Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Introduction (Part 1): Public-Private Development Partnerships

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It may seem unconventional to begin a thesis in arts administration by discussing a football stadium.  This thesis is an exploration of urban planning in Los Angeles involving large-scale, public-private development. In the following chapters, I document how philanthropist Eli Broad’s under-construction contemporary art museum, The Broad, is being utilized to stimulate further redevelopment of an area of downtown Los Angeles called Bunker Hill.  The Broad museum and the larger, coinciding Grand Avenue Project has engendered some conversation about the investment associated with public-private development projects, and the resulting public and private benefits.  However, the amount of dialogue about investment and return benefit involved with the Broad museum and Grand Avenue is minimal in comparison to another large-scale, public-private development proposal less than two miles away: Farmer’s Field.  The proposed downtown National Football League stadium has garnered substantial, well-publicized and in-depth political, social, and economic debate about investments and benefits. For this reason, I believe reflecting on some of the lively discussions circulating abound Farmer’s Field can be useful in introducing similar questions and concerns, which may not have been addressed or considered, or worse ignored, in the planning process of The Broad museum.


“We’ve built more arenas and stadiums than anyone in the world, ever–including the Romans!”[i]
– Tim Leiweke, President and C.E.O., Anschutz Entertainment Group

It is a plotline ripped from the popular television show Entourage (season 7 to be specific).  Big-time developer Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) wants to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles.  AEG’s tactic to lure a franchise to the city is to build a brand new 1.3 billion stadium in downtown. The new stadium, which AEG has already sold naming rights to, will be called Farmers Field, after the insurance company.  AEG plans to squeeze the 72,000-seat stadium into the already dense LA Live—an entertainment and sports cluster, which AEG has spent more than a decade developing between the Figueroa corridor and the 110 Freeway.  LA Live includes the Staples Center (home to both the Lakers and Clippers NBA franchises), Nokia Theaters, Regal Cinemas, JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton, and Grammy Museum.  AEG has appealed for both public and government support of the project by communicating its record of success and by touting a lengthy list of impressive economic benefits, which AEG claims, the city would receive should the NFL return:  tens of thousands of jobs, construction of nearby hotels, a revived Convention Center, and hundreds of millions of dollars in increased economic activity.[ii]  The economic influence seems incalculable and the project non-negotiable.

Does (downtown) Los Angeles need an NFL stadium?

Does (downtown) Los Angeles need an NFL stadium?

AEG selected Gensler Architects to design the football stadium—the same firm AEG commissioned for the adjacent Staples Center.  While designs for Farmer’s Field were largely mocked (with reason: see above image) for looking like a goliath set of football shoulder pads, LA Times Architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne was looking at the bigger picture:  “The arrival of the stadium would give downtown another push toward true centrality in Los Angeles, or at least help make it first among equals when it comes to the city’s many centers.”[iii] Despite, or perhaps because of these reasons, the question remains: is a new football stadium (one in the already dense and traffic-congested LA Live area) really what Los Angeles needs? City and State officials seem to think so, and have been willing to grant AEG special accommodations in order to fast track the construction of the project.

In September 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new bill granting AEG a certain degree of legal protection from potential decelerating lawsuits resulting from challenges to AEG’s required Environmental Impact Report on the stadium proposal.[iv]  Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) are required of all large-scale projects in the State of California as a result of the 1970 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The law was designed to ensure protection for the environment in large development projects, but is frequently utilized as an obstructionist methodology by rival developers and NIMBY groups—never the intentional use of CEQA.

Under the bill signed by Brown, legal challenges to AEG’s Farmers Field EIR will be advanced and heard immediately by the State Court of Appeals, and the litigation will have only 150-175 days to rule in suits against AEG.  This protection speeds up a process that can be mired by legal claims against the EIR.  In exchange for this legal protection, AEG pledged to build a carbon-neutral and transit-friendly stadium.  (Rival developer, Majestic, who is attempting to build a football stadium in the City of Industry was granted similar protection from the State in 2009.)  However, the term “carbon neutral” is anything but clearly defined, and may include the acquiring of carbon-offset credits.  This terminology only further illustrates the misuse and complicated nature of CEQA.

Who the bill is meant to protect AEG from is debatable.  Immediately promoting legal claims to the level of the State appellate courts is designed to discourage claims from rival developers.  But rich rival developers (like Majestic) are financially capable bringing cases at this level. Those who can’t afford to sue AEG in the appellate courts (and those arguably most affected by the development) are, as LA Weekly pointed out, “ham-stringing neighborhood groups, local activists and other honest critics who might see the stadium’s traffic congestion, LED billboards, and hundreds of millions of passing cars as too much environmental degradation for the benefits.”[v]

LA Live_110 Freeway_Ritz Carlton_Borders

From Google Streetview: The Ritz Carlton from the west, with the 110 Freeway in foreground.

The LA Times corroborated the issue, when the paper reported on a long-overdue meeting between AEG executives and community members from the Pico-Union neighborhood.[vi]  “Everyone, it seemed, had heard the gregarious pitch to add an NFL stadium to the development — except the people living just a few blocks away in the blue-collar immigrant neighborhood of Pico-Union.”  Pico-Union is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, just west of LA Live, separated by the 110 Freeway.  The LA Times reported mixed feelings: some residents of the neighborhood “say their neighborhood has been bypassed by the wave of prosperity that in recent years has transformed downtown,” while others felt that the “AEG-driven downtown transformation is a rising tide that lifts all boats– providing jobs to the communities of people living in the neighborhood.”  In this meeting, AEG representatives were also sure to remind the community that AEG had helped the neighborhood in a number of ways, “giving $3 million for low-income housing and $1 million for parks.”[vii]  In meetings with City officials, other details were perhaps more telling: In a preliminary approval meeting between AEG and the City Council concerning parking, Councilman Ed Reyes was direct in pointing out that AEG had not included Pico-Union in a preliminary parking study.  “It’s as if 70,000 people don’t exist on the other side of the freeway,” Reyes said.[viii]

The final details of the financing of this public-private project are yet-to-be determined, but will involve a partnership between the City and AEG, though AEG’s C.E.O. Tim Leiweke has publicly promised, “The City’s never going to have to pay a penny,”[ix] of the estimated $1.3 billion cost.  While taxpayers may not directly be paying for the stadium, public assets are certainly involved.  Under the proposed agreement, the City would lease the publicly owned land for the stadium to AEG (the price of this lease has not be determined or disclosed).  The City would also issue hundreds of millions of dollars in construction bonds to AEG (to be repaid) for the relocation and reconstruction of a portion of the City-owned Los Angeles Convention Center.

This is another element of the public-private deal.  To build Farmer’s Field on the already extremely tight parcel of land would require the demolition and relocation of the west wing of the Convention Center.  Boosters of the stadium tout this as yet another public benefit; the old wing is outdated and fails to attract the business it should be capable of.  (AEG has already released the architectural firm Populous’s renderings of the new Convention Center building, which AEG cryptically named LACOEX.)  This public-private investment is communicated by AEG and the City as win-win: the City leases the land and provides millions in repayable construction bonds to AEG, and in return receives a new NFL stadium and upgraded convention center, both of which will, more importantly, create new jobs and stimulate more economic growth for the city.  This is the public benefit in the partnership.

Perhaps the most startling detail in this plot is that AEG has yet to secure a team to play at Farmers Field, and won’t begin on financing a deal to acquire one until the City fully approves AEG’s development plan.  Relocating a football franchise is no small task, but AEG is operating on the principle that if you build it they will come.   AEG’s owner, Philip Anschutz, has publicly announced he is willing to buy an NFL team if this is what it takes to bring the NFL back to Los Angeles.[x]  Where this NFL team is lured from matters considerably when determining the benefits to the State economy, and for justification of the State granting legal protection to AEG. The State does not benefit from having one of its existing NFL teams (the Oakland Raiders or the San Diego Chargers for example) relocate to Los Angeles.  This situation does not create benefits like jobs, and tax revenue for the State—it merely moves them from one California location to another.

In April, the anticipated day came; AEG formally presented its massive 10,000-page draft EIR to the City.  Highlights of the report included findings on expected traffic impact, and there will be traffic: weekend events could generate 19,560 car trips, which would significantly impact 20 to 42 intersections.  On weekdays, 72 intersections would be affected for hours leading up to events.  This “unavoidable” consequence (definitely not a benefit) would be remedied by several transportation upgrades AEG will pay for, including: $2.4 million to add a northbound lane to the 101 freeway, widening of the Los Angeles Street ramp of the 10 freeway, and $10 million to upgrade the Blue/Expo/Silver Line metro station near Pico, which AEG will encourage fans to use for games and events.[xi] So the anticipated “benefits” would include massive traffic congestion remedied by some freeway and transit upgrades courtesy of AEG—oh, and don’t forget two new parking lots.

Now that the EIR has been delivered, there is a 45-day public comment period. Once the City Council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa approve the EIR, it is then open to legal challenges for a period of 175 days.  (This is when rival stadium developer Majestic can sue, and when local activists groups can’t afford to.)

In the mean time, a poll recently conducted by the Center for the Study of Los Angeles found that 49% of Angelenos surveyed support the proposed NFL stadium.  The other half either does not support it (39%), or has no opinion (12%).[xii] The need for an NFL team in Los Angeles should also be questioned; the City has somehow managed to avoid crumbling into the sea since the Raiders left in 1995, with many Angelenos instead choosing to support the local championship college team, the USC Trojans.  The need isn’t really for an NFL Team, but rather for a new NFL stadium.  And that need (complicated by rhetoric about economic benefits, both private and public) is very much contested.  With statements like: “An estimated $10.6 million of revenue generated by activities,” and “It is anticipated that the City of Los Angeles will receive over $27 million in general fund revenues each year,”[xiii] included in the EIR, it is easy to see why the City is salivating over the project.

The inclusion of the proposed downtown NFL stadium in alluring marketing materials for real estate (particularly AEG developed real estate) is telling.  The Agency, which represents the Ritz Carlton Residences at L.A. Live recently sent out a gleeful press release announcing its success at selling high-end units in the building.  “Most exciting for new residents is the development of the highly-anticipated Farmers Field, which will serve as the home of Los Angeles’s new NFL football team – so close the residents will be able to practically watch games from their windows.”[xiv]  The press release mentions several other projects in various states of planning and construction, which make the experience of living in downtown Los Angeles “high-end” and alluring:

The future of Downtown is unprecedented. Projects already underway include: the $1.1 billion, 2 million-square foot Wilshire-Grand mixed-use hotel project; the $40 million, 340,000-square foot FIGat7 retail mall with a 104,000 square foot Target store as its anchor tenant; and the $100 million, 120,000-square foot Eli Broad Art Museum[…][xv]

Diller Scofidio Renfro_Rendering_The Broad_Museum

That’s not even the correct name of the new museum…

UPDATE:  Since this writing, the proposed public-private partnership of Farmers Field seems to be dead.  AEG was suddenly put up for sale in September of last year by its owner Phillip Anschutz,[xvi] just as the City was approving the plans.  AEG was unable to secure an NFL team for Los Angeles, or a buyer for itself.  Last month it was announced that AEG was no longer for sale, and that CEO, Tim Leiweke, was leaving the company.[xvii]  The City is now deciding how to move forward with upgrades to the Convention Center without the AEG partnership.[xviii]  It seems that the huge amount of public resources already funneled into this dream project have been for naught.  On the upside, South Park, the neighborhood adjacent to LA Live, has seen tremendous grown in new construction projects.

[i] Connie Bruck, “The Man Who Owns L.A.,” New Yorker, January 2012.
[ii] Rich Connell, “Session on L.A. stadium project will allow public to share opinions,” Los Angeles Times, March 26, 2011.
[iii] Christopher Hawthorne, “AEG’s designs on downtown L.A. stadium,” Los Angeles Times, August 17, 2011.
[iv] Kate Lunthucum and Sam Farmer, “Jerry Brown signs bill that limits delays to L.A. stadium project,” Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2011.
[v] David Futch, “Farmers Field or Blade Runner Stadium?” LA Weekly, September 8, 2011.
[vi] Kate Linthicum, “Los Angeles stadium plans draw mixed reaction in downtown’s shadow,” Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2011.
[vii] Ibid.
[viii] Richie Duchon, “AEG unveils stadium traffic impact,” Daily Breeze, September 26, 2011.
[ix] Patrick McDonnell, “Leiweke says taxpayer funds won’t be used for NFL stadium in L.A.,” Los Angeles Times, February 9, 2011.
[x] Kate Linthicum and Sam Farmer, “Billionaire willing to buy NFL team to make L.A. stadium work,” Los Angeles Time, April 3, 2012.
[xi] Anschutz Entertainment Group, Draft Environmental Impact Report for Farmers Field, April 5, 2012.
[xii] Kate Linthicum, “Poll: Nearly half of Angelenos back idea of downtown NFL stadium,” Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2012.
[xiii] Anschutz Entertainment Group, Draft Environmental Impact Report for Farmers Field.
[xiv] The Agency, “Downtown In Demand: 11 Homes Sold In Past 30 Days at the Ritz-Carlton Residences at L.A. Live,” http://www.theagencyre.com/2012/03/downtown-in-demand-11-homes-sold-in-past-30-days-at-the-ritz-carlton-residences-at-l-a-live.
[xv] Ibid.
[xvi] Ethan Smith and Anupreeta Das, “Sports Giant, Part Owner of Lakers, Weighs Sale,” Wall Street Journal, September 18, 2012.
[xvii] Matthew Futterman, “Anschutz Pulls AEG Off Auction Block,” Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2013.
[xviii] Catherine Saillant, “L.A. Wants Convention Center Alternatives to AEG Stadium Plan,” Los Angeles Times, March 18, 2013.

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  1. […] Broad originally proposed a $1 a year for 99 years lease (a common lease agreement between cities and non-profits) for the city-owned land on which the museum will be built.  In return he would pay for the construction of an iconic museum building to accompany the other cultural monuments along Grand Avenue. But the deal wasn’t that simple; the construction of the museum necessitated a three-story parking garage to elevate the museum structure to street level (because of the topography of Bunker Hill). Only after L.A. County supervisor Michael Antonovich publicly opposed the $1 lease proposal,[ii]and a very private negotiation period, did Broad acquiesce to paying $7.7 million for a 99 year lease.  In exchange for the lease agreement, Broad—ever the “unreasonable” negotiator, convinced the City to use Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) funds for the construction of the foundational parking garage—his and the City’s rationale being that the garage would be utilized as a public amenity.  Broad would front the $30 million for the construction of the garage, and the City would repay him over the course of several years with CRA funds.  However, since this agreement was made, the CRA has been dissolved as a result of new State legislation, so the process of repayment remains to be seen.  The majority of the negotiation process of this public-private investment happened behind closed doors.   The only major concern was over Broad’s proposed $1 lease agreement, which the City Council did not ultimately approve.  Should the public’s opinion have been more addressed and represented in this process as it is in the case of AEG’s proposed Farmer’s Field? […]

  2. […] written and patented by the Guggenheim.  The solution to this is for cities to seek out public-private investment relationships.  This is where an increasingly large group of immensely rich art collectors comes into play (they […]

  3. […] let go easily of such a significant private investment.” But this is rapidly becoming a game of public-private investment with major cities competing against one another, with Lucas now having all the power. Lee’s list […]

  4. […] financing of these public-private investment partnerships should also be compared. Walton acquired an art collection and developed the museum […]

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