Lead Story West Edition

Inglewood residents voice opposition to arena

INGLEWOOD — “No Arena! No Arena! No Arena!”

That was the chant that broke out as members of the Uplift Inglewood Coalition and dozens of Inglewood residents held a community rally against the proposed Clippers Arena Nov. 11.

Residents met with former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer at the Iglesia Evangelica Profectica Jesucristco Viene Pronto Church, which is directly across the street from the proposed site of the Los Angeles Clippers’ $1 billion Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center near Prairie Avenue and Century Boulevard.

Boxer encouraged community members to sign her letter calling on the California Air Resources Board to continue to stand up for the Inglewood community and reject the Los Angeles Clippers’ application for their proposed basketball arena complex.

“You can’t give up when you’re trying to save your community,” said Boxer, who represented California in Washington, D.C., for more than 30 years. “It’s never at the 11th hour because there’s so many unknowns in this project. The Air Board is an unknown, there’s a lot of court cases that are unknown. They really need to get a representative on the (Inglewood City) Council. That would make all the difference.”

Community environmental concerns related to the proposed 18,500-seat arena include air pollution and traffic congestion caused by an estimated four million additional vehicles.

Community members also believe the third major entertainment venue within a mile would worsen Inglewood’s affordable housing crisis and create more economic displacement for long-time residents.

Lydia Soto was one of several residents who decided now is the time to stand up for herself.

“The Clippers are already at Staples Center, so why can’t they stay there,” said Soto, who lives three blocks away from the proposed arena. “Proud that I was able to sign the letter. … I think that everybody needs to tell their neighbors and their friends to come out and help support this cause. We need more people than the [75 people] that were in the church,” Soto said. “I’m going to also start coming to the meetings when I’m available.”

Uplift Inglewood Coalition plans to appeal a recent court ruling against their lawsuit, which contends that since the proposed site is on the public land so state law requires cities to give first priority to affordable housing development when selling public land.

“We’re going to fight this all the way to the state Supreme Court,” said Uplift Inglewood Coalition member D’Artagnan Scorza.

Citing the Federal Aviation Administration, the city of Inglewood said the land is not compatible with housing because it is directly under the LAX flight path.

Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. said opposition would prevent Inglewood from receiving $100 million in a community development benefits package from Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. 

Of that, $75 million would create a new, permanent Affordable Housing Development Loan Fund. 

The other $25 million would go towards helping first-time homebuyers, rent relief and youth and education initiatives.

“We’ve got black and brown folk that are here trying to deal with these issues,” said Scorza, who also serves on the Inglewood school board. “A $75 million dollar revolving affordable housing loan fund is going to actually help them make money. An affordable housing loan fund is not a gift, that is a loan fund that makes money for the people that own that fund.

“At the end of the day, we have to invest in our kids and our communities and if you really want to do something for this community, help us build community centers and build more parks. We’re a park poor community. Help us improve our schools. If you really care about Inglewood, help us build more homes.” Scorza said.

Soto has lived in Inglewood for 16 years. She also has concerns about her own long-term prospects.

“I would probably have to move. There’s enough people already and you’re going to have people coming to these arenas, the congestion, the cars, the parking because they’re not going to want to pay 30 or 40 dollars for parking, they’re going to park on our streets,” Soto said.

Soto said there is one way the Clippers can remedy this situation. 

“Stay at Staples Center. That’s where they are at now. I don’t think it’s been a problem. It’s not like they’re playing at the same time. They’ve already adjusted their schedules,” Soto said.

“The Forum is working with the community,” Boxer said. “They asked me if I would be involved and I said when I left the Senate, I really care about protecting communities like this one, so I said yes and I’ve been doing some work here.”

“I think we need to do a better job of lifting up what people actually need as opposed to what billionaires want,” Scorza said.

If approved, the Clippers are planning to begin construction in 2021 and open the Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center in fall 2024.