California Judge Sides With Clippers in Challenge to New Arena; Plaintiffs Promise Appeal

Dec 20, 2019

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ruled for the Los Angeles Clippers and the City of Inglewood, rebuffing the Uplift Inglewood Coalition, which had argued that the defendants violated the state’s Surplus Land Act when they moved forward with plans to build a new arena. Weeks later, the plaintiffs promised an appeal.
The Coalition filed the claim in June 2018, alleging that the Act was violated when Inglewood officials entered into a 36-month exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) with Clippers-controlled entity Murphy’s Bowl, LLC in the summer of 2017 over an arena project on a city-owned site.
The Act stipulates that public bodies must first grant priority to potential affordable housing development projects before selling public land to private entities. Specifically, the Coalition was seeking to have a judge void the contract between the city and the Clippers, and institute a 60-day bidding period for other parties to bid on the land.
“Even if the ENA leads to an offer from Murphy’s Bowl to acquire the Property, Petitioner cites no evidence or contractual terms that would prevent City from complying with the [Act] prior to entering a final sale agreement with Murphy’s Bowl,” wrote the judge. “While Petitioner argues that [Act] negotiations by City at that point would not be in good faith, the court is not persuaded that the evidence supports that conclusion.”
The court was receptive to the defendants’ argument that the land could not be used for housing because of its proximity to Los Angeles International Airport flight paths and opposition from the Federal Aviation Administration because of aircraft noise.
The Uplift claim had no legal merit,” Skip Miller of Miller Barondess, LLC, counsel for the City of Inglewood, said in a press release. “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.”
The Coalition disagreed.
“While we were disappointed in the ruling, we are not deterred,” according to a press release. “Uplift Inglewood filed the claim last year because the City and Clippers did not follow State laws that require cities to give first priority to affordable housing development when selling public land, but instead prioritized building a ‘home’ for billionaire developer Steve Ballmer. We continue to argue that City officials enable billionaires to profit from our displacement while systematically excluding residents from participating in closed-door decisions that have drastic impacts on their lives, including traffic congestion and skyrocketing rent increases. This is essentially housing discrimination.
Katie McKeon, attorney with Public Counsel, added: “The Uplift Inglewood Coalition demonstrated to the Court that the only obstacle to compliance with the Surplus Land Act and other affordable housing laws, and building healthy housing on these sites, is political will. The Court’s decision gives the City a pass on compliance with the SLA at a time of grave affordable and homeless crisis. As part of its #HomesBeforeArenas campaign, Uplift Inglewood will continue to consider all of its options to hold the City accountable to state affordable housing laws.”
Representing the plaintiffs are Public Counsel, which bills itself as “the nation’s largest not-for-profit law firm of its kind — handling impact litigation, pursuing legislative change, and providing direct legal services that reach more than 30,000 people every year in California and across the nation.
Also assisting the plaintiffs is Cozen O’Connor.


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