include provisions under which employers at the complex would agree to remain neutral if workers were to decide to organize.

"Often, this kind of stuff happens (only) after there's been a big fight," Koff said, referring to the early negotiations. "The Staples folks would not be doing this if they did not want to have the support of the community and the unions."

The other groups involved in the negotiations are the Service Employees International Union, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, International Union of Operating Engineers and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Chris Modrzejewski, senior director of public affairs for L.A. Arena Land, said the company has been "very mindful" of its neighbors and the importance of working together with them.

"We hope (their support) helps keep the process moving ahead," he said.

The approval process for the project has been a long one that began when the Staples Center arena project was approved by the council, Modrzejewski said.

"We're not doing it all in a month," he said. "Is it possible? We hope so."

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