A State Senator has claimed that he will “do whatever it takes” to speed a proposed new Sacramento Kings arena through environmental reviews.
But those same benefits aren't extended to the businesses that make California work, according to Assemblywoman Kristen Olsen (R-Modesto).
“Here's what is so sad and hypocritical about the California Legislature,” Olsen said. “If you are poor, if you are just an average businessman, good luck. You're not going to have a single thing waived for you.”
But for wealthy sports arena developers the “red carpet is rolled out,” Olsen said.
The roughly $450 million arena, planned for Sacramento's Downtown Plaza, is vying with a proposal to move the team to a new, Seattle arena. The NBA's decision on whether to keep the team in Sacramento or move it to Seattle could hinge on which arena can be completed soonest.
State Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) traveled to New York last month in support of the Sacramento bid, meeting with the NBA Board of Governors to assure them that California's often-onerous environmental laws would be smoothed for the proposed Sacramento arena.
“We were able to explain very clearly that Sacramento and California (are) prepared to do whatever it takes to avoid any unnecessary delay,” Steinberg told reporters in New York, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Last year, Steinberg backed a bill which existed only to fast-track legal challenges to a proposed downtown Los Angeles football stadium. The bill was drafted by prospective stadium builders Anschutz Entertainment Group.
A companion bill, also approved last year, offers similar expediting to some large projects which meet certain conditions, with the Governor's approval. To be eligible, projects must cost more than $100 million, meet green construction requirements, and fall in to a pre-approved developments category – sports arenas are one.
It remains unclear if the new Kings arena will qualify for the expediting, as a court ruling earlier this month struck down part of that law. Steinberg has indicated the Sacramento arena would still qualify.
But Olsen said that even if a new bill is required to ensure the Sacramento Kings arena can quickly clear environmental review, that bill will likely pass.
“This is a legislature that professes to care about the average Californian,” Olsen said. “But the only people we are willing to reform regulatory processes for are the wealthy and the powerful. That is a tremendous demonstration of hypocrisy in my mind.”
At the same time, the state legislature seems to “lack political will” to enact a comprehensive California Environmental Quality Act reform, despite Gov. Jerry Brown (D) backing such a measure.
That comes as many major industrial developments are leaving Stanislaus County due to onerous regulations; Post Foods will close a Modesto facility later this year, Modesto's New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant closed in 2010, and the Hilmar Cheese Company is now focusing growth on a Dalhart, Texas facility.
According to Olsen, all of those decisions came due to a “unpredictable and excessive regulatory climate.”
“We have to do something to start to unlock that oppressive regulatory climate that is killing jobs in our state,” Olsen said.