Legislation that would streamline the state environmental review process for the proposed Los Angeles Clippers arena in Inglewood is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk after winning unanimous approval from the state Senate and passing on a 6-3 vote in the Assembly.
Both votes occurred Friday as the state Legislature sprinted to complete its work as the 2017-2018 session came to a close.
Clippers management, which is eager to build a new arena for its team and move from its current hub at Staples Center, hailed the Legislative approvals even though it remains unclear whether the governor will sign the bill into law.
"We are now one step closer to bringing the world's best basketball arena to a community that deserves the best," Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said in a statement late Friday. "... with the passage of this bill, we are proudly setting a new standard for environmental responsibility. AB 987 puts into writing the promise we've made to Inglewood from the start: to be exceptional neighbors who care passionately about the Inglewood community and its citizens."
The bill was introduced in June by Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles), who told the Orange County Register that fast-tracking the required environmental review for the proposed arena under the California Environmental Quality Act would not mean the project would have lax environmental standards.
"It's not a CEQA exemption," Kamlager-Dove told the Register. "It's streamlining some of the litigation opportunities. Oftentimes, there are challenges that will force a project to get stalled in court for years and years as a way to kill it, and this is streamlining some elements of that. There will be a full and complete (environmental impact review) done. No shortcuts."
Without the legislation, work on an environmental impact statement for the project would be expected to take up to 18 months, possibly longer if opponents pursue legal challenges.
The legislation puts roadblocks in place to all but eliminate options for legal complications.
The approval comes amid continued opposition to the project by some Inglewood housing advocates and their supporters who are concerned the proposed basketball arena, which would stretch along a swath of Century Boulevard, in addition to a nearby football stadium that is already under construction is slated to be the future home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers football teams, will raise rents and housing prices out of reach for many longtime residents.
Just weeks after Kamlager-Dover introduced the environmental legislation, a group calling itself Uplift Inglewood, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court accusing city officials of failing to prioritize some of its prime land resources for subsidized housing and asking a judge to strike down a negotiating agreement between Inglewood and the Clippers in favor of the state's Surplus Land Act.
The project proposal calls for a privately funded complex that would include an 18,000-seat arena, practice facilities, a sports medicine clinic, team offices and retail space under the title Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center. Plans for the complex are continuing under a 36-month exclusive negotiating agreement the team's owners paid for with a $1.5 million nonrefundable deposit.
The team's lease at Staples Center expires in 2024.