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Proposed Clippers arena in Inglewood clears legal obstacle

Proposed Clippers arena in Inglewood clears legal obstacle
A view of the vacant land and site of the proposed Clippers Arena Inglewood project in Inglewood. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The arena complex the Clippers want to build in Inglewood has cleared at least one legal obstacle.

In an opinion issued late last month, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff found that the three-year exclusive negotiating agreement between Inglewood and a Clippers-controlled company to explore building the arena didn’t violate California’s Environmental Quality Act.

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“All the surrounding circumstances considered, the court does not find the circumstances surrounding the approval of the ENA [exclusive negotiating agreement] demonstrated a commitment by the City to a definite course of action,” Beckloff wrote.

The group Inglewood Residents Against Takings and Evictions, known as IRATE, sued Inglewood in June 2017, days after the City Council green-lighted the agreement with Murphy’s Bowl LLC. IRATE alleged Inglewood should have conducted an environmental review of the privately financed project before the ENA’s approval.

The judge noted the parties later revised the ENA — the City Council passed the amended version in August 2017 — but details of the proposed arena remained vague.

Little has been made public about the project that would be built on 23 acres of land — most vacant lots owned by Inglewood and two city-run agencies — along West Century Boulevard between South Prairie Avenue and South Yukon Avenue. The arena would seat between 18,000 and 20,000 people in a complex including a practice facility, team offices, sports medicine clinic, parking and more.

The judge pointed out that the ENA doesn’t specify the arena’s exact location, how tall the building would be or whether the parking would be on surface lots, underground or a garage.

“Based on the foregoing, the court agrees an EIR would be premature because any analysis of the environmental impacts would be ‘wholly speculative and essentially meaningless,’ ” Beckloff wrote.

At least five other lawsuits linked to the project — which is in the midst of an 18-month environmental review — have been filed.

Three of the lawsuits have come from the Madison Square Garden Co., which owns the nearby Forum and is the arena’s staunchest opponent, in addition to a second lawsuit IRATE filed in August. A second community group, Uplift Inglewood, has also sued over the proposed project. And Murphy’s Bowl countersued MSG last month.

The Clippers have a lease to play at Staples Center, which they share with the Lakers and Kings, through the 2024 season.

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