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Inglewood residents sue to block Clippers arena

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They want affordable housing instead of an arena

Construction at Hollywood Park, near where the Clippers arena would be built.

Trying to halt plans for a new Clippers arena on public land, a group of residents filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Inglewood on Tuesday.

The lawsuit seeks to make the land available for affordable housing, rather than the NBA team. The Clippers want to build a new home court on the city-owned site, which is located directly across the street from an under-construction NFL stadium and a massive new mixed-use community at Hollywood Park.

“Our city has been moving in the wrong direction,” says Uplift Inglewood member Woodrow Curry III. He says city officials of favoring “billionaire sports owners” over working class residents facing rapidly escalating housing costs.

Mayor James Butts disagrees. “We have seen home values rise and both unemployment and crime drop,” he said in a statement. “Billions of dollars are coming to Inglewood and our community is thriving like never before.”

A member of Uplift Inglewood attempted to serve the lawsuit to the mayor during public comment during Tuesday’s City Council meeting, prompting Butts to abruptly adjourn the meeting.

Last year, the Inglewood City Council entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Murphy’s Bowl, a company owned by the Clippers, setting the stage for development of a new basketball arena on a multi-acre site owned by the city.

Under the terms of the California Surplus Land Act, cities planning to sell or give away public land must first seek out proposals for affordable housing construction on the site.

Attorneys for Uplift Inglewood say Inglewood skipped this step when it moved forward last year with plans for the basketball arena.

Aerial view of construction at Inglewood NFL stadium
Aerial view of construction at Inglewood NFL stadium.
All images courtesy Los Angeles Stadium & Entertainment District

Butts says that the land was never viable for affordable development because it lies in the LAX flight path and has been “deemed incompatible for housing.”

The mayor suggests that protests against the stadium are being driven by “business interests from out-of-state.” Last year, the Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the nearby Forum, filed a separate lawsuit against the city last year alleging that a development agreement the company has with Inglewood should have prevented the city from bringing a new arena so close to the Forum.

Inglewood rents are still lower than those in the greater Los Angeles region, but prices are climbing quickly. The average cost of an apartment in the city is now $1,250 per month, up nearly 6 percent over a year ago, according to CoStar.

The suit also alleges that Inglewood has been ignoring other state laws that mandate construction of new affordable housing. For instance, when the city’s community redevelopment agency shuttered in 2012, local leaders were obligated to replace any affordable units demolished as part of past redevelopment projects.

According to a 2015-16 report, the city still has 112 units to go to fulfill this obligation.

That may not be enough to meet demand from residents. According to the Department of Housing and Community Development, Inglewood—along with most California cities—is falling well short of regional housing goals.

To meet these state-monitored goals, Inglewood will need to add 567 units of housing affordable to residents earning very low to moderate incomes by 2021. Since 2013, none of these units have been built in the city at all.

Representatives of Uplift Inglewood say a lack of affordable housing construction amounts to discrimination against lower earning residents.

“This lawsuit is about more than a wonky housing violation,” said Public Counsel attorney Antonio Hicks at the press conference. “It’s about residents being forced out of their homes by skyrocketing housing costs.”