- Written by Ken Alpern
28 Sep 2012
ALPERN AT LARGE - Are you stressed? I know I’m stressed. Frankly, just about everyone I know is stressed. Employment (or lack thereof), kids, keeping up with all the e-mails and tweets and texts and reality shows, agonizing over whether Snooki or Kim Kardashian means less to our daily lives, poring over the data and pundits as to whether it’ll be Obama or Romney who will lead us into the next inevitable economic downturn of 2013…and now…now…NOW…we learn that AEG is…for…sale!
You know AEG, right? That stands not for “Absolutely Everything Goes” or “Attitude Et Gumption”, but for Anschutz Entertainment Group, run by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz and which owns and manages the LA Live Complex, the LA Kings and Galaxy, Staples Center, LA Live, a minority stake in the Lakers and probably a majority stake in the LA City Council.
And now it’s for sale, and it’s gonna be big!
Needless to say, there are a few city and state politicians who are pretty freaked out, considering that this sale announcement comes in the middle of all sorts of local and Sacramento exemptions to those pesky things we call laws. Environmental, planning and a host of preliminary studies and input are being waived or minimized to encourage a redo of the L.A. Convention Center and a stadium for a potential new LA football team.
In the middle of all this are AEG CEO Tim Leiweke and Mayor Villaraigosa, who are being understandably pummeled by both business leaders and the press as to how long this sale was known to be in the works, and where this would leave the Convention Center/Football Stadium billion-dollar construction project. Leiweke’s phone is ringing to the point it might explode and Villaraigosa’s relationship with the press has been testier than usual.
It’s unfair to presume that either Leiweke or Villaraigosa knew when this sale was going to take place, but it’s just plain naïve to presume they didn’t know the sale was in the works…and it’s certain they DID know it WAS going to take place. Villaraigosa said as much to the press (he knew about a potential sale but didn’t know when it would occur), but the timing just after his chairmanship of the DNC in Charlotte can’t be just dismissed.
Furthermore, although Leiweke has a deserved reputation as a shaker, mover, and a man who can make things happen, it’s a very fair question to ask if all the very recent LA City Hall and Sacramento fast-tracking of the planning, traffic and environmental requirements would have been so quickly implemented had this sale been known about all along.
Are Leiweke and Villaraigosa still both committed to the Convention Center/Football Stadium project? Unless they’ve had a collective brain transplant, it would be silly to doubt that commitment…and since the sale was not their call, it might even be argued they were in the middle of all this and deserve a moment of sympathy.
But that moment needs to wait until the howls of outrage and betrayal from blindsided business leaders, political leaders and community leaders are over. The questions as to whether there is enough parking and traffic mitigation for this massive Downtown project are now being asked at a higher decibel level than ever before, and the queries as to whether the new owners of AEG (whoever they are!) will do the right thing for City residents and businesses are now equally loud.
Among those questions is whether Villaraigosa and Leiweke should have delayed this project until the sale was complete…but that would have doomed the project to following the rules like everyone else, right? And it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission, right? And the current ownership of AEG invariably has a better track record of successful Downtown projects than the newbie owners, right?
So we’re now banking on the sincerity and persistence of Leiweke and Villaraigosa to seal the deal on a Convention Center and Football Stadium to power up the economy of 21st Century Los Angeles (not sure about the stadium, but the Center is probably a vital addition), all the while knowing that Leiweke could always be replaced by a new AEG owner and knowing that Villaraigosa will be no longer be mayor next year because of term limits.
I admit to having a softer spot in my heart, and a healthier respect in my mind, for big-vision guys like Villaraigosa and Leiweke than do most of my grassroots planning/transportation colleagues. I’m guessing that most local/grassroots folks who actually care about all this civic intrigue are getting out their voodoo dolls and stabbing them repeatedly, screaming something like, “Take that, Tim and Antonio!”
So Leiweke and Hizzoner the Mayor shouldn’t blame me for any unexplained backaches, but I do understand why the stabbers feel the way they do.
As for the new powerbroker who will lead AEG (which might change its name after the sale), all I can recommend is to promise City Hall, Sacramento, and both county and city residents that you will INCREASE any traffic/rail/transportation mitigations for the Convention Center/Football Stadium project over what was previously promised as a gesture of good will. For starters, you can throw in some hideously-unmet parking needs for the current and future Expo and Wilshire Rail Lines that will carry commuters, fans and businessmen Downtown.
Because while a new study suggests that (Surprise! Gasp!) senior executives do NOT suffer stress and anxiety like the rest of us in the lower economic echelons, the stresses of traffic, access to Downtown and lack of parking do rank high among those of us who’ve had this Convention Center/Football Stadium project rammed down our collective throat.
Add that to the collective stress of this huge Downtown project either falling apart, or being flawed and hurtful to the City from its inception, and you’ve got a lot of anxiety reduction that’s needed for those living, loving and stressing in the City of the Angels.
Vol 10 Issue 78
Pub: Sept 28, 2012