Judge rejects affordable housing argument, sides with city in Clippers arena battle

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An attorney representing the city of Inglewood told a Los Angeles Superior Court judge today that Uplift Inglewood Coalition, a community group fighting for affordable housing, is using all sorts of arguments to see what sticks in order to stop development of a Clippers arena. She called it the “spaghetti method.”

“The city is a leader in housing,” attorney Casey Sypek said.

But about 10 Inglewood residents in the courtroom in Downtown LA nodded their heads in disagreement.Asked by the judge to respond to residents who have said the city hasn’t built enough housing, Sypek responded: “The city is in the process of working on that. It takes a lot of time and resources.”

The remarks came as the trial concluded today inthe coalition’s lawsuit against the city of Inglewood. The coalition sued the city last year, claiming it should have allowed the public land on which the NBA arena would be built to be considered for affordable housing before entering into negotiations with the owners of the Clippers, a move the coalition argues violates the California Surplus Land Act.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy is expected to issue a decision by Monday.

Uplift Inglewood is asking the judge to void the contract between the city of Inglewood and the Clippers to give affordable housing developers, and other entities, such as park developers, a chance to bid on the land for 60 days.

“Complying with the Surplus Land Act does not mean that they will never be able to do any economic development project that they want to do in the future,” Katherine McKeon, an attorney representing Uplift Inglewood, says. “It just means they have to give priority to affordable housing first.”

But John Spiegel, a partner with the firm Munger, Tolles and Olson, representing the Clippers, said during the hearing that the property does not qualify as surplus land.

The attorneys representing the city of Inglewood and the Clippers declined to comment until a decision is made.

In an August letter to Inglewood Mayor James Butts, the Federal Aviation Administration said it “does not support the reintroduction of single-family or multi-family residential uses” on the site, which the city acquired with FAA grant money.

“Such residential redevelopment would increase residents’ exposure to aircraft noise, and is inherently inconsistent with the intent of the city’s land acquisition noise mitigation program, approved and funded by the FAA,” the letter says.

The letter “not only proves, but it confirms our position that it should not be offered for affordable housing,” Royce Jones, an attorney representing the city, told the Daily Breezelast month.

Inglewood is quickly transforming, with major developments underway. There’s the $2.6 billion NFL stadium set to open in the summer, the Crenshaw/LAX Line that will have three stations in Inglewood, and a massive mixed-use community at Hollywood Park.

Housing prices, meanwhile, have skyrocketed. The median home price in Inglewood shot up 64 percent from 2014 to 2018, according to PropertyShark.

In that time, Inglewood did not produce a single unit of affordable housing, according to a report from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

D’Artagnan Scorza of Uplift Inglewood says the organization’s members understand that the city wants to take care of its residents in multiple ways that include providing “good paying jobs and community benefits coming into the city.” But it’s also important to make sure residents have access to affordable housing, he says.

“Win or lose today, we’re going to continue to fight,” says Scorza.

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