The $1-billion arena the Clippers want to build in Inglewood overcame another obstacle Wednesday when a judge ruled it did not violate the state’s Surplus Land Act.
Uplift Inglewood, a community group that advocates for affordable housing, alleged in a lawsuit filed last year that the exclusive negotiating agreement between Inglewood and a Clippers-controlled company breached the act requiring public agencies to give first preference to using extra land for housing, recreation and schools.
The project’s footprint includes 22 acres of long-vacant land owned by the city near the intersection of West Century Boulevard and South Prairie Avenue.
“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.”
Murphy, who heard the parties argue the case Tuesday, denied three of Uplift Inglewood’s claims and dismissed the two others.
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.”
The project still faces two lawsuits from the Madison Square Garden Co., which owns the nearby Forum and has been the most vocal critic of allowing a competing arena in Inglewood, in addition to a lawsuit by Inglewood Residents Against Taking and Evictions. The group, known by the acronym IRATE, last year lost a second case opposing the project. It is appealing.
MSG acknowledged in a court filing it is paying IRATE’s legal fees.
The arena complex, which would include Clippers offices, a practice facility, sports medicine clinic and hotel, is undergoing environmental review. Developers hope to start construction by mid-2021 and open the facility in time for the NBA 2024-25 season.