State Officials Seek Help to Speed Construction of Clippers Arena

Thursday, September 07, 2017 Written by 
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State lawmakers introduced a bill last week to limit the environmental review process by the California Environmental Quality Act on all rail, bus and related transit projects for the 2028 L.A. Olympics and the proposed L.A. Clippers arena in Inglewood. 


The bill would exempt CEQA, the state’s primary environmental law, governing development. The law, known as CEQA, requires developers to disclose and minimize a project’s impact on the environment, often a time-consuming and costly process that involves litigation.


Senate Bill 789, would cut through longstanding regulations that environmentalists and community activists in California have used as a means to preserving the state’s natural beauty and involving residents in the development process. 


Chris Meany, project manager for the Clippers arena, said developers will still undergo a full review under CEQA, including writing an environmental impact report, and working with Inglewood residents to improve the project.  “The bill would only fix the timeline for lawsuits that might be filed by our competitors,” Meany said.


No residents or churches in Inglewood would be forced to move under eminent domain during construction of the arena.  However, that same protection is not extended to local businesses.


Los Angeles regional transportation officials plan to increase services dramatically in advance of the Olympic Games, including expanded light rail in Leimert Park, Inglewood and El Segundo, and from Koreatown through West L.A. Many projects already are under construction, and others are far along in the environmental review process. A proposed people-mover at Los Angeles International Airport linking terminals with shuttle buses, ride-hailing services and a new light-rail connection is currently facing a CEQA lawsuit.


State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) represents Inglewood in the Legislature, and is the author of the bill.   Both the Olympics and construction of the Clippers’ arena were too important to risk stalling through the regular CEQA process, he said. 


“These major projects will help boost the economy in Inglewood and the Greater Los Angeles region, while improving investment, entertainment and highlighting Inglewood’s significance to California,” Bradford said in a statement.


Meany cited a previous case where state lawmakers shortened court-decision deadlines for lawsuits to expedite construction of the Sacramento Kings arena in 2013.  He is hoping the same consideration will be given to the Clippers.


Requests for the bill did not come from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, nor LA 2028, and “we do not need them to make the 2028 Games a success,” Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar said in a statement, adding that the mayor first saw the final legislation Friday morning and was still reviewing it.


However, the City of Los Angeles and surrounding areas would benefit from a streamlined approach to getting transit projects approved and in place by the time the Olympics begin in 2028.  The Clippers would not play in Inglewood until 2024, when the team’s lease expires at Staples Center.


The bill has to pass both houses of the Legislature before lawmakers adjourn for the year on Sept. 15. 


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