JUDGE SIDES WITH INGLEWOOD, THROWS OUT LAWSUIT SEEKING TO DERAIL PROPOSED CLIPPERS ARENA

Rules the project site is not “surplus land”, as Uplift Inglewood claims;

The city calls lawsuit an attempt to “sabotage” a $1.2-billion project.



Proposed Clippers Area In Inglewood

In a victory for the City of Inglewood, a Los Angeles

Superior Court Judge today threw out a lawsuit seeking to block the proposed Los Angeles

Clippers arena by arguing that the city-owned arena site should have instead been used for

affordable housing. Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy rejected the primary argument by the so-called Uplift Inglewood group that the city violated the state Surplus Land Act (SLA) when it entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement a Clipper's entity involving the proposed $1.2-billion arena and entertainment complex on 23 acres of municipal land at Prairie Avenue and WestCentury Boulevard. The law 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 is not “surplus” as defined by the law. “The City did not abuse its discretion in determining the property remains necessary for the agency’s use and is not surplus land,” Murphy concluded in a 31-page opinion. 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 the flight path, where long-term exposure to jet noise poses a public health hazard. The project site is among the many noise-impacted parcels the city acquired with $120 Federal Aviation Administration and LAX funds to relocate residents and “recycle’ to more appropriate commercial and industrial uses, where exposure to jet noise is limited.

“[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.


“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.”


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.”


John Spiegel, a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson, which represents the Clippers entity

developing the project, said: “We are pleased with the outcome of the hearing, which paves

the way for a project that will return not only professional basketball to Inglewood, but brings $75 million for affordable housing.”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. Its project comes with a $100 million community benefits package, $75 million of which will be reserved for the development of up to 400 affordable housing units, rent relief and financial assistance for 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 Inglewood has

received funding from the Madison Square Garden Co., which owns the Forum and is

openly opposed to the rival project. While the city has successfully recruited many such businesses to land acquired with FAA funds, the 65 parcels in question at the heart of the proposed arena site have been particularly difficult to develop, as they are closest to LAX. In its court filings, the city cited six potential commercial developments that have fallen through between 1987 and 2008.

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