Legal hurdle cleared for proposed Clippers arena

NBA basketball franchise the Los Angeles Clippers has seen the removal of one legal obstacle for its long-term vision of developing a new arena in Inglewood.

The Clippers plan to develop an arena for between 18,000 and 20,000 fans has been hit with multiple lawsuits since it was first revealed in 2017. The Los Angeles Times newspaper has now reported that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff has ruled that a three-year exclusive negotiating agreement between the City of Inglewood and a Clippers-controlled company to explore building the arena didn’t violate California’s Environmental Quality Act.

“All the surrounding circumstances considered, the court does not find the circumstances surrounding the approval of the ENA (exclusive negotiating agreement) demonstrated a commitment by the City to a definite course of action,” Beckloff wrote in his ruling, according to the Times.

The action was launched by the Inglewood Residents Against Takings and Evictions (IRATE) group in June 2017, just days after Inglewood gave the green light to the ENA. IRATE had argued that the ENA shouldn’t have been struck until an environmental review of the privately financed project was conducted. The judge noted that the ENA was later revised in August 2017.

He highlighted that the ENA doesn’t specify the arena’s exact location, how tall the building would be or the arrangements for parking. “Based on the foregoing, the court agrees an EIR would be premature because any analysis of the environmental impacts would be ‘wholly speculative and essentially meaningless,’” Beckloff wrote.

Plans for the arena project, which is in the midst of an 18-month environment review, remain unclear. The Times notes that at least five other lawsuits have been filed concerning the project. Three of these have been filed by the Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the nearby Forum and is said to be fiercely opposed to the Clippers project.

In August, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer reiterated the team’s desire to leave Staples Center and build a new arena in Inglewood. The Clippers have played at Staples Center since 1999 and the team’s lease at the venue expires in 2024.

Image: David Jones