Not since the days of former Inglewood council members Mike Stevens and Judy Dunlap have the lights in Inglewood City Council Chambers burned past 10pm. But on Tuesday night, few seemed bothered by the meeting that occupied a packed 9th floor and two overflow rooms downstairs, and went well past 11. After all, residents and out-of-towners were on a mission—to close the deal that has been promising to bring a professional sports team to Inglewood.
Mayor James Butts and council members listened to public comments and a presentation of reports to decide whether to adopt an ordinance as-is for a proposed sports stadium at the meeting, or return within ten days. Another option was to adopt a resolution for a Special Municipal Election on June 2, 2015.
In 18 days 22,000 signatures were collected in support of the proposed City of Champions Initiative for the 80,000-seat stadium adjacent to Hollywood Park. With more than enough signatures, the public eagerly called for a vote by the council to approve the ordinance “now!”
Mayor Butts began the session with a brief presentation, proclaiming March 2, 2015 as Read Across America Day, and noting that “children who read do better in school.” Several Inglewood students were recognized for their participation in the program and councilmembers were invited to the Read Across America presentation at Inglewood High School next month.
With 50 people from the audience requesting to speak about the stadium, time for public comments was reduced from 3 to 2 minutes in the crowded room.
Inglewood businesswoman Glenda Brass was all smiles as she approached the podium. “We should do this tonight. Why prolong the inevitable? Let’s spare the city any additional expense (to hold an election). I’m excited and I know everyone in here is excited.’’
The founder of One For All, an Inglewood nonprofit, is excited because the project “will funnel hundreds of millions into the community (and provide) over 25 acres of beautiful landscaped parks.”
Sports reporter Eric Geller reminded the audience that the Showtime Lakers, the Kings’ Wayne Gretzky and horse racing at Hollywood Park are all sports dynasties that existed in Inglewood.
By the time the council took a brief recess around 10pm, the normally matter-of-fact meeting had turned into a huge hug fest. Pro-stadium advocates greeted each other warmly, took pictures and shared high-fives. Many commented they had never experienced such fervor in all their years in Inglewood. But the agenda was more than a chance to express public comments, it offered a teachable moment on the finer points of building a stadium.
Chris Jackson, Inglewood Sr. Planner, presented a glimpse of how the expanded Specific Plan for Hollywood Park (which will now include the sports venue) would alter the original design, as well as important physical, environmental and traffic-related matters. The addition of a stadium to the Hollywood Park project will reduce the number of housing units from 2,995 to 2,500. The 298 acre-site will have a signing overlay similar to the Forum and allow banner signs in the public right of way. The 25 acres of open space would not be impacted. Tailgating will not be permitted in residential areas.
Traffic consultant David Shender reported that a traffic study was done as part of the environmental impact report for the Hollywood Park Tomorrow Project in 2006. It was updated in 2014. The study which identified traffic patterns in 49 Inglewood streets between 2006 and 2014 found that traffic congestion has actually gone down. “We are seeing similar patterns throughout Los Angeles County,” Shender said. “Compared to the previous Hollywood Park Specific Plan, there would be less traffic to the stadium during regular peak hours (non-game days).” There would be 9,000 parking spaces set aside on stadium days, in addition to shuttles running from the current Greenline station and the future Crenshaw/LAX line, which will have two stops in Inglewood. Shender’s recommendations include widening Century Blvd to include a dedicated right turn lane, going north on Prairie and synchronized signals on Crenshaw, Manchester and Century.
Inglewood Public Works Director Louis Atwell said “Now we have more alternatives than we did when the Lakers played at the Forum,” such as more taxicabs, Uber service and Metrolink trains.
Gerard McCallum, Project Manager, Hollywood Park Land Company, said developers are contracted to maintain a local hiring policy that equals at least 35%. He described hiring outreach efforts as “aggressive,” and noted that local hiring is currently at 43%. The project will create thousands of new construction and permanent jobs in Inglewood.
Debbie Kern, senior principal, Keyser-Marston Associates (stadium consultants) gave a snapshot of how the project will generate revenue for the City of Inglewood. “The City will retain $25 million in revenue for the General Fund (paid for by developers), which currently has about $89 million. That amount of revenue exceeds 25% of the current amount,” Kern said.
She added that the city will receive “$17.7 million net surplus per year upon build out. That amount will escalate over time with inflation. . .The stadium and music venue (are) not reliant on the rest of the project, whether the retail happens or doesn’t happen or if the hotel happens or doesn’t happen. It’s based on the admission tax from the ticket sales.” When asked about the financial risks of building the stadium, Kern replied, “We don’t know of any risks because 100% of construction is being privately financed. We do not find any red flags.”
McCallum said construction is anticipated to generate about $55 million in tax revenue and the City could receive payments as early as the 2016-17 fiscal year.
Obvious overwhelming public support, and documented reports by experts that there are no negative impacts to traffic, and no public funding going toward the stadium, Mayor Butts concluded with the words most everyone had waited to hear:
“I move that we adopt the ordinance without alteration!”
Cheers all around and meeting adjourned.