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The city of Inglewood calls failed lawsuit an attempt to “sabotage” $1.2-billion project

The proposed $1.2 billion Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center, which would bring thousands of jobs, hundreds of units of affordable housing and hundreds of millions in new and long-term tax revenue to the city of Inglewood, took another big forward this month when a judge threw out a lawsuit seeking to block the project.

In a significant victory for Inglewood, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy emphatically rejected the contention by Uplift Inglewood that the city violated the Surplus Land Act (SLA) when it entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Clippers to develop the arena complex. The project site is on 23 acres of municipal land at Prairie Avenue and West Century Boulevard.

Uplift argued that the arena site should have instead been used for affordable housing, in spite of the fact the Federal Aviation Administration declared in August that no housing will be allowed on that site because of noise from airplanes. The FAA has the final say on land-use issues under the flight paths of LAX.

The Surplus Land Act requires that any land deemed “unnecessary” for a civic purpose must first be considered for affordable housing development. But Murphy accepted Inglewood’s argument that the Clippers site had for years been reserved for the legitimate purpose of economic development, and thus was not “surplus” as defined by the law.

Murphy also agreed with the city’s contention that despite the surplus land law, no residential housing could be reintroduced on the site because it lies directly under the LAX flight path, where long-term exposure to jet noise poses a public health hazard “The City could reasonably conclude … that residential or school uses are inconsistent with the FAA grant assurances and City’s land-recycling program,” Murphy wrote. Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts hailed the ruling as a “tremendous victory for the people of Inglewood and a major step forward.

“The people of Inglewood have time and again stood up for, testified for and voted in favor of this project,” said Butts. “It would have been a travesty to allow a few malcontents to sabotage so much prosperity for this community.” “The Uplift claim had no legal merit,” said Skip Miller of Miller Barondess LLC, counsel for the City of Inglewood. “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.”

Construction and operation of the proposed 18,500-seat Arena complex are expected to generate 8,500 new jobs, inject $268 million into the local economy, and yield $190 million in additional tax revenue for Inglewood over the next 25 years.

The project also includes an unprecedented $100 million community benefits package, $75 million of which will be spent on new affordable housing for Inglewood, along with $5 million for renters’ assistance and first-time homebuyers.

The city’s legal filings with the court pointed out the irony of a purported citizens group that advocates for affordable housing filing a lawsuit that would derail a project promising a bonanza of affordable housing funds. The filings also pointed out that Uplift receives funding from the Madison Square Garden Co., which owns the Forum and is openly opposed to the Clippers project. The Clippers arena and entertainment complex would be a transformative one for Inglewood, Mayor Butts said

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