Get ready, Los Angeles football fans! The NFL is coming to town. The LA Times reports that Governor Schwarzenegger has signed a bill "exempt[ing a] proposed 75,000-seat stadium from state environmental laws[, an action] . . . intended to hasten the planning process." Exempting the project from California's environmental law is a considerable step toward its completion. This is because the "environmental law" to which this legislation principally provides an exemption is the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA"). See Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21000, et seq.
Briefly, under CEQA, state agencies and municipalities must prepare threshold environmental studies for discretionary projects--including, for example, the issuance of a permit to build a stadium--that "may cause either a direct physical change in the environment, or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change." Id. § 21065. If an initial study concludes that a project may have a significant effect on the environment, the state entity may have to prepare an Environmental Impact Report ("EIR"). Id. § 21100. An EIR is a comprehensive assessment of the project's potential adverse environmental impacts, and it can be extremely costly and time consuming. Id. Moreover, there are various other procedural hoops the Act imposes on proponents of a project, and the overall process can sometimes extend for years. (for more on CEQA, click here).
Exempting a project as large as the Los Angeles Stadium from CEQA's strict requirements places it on a substantially expedited track. While some commentators have questioned whether this action could be one of many affirmatively initiating a concerted attack on CEQA,it is great news that LA will be getting an NFL team. I suppose this begs the question: what team will soon arrive in SoCal? The Vikings? The Jaguars? What about the Raiders? (I hope not.) Even the Chargers are being thrown around as a possible suitor. With the extraordinary proposed facilities, and the solid infrastructure of Los Angeles County, any prospective franchise would be quite lucky.