LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Wednesday threw out a lawsuit seeking to block the proposed L.A. Clippers arena in the City of Inglewood in a battle with residents who say the site should instead be used for affordable housing.
The $1.2 billion development on 22 acres of city-owned land between Prairie Avenue and West Century Boulevard was opposed in court documents filed in June 2018 by the Uplift Inglewood Coalition. Activists from the group claim the city violated the state’s Surplus Land Act by failing to give first priority to a possible affordable housing development before entering an exclusive negotiating agreement with developers.
Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy rejected that argument in a 31-page opinion, however, instead accepting the city’s position that the site had been reserved for years for the purpose of economic development.
“The City did not abuse its discretion in determining the property remains necessary for the agency’s use and is not surplus land,” the opinion reads in part.
The judge also agreed with the city’s argument that heavy air traffic over the site, which lies under the LAX flight path, would create a public health hazard, rendering it unsafe to build residential housing.
“[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 called 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,” Butts continued. “It would have been a travesty to allow a few malcontents to sabotage so much prosperity for this community.”
In a statement issued by the attorneys representing Uplift Inglewood, the activists said they were “extremely disappointed and perplexed” by the ruling.
“The purpose of the Surplus Land Act is to make public land available for affordable housing when a city is no longer using it. Yet, Judge Murphy found that the sale of public land to a billionaire to build a basketball arena is equivalent to the city continuing to use that land for its own purposes. This tortured interpretation gives the City a pass on clear legal requirements to first consider the land for affordable housing and park development,” the group’s statement read in part.
The coalition says it will appeal the ruling.
Inglewood has struggled with skyrocketing rents amid a boon in commercial development, including the SoFi Stadium at Hollywood Park, the new home of the Rams and Chargers set to open next fall. Back in March, the Inglewood City Council approved an annual 5 percent cap on rent hikes for tenants in older buildings. The measure was made permanent in June.