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By Jeremy B. White

A bill hastening the environmental review process for the planned downtown Kings arena would forestall the threat of lawsuits while keeping to a tight NBA-imposed deadline, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said on Friday.

On Thursday night, The Bee's Tony Bizjak reported that the Democratic leader and other area lawmakers would advance a bill to speed up the arena review process. In an interview with reporters this morning, Steinberg called the bill a mechanism for keeping the arena project on track.

"I have been an unabashed supporter of this once in a generation economic development opportunity in the hub of our region, and I will be backed by a majority if not all the members of the greater Sacramento delegation," Steinberg said.

Steinberg stressed that the bill would not exempt the arena building from the environmental oversight required by the California Environmental Quality Act. But it would allow the city to exercise eminent domain and claim land for the arena while the environmental review is under way.

"We just want to make sure that while whatever is required by the environmental document is done by the project developers and the city, that the project is not held up by months or years by a lawsuit which lingers for a long time," Steinberg said.

Similar concerns about lawsuits bogging down development have surrounded this year's push to alter the California Environmental Review Act. Steinberg has carried the CEQA overhaul bill, which is before the Assembly Appropriations Committee today, and while he said the Kings arena language would not go into the CEQA bill he drew a parallel between the two.

"When it comes to infill projects, when it comes to high wage, big job-opportunity projects, we ought to do all that is reasonable to expedite the process," Steinberg said.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Temp Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua


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