Official Defends Stadium Panel

The co-chairman of a commission appointed by the mayor to analyze plans for a downtown Los Angeles NFL stadium defended the panel’s independence Thursday in light of members’ ties to the developer of the proposed venue.

Deputy mayor and economic policy chief Austen Beutner said after the commission’s first meeting that all of the business and civic leaders on the panel are committed to doing what’s right for city residents.

“Just because they’ve known someone in the past, I don’t think prejudices them in any way shape or form,” said Beutner, who also noted that sports and entertainment company AEG played no role in selecting committee members.

The Associated Press reported last week that most members of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s commission on the proposed stadium had financial, political or civic ties with AEG, although Beutner was not among them.

AEG’s plan calls for the city to issue up to $350 million in bonds to relocate a huge convention center structure where the 64,000-seat stadium would be built. The company has promised to service that debt and pay any shortfalls.

City officials must also approve AEG’s lease for space on the city-owned convention center property. AEG has also said it will pick up the entire $1 billion tab for the stadium itself.

Beutner said the commission, which includes former Gov. Gray Davis, Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Michael Lynton, and Colony Capital LLC principal Richard Nanula, would not endorse a plan that didn’t provide a net gain to the city.

“This has the potential to be transformative,” he said. “But we need to do it right and our charge is to make sure it’s done right.”

AEG’s plan is one of two competing proposals that aim to bring football back to Los Angeles more than 15 years after the Rams and Raiders left the huge market.

Warehouse magnate Ed Roski has permits in place to build a 75,000-seat stadium about 15 miles east of Los Angeles in the city of Industry.

Both camps have said they hope to recruit a team — and possibly two — from among those in the league that need a new stadium to maximize revenue but are unable to get one built in their current locations.