Culver City Observer -

City of Carson Prepares for Chargers

Part 2 of 2

 

August 3, 2017

Fred Altieri

Carson City Hall

The hottest ticket in town is the City of Carson. The Los Angeles Chargers drew thousands of enthusiastic fans to their opening day of training camp at the Jack Hammett Complex in Costa Mesa last Saturday morning. Carson residents can only smile as the Chargers begin their three-year run at the city's StubHub Center next Sunday, August 13.

There are multiple reasons why the city will host the Chargers for the next three seasons. Geographic location, state-of-the-art athletic fields, civic planning, developed and upgraded infrastructures and a progressive business climate come to mind. But the key factors are the residents, City Hall, the schools, local businesses and people who work there.

The 19 square miles of Carson with a population that's approaching 100,000 has seven elected city officials and nine major city departments. Over the past decade the city has fostered and elevated its status to becoming a model of municipal cooperation and economic success in Southern California and beyond.

None of it is lost on Carson Mayor Albert Robles: "At this point in time Carson is at a phenomenal stage in our development. We have land that is available for development and there are a lot of exciting projects coming into the city."

"And we're only going to adding more in the next few years. It's going to be an incredible expansion of development in the city. We just invested over $20 million on Carson Street. We've improved it from the 110 Freeway to the 405 and it's almost finished. Now that it's opened up people are impressed: "Carson Street looks awesome."

"It's an exciting place to be and the word is getting out that Carson's location is second to none with accessibility to four major freeways to the two busiest ports in the United States. Two international airports, LAX and Long Beach are literally within a 20-minute drive on the 405 in either direction."

In the next three years thousands of housing units are being planned, ideally coinciding with the city's 50th Anniversary next year and the Chargers arrival. It's also the result of the city being able to reclaim land from its former landfills that once compromised development.

"Now we have the intersection of the price of land and the technology to address and litigate those environmental conditions are crossing at this time or it's now economical. I submit to you in four or five years Carson will be a city on par with any other large city in the country because of our development."

Robles leads a core of city officials in managing the completed, current and future projects: Mayor Pro Tempere Lula Davis-Holmes, Council Members Elito Santarina, Jawane Hilton and Cedric Hicks, Sr., City Clerk Donesia Gause and City Treasurer Monica Cooper.

Particularly instrumental are the department heads and staff. Robles: "We're very lucky to have an experienced professional City Manager in Ken Farfsing. He has 20-plus years of experience in knowledge and knowhow that he brings to the city. He is the best city manager that we have had in decades in terms of his leadership ability."

"Idris Al-Oboudi, our Director of Parks and Recreation and Community Services who came from Manhattan Beach. He's very well regarded, a national speaker on parks and the value of parks in the community. Already in the short time he's been here he's already coming up with ideas to make a difference."

"John Raymond is our Economic Development Director. He was the economic development director in Palm Springs for almost 20 years and was responsible for transforming Palm Springs. He's been here for two years and has been responsible for the recent development."

"We have an incredible Finance Director in Kathryn Downs who came from the City of Rancho Palos Verdes. To show her value, for the first time in 10 years since Kat came here we approved the budget on time two years in a row. It hasn't happened in over a decade. As a result our bond rating has gotten better."

Other municipal services define the commitment. There are very few cities that have created more senior programs than Carson, which has a large senior population. The same can be said about its military veteran population.

"We have a very strong appreciation for our veterans. We have a Veterans Commission that's dedicated to recognizing and showing our appreciation for our veterans. We have a grand opening planned in a month or so for our first veterans' housing development." said Robles.

"We made a pledge two years ago to eradicate veteran homelessness. My dream of being Mayor of Carson would not have been possible without the sacrifice of people who paid the ultimate price for the right for not only me to vote to also run for office. I'm most appreciative of that."

A major player and partner within the city is Cal State University, Dominguez Hills. The four-year school is one of the fastest growing universities in California and is expecting over 5,200 incoming freshman and transfer students this school year. With 15,000 students, it is one of the most ethnically diverse universities in the United States.

CSU Dominguez Hills also happens to be the home of the StubHub Center and the VELO Sports Center, the only world-class velodrome in the Western United States. The 8,000-seat StubHub Center Tennis Stadium is adjacent to the StubHub Center football and soccer stadium. The venues host championship boxing, international soccer, USTA tennis events, concerts...

Robles: "StubHub is one of those attractions that is recognized around the world. When people think of StubHub they also think L.A but it's in Carson. When they come here they're like: "Oh, wow. This is a great city. It has all these amenities."

"We also had Porsche experience just open six months ago and it's incredibly successful. I go there for lunch sometimes and I can't get a table and I'm the mayor of the city. And that's good. I've been disappointed twice but that's what we wanted. We wanted it to be busy."

The South Bay Pavilion is doing well. Carson just had its first movie theater open in the city three years ago after a 20-year drought without a movie theater. Light manufacturing is relocating into the city. A large luggage distributor recently moved their headquarters to Carson.

Right across the street from City Hall they're going to be building over 300 luxury apartments and two restaurants on the ground floor. A development across another street opened up a few years ago. The Renaissance just opened up six years ago.

The Macerich Company, the second largest developer in the country, is going to build a premier high-end fashion mall on 40 acres of the 157-acre site the city received for free as a result of not winning the NFL franchise bid early last year.

Macerich was so committed that upon signing the document they gave Carson $4 million, $2 million of which is non-refundable to the city. If the project is not finished in three years the city gets $11 million. Carson has a vested interest in having it open sooner than later because of the expected tax revenue.

Carson is a sports city and has more parks on a per capita basis than a vast majority of the cities. Carson has a rich high school sports tradition and often a powerhouse in football, track, baseball, basketball and now soccer.

"We get soccer leagues that want to schedule this activity for this park. We have to tell them: "Sorry, it's booked up." "How about the next day?" "It's booked." "How about the next day?" "It's booked." Our parks are in constant demand," said Robles.

"With all that said, our residents are obviously concerned about how is this going to impact traffic. How is this going to be a strain on the resources of the city? It's all great to have a football team but... is it costing the city money?"

"The Chargers and AEG have committed that it will not cost the city a single dime. There will be zero costs to be shared by the city in the Chargers being here. If anything, the city hopes to reap a significant financial windfall from that experience."

The residents expressed a concern about public safety. Robles explained that public safety is being looked at, re-evaluated and revised taking into account that everything is possible.

Captain Jason Skeen and others from the Department just came back from Washington, D.C. to learn the latest about providing security at NFL-type settings and stadiums. Robles expressed no doubt that when the residents learn all the facts that they will come to appreciate it.

"At the end of the day there's always residents, that no matter what, don't want like change, don't want change... So we're never going to be able to satisfy everyone 100% of the time."

"But as long as our residents know: number one, it's not costing us any money, zero. Number two, their public safety is a priority of the city, priority for AEG and a priority of the Chargers. Number three, traffic and parking mitigating pressures will be a minimal inconvenience to anyone."

Fred Altieri

StubHub Center located on the campus of Cal State University, Dominguez Hills

"The fact that we have a diverse community, the fact that we have a Cal State University in our jurisdiction and the climate here makes Carson attractive. We're the beneficiaries of getting the cross current winds from the west and the south. We get the ocean breezes constantly."

"Based on my interactions, based on my colleagues interactions, based on the nature and culture here in Carson I'm confident that the vast majority of the residents appreciate having a professional sports team in the Galaxy here and the opportunity to now showcase our city in the form of NFL football fans."

"To be the mayor at this moment in our history is an incredible honor. To be the mayor, period, is an honor in of itself. What happens in the next two to three years is literally going to have a lasting effect on the city for decades to come."

 

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