You may already know this, but I have an addiction.
It’s not a problem yet, but it could become one. You see, I’m addicted to sports. Doesn’t matter what type of sport – I can’t resist a ticket to a game. In the last few years I’ve been to the Summer and Winter Olympics in Brazil and South Korea, I’ve been to the Women’s World Cup Final in France, I’ve bought season tickets to CSUN Basketball (go Matadors), Los Angeles Football Club, Rams and Chargers. If you need me, you can find me at the game.
And the reason it could become a real problem is because there are just so many new teams and so much new energy in Los Angeles. We have 11 major league teams, some of the best college sports in the country, and we’re going to host the MLB All-Star Game, the Super Bowl, World Cup, and the Olympics in the next decade. I’ll be there for all of it.
I will say that we could use a National Women’s Soccer League team, if anyone out there is listening…but I digress.
The thing is, there are only two things I care more about than sports. First is my family: my wife and our kids. And second is making sure that the San Fernando Valley will be a good place for my kids to grow up, to get a good education, a good job, and eventually a good place for them to live and raise their own kids.
And sports can help with that. We have some exciting opportunities to bring sports venues and attractions to the San Fernando Valley in the next few years. And trust me when I tell you that I’m doing everything I can to attract a major league team here to call our Valley home. Sports can help drive our economy, bringing tourism and entertainment dollars, visibility, jobs and a sense of place to our region.
There are a lot of policies that our elected leaders can do to attract major sports teams, and they have done so over the last few years. One of the biggest assists that the Legislature has provided is an expedited environmental review process when new facilities and venues are being built.
And that’s good – while we all know that California’s environmental laws are well-intentioned, they can be hijacked by a small number of vocal neighbors who abuse the law to bring years of needless litigation in an attempt to delay a project they don’t like.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the abuse of these laws can stop our whole Valley from moving forward. We see it with housing: even if a project has been subject to rigorous local planning and approval processes, one unreasonable neighbor with enough money to retain an attorney can single-handedly delay new homes being built for hundreds of families.
And our legislators know this. That’s why they’ve helped protect regionally important projects from this type of abuse, usually by limiting the number of days that lawsuits can be brought or requiring that projects be reviewed within a certain period of time.
As much as I love sports, I know that our economy can’t grow through new sports teams alone.
We need housing – housing for our employees so they don’t have to commute for hours every week, housing for students who are trying to complete their education, supportive housing for people who need time to work through mental health and substance abuse challenges. Housing for my kids, so they don’t move somewhere far from me when they grow up and want their own homes.
It may feel hopeless, but this is the moment that our legislators, local elected officials, and neighbors need to come together. Not to throw more money at the problem – with Measure H and HHH, we’ve tried that. But the projects that we’re trying to build with those dollars are being delayed by the same abusive tactics that are delaying private developments.
We’ve known for years that abuse of California’s environmental laws needs to be addressed. And we know how to address it. Now we need to extend those protections to housing developments. The only way to truly address our housing crisis is to build housing – without years of delays. None of our neighbors should struggle to pay rent – our Valley is traditionally a place that’s more affordable to raise your family.
So let’s get it done, so we can turn our attention to what will really make our Valley great: bringing that women’s soccer team to the Valley.
Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Van Nuys that represents employers in the San Fernando Valley at the local, state and federal levels of government.