Challenge flag thrown
Residents file lawsuit over Rose Bowl as clock ticks down on NFL coming to LA
By André Coleman 01/10/2013
The six-weeks allowed for NFL team owners to inform league Commissioner Roger Goodell of intentions to move to Los Angeles — and possibly play temporarily in the Rose Bowl — started counting down New Year’s Day.
Meanwhile, neighborhood groups have filed a lawsuit to prevent a pro team from playing in the historic stadium, a possibility which they believe would severely disrupt their quality of life.
According to the lawsuit, city officials violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when the City Council amended the City Charter to allow more events in the Rose Bowl. The amendment, which upped the number of major events at the Rose Bowl from 12 to 25, was necessary to allow an NFL team to play in the stadium while a permanent home field stadium is being built in Los Angeles or City of Industry.
According to a press release issued by the newly formed Coalition for the Preservation of the Arroyo (CPA), “The EIR failed to identify and the city failed to adopt performance-based enforceable mitigations for football in the Central Arroyo weekend after weekend and some weekdays for at least six months a year; double the current Rose Bowl traffic, air pollution, noise [and] trash.”
The CPA is joined in the lawsuit, which was filed Friday by the East Arroyo Neighborhood Protection Committee, the Linda Vista Annandale Association and the San Rafael Neighborhoods Association.
“The negative impacts of the NFL project on the quality of life of the East Arroyo neighborhoods, ranging from serious nuisances that include excessive traffic, noise, trash and crime, to serious health consequences that may result from increased cumulative air pollution and sever limits to weekend recreational access within our prized Central Arroyo parkland, are simply too much to ignore,” said Jonas Peters, chair of the East Arroyo Neighborhood Protection Committee.
Pasadena Public Information Officer William Boyer said that the city had not been served with the lawsuit as of Jan. 3, but officials have reviewed a copy of the suit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in Pasadena.
“The lawsuit doesn’t come as a surprise, based on the testimony we received at public hearings,” Boyer said. “So we were expecting there would be a lawsuit.”
Boyer said the City Attorney’s Office was reviewing the document.
On Monday, the council met in closed session to negotiate rental agreements with the Tournament of Roses Association, which rents the structure for the Rose Bowl Game each year, and UCLA, which currently uses the stadium as its home field during football season.
In October, the Pasadena City Council voted 7-1, with only Councilman Terry Tornek voting no, to certify the $400,000 environmental impact report, which concluded there would be increases in traffic, noise and pollution in the area on game days. The report states that the problems could be alleviated, but stopped short of providing possible solutions.
Council members Jacque Robinson and Steve Madison, whose districts include the stadium and surrounding neighborhoods, voted to approve the EIR and expand the number of events at the stadium. Many of Madison’s constituents were so incensed that they started a drive to recall the councilman from office.
According to City Clerk Mark Jomsky, Madison has not yet been served with recall papers. A former federal prosecutor who is now a private attorney, Madison has been out of town on a case and could not be reached for comment.
“The poor quality and minimal EIR underscores the city’s lack of commitment to protecting the Arroyo neighborhoods, including the Linda Vista-Annandale neighborhood, from the proposed NFL use of the Rose Bowl for five continuous years,” said CPA spokesperson Nina Chomsky. “Similarly, the city has demonstrated no commitment to protect and preserve the Central Arroyo that is valued and used by thousands upon thousands of Pasadena residents for enjoyment of recreation and open space.”
Residents living around the stadium have long opposed an NFL team playing there. In 2005, the council voted 4-3 to exit negotiations with the NFL after league representatives demanded stadium control, which included naming rights and adding thousands of retail square feet, which would have destroyed green space in the area.
After those negotiations fell apart, former Councilman Chris Holden led an effort to force the city back to the bargaining table by putting the issue up to vote. However, voters overwhelmingly voted against a team playing in the stadium permanently.
City officials say that the latest possible negotiations will be different from 2005, primarily because the city would maintain control over the stadium and the area.
A lawsuit may be the residents’ last chance to stop the city from negotiating with the league. Team owners have until Feb. 15 to express interest to Goodell about moving a team to Los Angeles. That team would play either in a stadium planned for City of Industry or in Farmers Field, which is being built in downtown Los Angeles next to LA Live and the LA Convention Center.
But before ground can be broken on either facility, a team must first move to Los Angeles, which means that team could play temporarily in the Rose Bowl.
Los Angeles has not had a football team since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995. The former LA Raiders moved to Oakland, the city where the team started out, in 1994.
Shortly before the 2012 NFL season began, Goodell wrote a memo to team owners laying out the ground rules for moving to Los Angeles.
“None of the franchises will receive permission to move to the vacant Los Angeles market until at least 2013,” said Goodell, who at the time was in Minnesota speaking at a meeting regarding the Minnesota Vikings’ plan to leave St. Paul for Los Angeles.
Goodell had previously gone on record in a Nov. 10 Los Angeles Times story, stating that a pro football stadium must be constructed before any team can move to LA.
“Until there’s an appropriate solution in Los Angeles, there won’t be a team there.” the Times quoted the commissioner saying. “One, you have to get it built. Two, you have to have it financed. And three, it has to be able to generate the kind of revenue that’s necessary to keep a team successful. Last, but not least, make sure it works for the community.”
The league would not comment on whether any teams have applied to move. In November, ESPN reported that Carolina Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson had been contacted by AEG, owners of LA Live and architects of the Farmers Field project, about moving to Los Angeles.