The Los Angeles Clippers and Inglewood cleared a hurdle in planning a new arena Wednesday, when a judge sided with them in a lawsuit from a community group.
In a claim filed in June 2018, the Uplift Inglewood Coalition alleged that the Surplus Land Act was violated when Inglewood officials entered into a 36-month exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) with Clippers-controlled entity Murphy’s Bowl, LLC in the summer of 2017 over an arena project on a city-owned site. A state law, the Surplus Land Act stipulates that public bodies must grant first priority to affordable housing development when selling extra public land. With the lawsuit, the Uplift Inglewood Coalition was seeking to have a judge void the contract between the city and the Clippers, with the institution of a 60-day bidding period allowing for other parties to bid on the land for affordable housing or uses such as park space.
The trial concluded on Tuesday, leading to a decision Wednesday from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy that determined the Clippers and Inglewood did not violate the Surplus Land Act. In his decision, Murphy denied three claims from Uplift Inglewood while dismissing two others. More from the Los Angeles Times:
“Even if the ENA leads to an offer from Murphy’s Bowl to acquire the Property, Petitioner cites no evidence or contractual terms that would prevent City from complying with the [Act] prior to entering a final sale agreement with Murphy’s Bowl,” Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Daniel S. Murphy wrote in a 31-page opinion. “While Petitioner argues that [Act] negotiations by City at that point would not be in good faith, the court is not persuaded that the evidence supports that conclusion.”…
Uplift Inglewood’s attorneys said in a statement they were “extremely disappointed and perplexed” by the ruling and pledged the group “will continue to consider all of its options to hold [Inglewood] accountable to state affordable housing laws.”
Attorneys for Inglewood argued the land couldn’t be used for housing because of its proximity to Los Angeles International Airport flight paths and opposition from the Federal Aviation Administration because of aircraft noise.
Murphy wrote there is “compelling evidence” that Inglewood acquired the property to “address negative impacts of aircraft noise from LAX” and convert the parcels to uses that are “noise-compatible” and “revenue-generating.”
In separate press statements, representatives of Uplift Inglewood characterized the ruling as effectively giving Inglewood a pass on complying with the Surplus Land Act, while counsel for the city praised the decision.
“The Uplift Inglewood Coalition demonstrated to the Court that the only obstacle to compliance with the Surplus Land Act and other affordable housing laws, and building healthy housing on these sites, is political will,” Katie McKeon, attorney with Public Counsel, said in a press statement. “The Court’s decision gives the City a pass on compliance with the SLA at a time of grave affordable and homeless crisis. As part of its #HomesBeforeArenas campaign, Uplift Inglewood will continue to consider all of its options to hold the City accountable to state affordable housing laws”
“The Uplift claim had no legal merit,” Skip Miller of Miller Barondess, LLC, counsel for the City of Inglewood, said in a press statement. “Their sole purpose was to block economic development in Inglewood, and the Court saw through what they were doing and made the correct legal decision.”
The Uplift Inglewood lawsuit is not the only legal challenge that has been levied against the arena proposal. Most prominently, Madison Square Garden Co.–owner of Inglewood’s Forum, a venue located less than a mile from the site targeted for the Clippers’ project–has filed lawsuits seeking to prevent the proposal from moving forward.
The Clippers are pitching a privately financed 18,500-seat arena in Inglewood that would be completed by the 2024-25 NBA season. The venue would anchor The Inglewood Basketball & Entertainment Center, a 26-acre project located on West Century Boulevard between South Prairie Avenue and South Yukon Avenue that would also include the team’s business and basketball offices, training facility, community and retail spaces. Detailed plans on the proposal, including renderings of the arena and surrounding area, were released in July.
Rendering courtesy L.A. Clippers.
RELATED STORIES: LA Clippers Arena Trial Wraps Up; FAA Okays Most of Clippers Arena Development Plan; Clippers Arena Plan Stalls Amidst Questions on Environmental Implications;Steve Ballmer Confident LA Clippers Arena Plan Will Come to Fruition; Clippers Makeover Part of New Arena Plan?; New L.A. Clippers Arena Plans Unveiled; Silver Offers Public Support for Clippers’ Proposed Inglewood Arena; DA’s Office: Inglewood Violated Law in Launching Clippers Arena Talks; Lawsuit Over Proposed LA Clippers Arena Will Proceed;MSG Pitched Los Angeles Lakers on Forum Return; Clippers Countersue MSG Amidst Dispute Over Proposed Inglewood Arena; Proposed Clippers Arena Looms Over Inglewood Mayoral Race; Governor Signs Bill Related to Proposed LA Clippers Arena; Legislators Approve LA Clippers Arena Bill; Barbara Boxer Joins Fight Against Proposed Clippers Inglewood Arena; Lawsuit Filed Over Proposed LA Clippers Arena; Officials Back Clippers Inglewood Arena Legislation; Forum Owner Sues Over Proposed Clippers Inglewood Arena; Details on Proposed LA Clippers Arena Emerge; Legislation Pitched for Proposed LA Clippers Arena; Inglewood to Vote on Land for LA Clippers Arena; The Forum Owners File Claim Against Inglewood; Inglewood Approves LA Clippers Agreement; Inglewood to Vote on LA Clippers Agreement; Report: Los Angeles Clippers Considering Inglewood Arena