Holding a souvenir football emblazoned with the red-and-black Farmers Field logo, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a law that will fast-track lawsuits challenging AEG's proposed stadium in downtown Los Angeles.
Brown's signature marks the end of a yearlong lobbying frenzy by Anschutz Entertainment Group, which had warned that its $1.3 billion deal would collapse without protection from lengthy and complicated lawsuits.
The developer of Staples Center and the L.A. Live complex hopes to have the stadium built and an NFL team in place for the 2016 season.
Brown, who signed Senate Bill 292 at a crowded ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center, said he was backing the law because the state "has too many damn regulations."
"It's time for big ideas and big projects like this," said Brown, eliciting cheers from a group that included former Gov. Gray Davis, along with dozens of construction workers and jersey-clad members of the Roosevelt High School football team.
The governor also signed Assembly Bill 900, which expedites projects costing $100 million or more. Like SB 292, the law ensures that lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act - the state's landmark environmental law - go directly to the Court of Appeals and be heard within 175 days.
Already, politicians are looking at the law to see what local projects could fall under the legislation.
Sen. Alex Padilla, who drafted the AEG bill,
"The subway is a natural from a job-creation standpoint, from an investment standpoint, from an emission reduction and air quality standpoint," said Padilla, D-Van Nuys.
He also said the NBCUniversal expansion, a sprawling office and residential project that developer Thomas Properties has proposed for Universal City, could benefit from the bill.
Each bill is intended to spur construction and generate jobs by preventing delays from lawsuits challenging environmental impact reports, which are required for large projects.
Brown said the legislation to fast-track legal challenges was necessary to create jobs in a state with a 12.1 percent unemployment rate.
"A lot of people in this state are suffering," Brown told the crowd.
AEG projected that its project would generate as much as $40 million in tax revenue annually for Los Angeles and California, a figure that was challenged by the state's own analyst as too high. Additionally, the project would create 12,000 construction jobs and 11,000 permanent jobs, according to AEG.
"You see in Sacramento, they actually understand that the No. 1 deficit facing the state and the nation is the deficit of jobs," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who introduced Brown at the ceremony.
While the AEG bill had the support of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental group, other environmental groups were disappointed with Brown's decision to expedite environmental lawsuits for big developers.
Bruce Reznik, executive director of the Planning and Conservation League, said he was open to discussions about tweaking the law, but said the bills were rushed through for special interests.
"This is the continual chipping away of CEQA without a broader look at the law," Reznik said.
AEG hasn't received a commitment from the National Football League to bring a football team to Los Angeles, which saw the Rams and Raiders depart 16 years ago. AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke said the company would continue discussions with teams.
"I'm glad the leaders are behind us," Leiweke said. "It's a great message to the NFL that we're going to get this done."
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league was aware of the special legislation for AEG, but he offered little new information about a possible return to the greater Los Angeles region. Nor does the league have a timeline for making a decision to return.
"We do want to return to the area, but only under conditions that makes sense for the area and the NFL," McCarthy said. Those conditions, he added, included support for a stadium from the businesses community, the local community, as well as "long-term fan support."