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Inglewood Forum, resident sue state over planned arena

INGLEWOOD — The Forum and a longtime Inglewood resident are suing California Gov. Gavin Newsom and a legislative budget committee over the environmental fast-tracking process being used to approve the proposed Los Angeles Clippers arena in Inglewood.

Saulo Eber Chan is a homeowner in Inglewood, who lives next door to the proposed location of the Clippers proposed $1 billion Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center near Prairie Avenue and West Century Boulevard. The site is directly across the street from the SoFi Stadium complex and a few blocks south of the Forum.

The 18,500 seat arena and entertainment center would also be the home of the Clippers corporate headquarters, the team’s practice facility, community parks, restaurants and shops. The complex would also have three adjacent parking structures.

The lawsuit, which is centered around environmental concerns like traffic and pollution, was filed in L.A. County Superior Court Jan. 10. 

The Forum and Chan believe fast-tracking the Clippers arena violates the California Constitution.

“With respect to this project, AB 987 undermines the robust environmental protections that California law would ordinarily provide to the residents of Inglewood and neighboring communities,” the lawsuit contends, adding: “If the Clippers’ project proceeds in its current form, it will inflict severe traffic congestion, pollution and many other harms on Inglewood and its local residents.”

Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. sees the latest lawsuit against the proposed Clippers arena as “desperate and preposterous” and a smokescreen for ulterior motives. 

“People want you to forget that the city of Inglewood has flowed traffic for mega events (at the Hollywood Park Racetrack) for decades, so there is no impossibility,” Butts said. “However, there is more sophisticated traffic control software. We have an intelligent traffic system that connects with traffic signals in Los Angeles so that light synchronization is better and enhanced.”

Butts said the first priority is for the city to be prepared for the opening event at SoFi Stadium, which will be a Taylor Swift concert on July 25.

“Right now, for months, we’ve been in the planning phases of making sure that we have the traffic direction resources and the planning of neighborhood protection measures in place so that parking doesn’t overwhelm the neighborhoods,” Butts said. “But this whole construct that the sky is falling because we will have an event with 70,000 people, it ignores out history that we have had crowds that big before.”

According to the Clippers, the project will be an “economic catalyst” by creating more than 7,000 construction jobs and up to 1,500 permanent jobs when the complex opens. Additionally, the Clippers said hiring locally is a priority. Their goal is to fill 30% of the construction-related jobs with local residents and give 35% of the permanent jobs to area residents. 

Butts said residents will directly benefit from $100 million in community development benefits package for affordable housing, after-school programs, library improvements and services for seniors from Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. 

He also believes residents will adapt to traffic changes. 

“Will it be difficult? Yes it was difficult before but the reality is that residents learn what streets not to drive down during inbound or outbound for concert events so to deny the city the jobs, the economic prosperity for the general fund which pays for police and services because we say we don’t ever want to be prosperous again, I just don’t agree with that concept,” Butts said.

Meanwhile, the draft environmental impact report for the proposed project by the city of Inglewood said the Clippers arena would create more than 40 significant and unavoidable environmental impacts.

The report said 61 traffic intersections would be impacted, in addition to neighborhood streets and nearby freeways. 

The report also acknowledged harmful air pollution, increased noise levels and increased traffic congestion that may slow emergency responders heading to Centinela Hospital. 

“We have an intelligent traffic system that connects with traffic signals in Los Angeles so that light synchronization is better and enhanced.”

— Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts

By John W. Davis

Contributing Writer