Opponents and proponents of a proposed billion-dollar Los Angeles Clippers sports arena in Inglewood had their final say in front of a Los Angeles Superior Court judge Tuesday. Judge Daniel S. Murphy is expected to rule on whether the project will be allowed to move forward as early as Friday.
The project is funded by Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and would include an 18,500-seat arena, a medical facility, restaurants, retail stores, parking, and the National Basketball Association team’s headquarters and training facilities. The NBA’s website states that the arena “will have a 35% local hire rate and generate well-paying jobs for city residents for years to come.”
However, several residents of Inglewood, a city already facing gentrification and rising rents, said the project would further drive out those living in neighboring communities.
“A lot of families have been displaced,” said Sonya Grey, an Inglewood resident, after the court hearing. “A lot of people have received 30-day notices, where their rent could have been $1,200, and the next thing they know, their rent is now increased to $2,300. And that means, immediately, they have to move.”
Grey said she received a notice in April of a 43% rent increase on her apartment that would go into effect in June. But she was able to persuade her landlord, with a coalition of her neighbors, to keep rents as they were, after she found out that the city was weighing a rent-control ordinance (which went into effect in June). For others, though, Grey said the situation remains grim.
“Some families are living in cars, some families are living with their families waiting for the next move,” she said. “You know, their jobs are not increasing their income, but the landlords [are] just making the rent so high that you can't afford it.”
According to Curbed, which covers local real estate, median home prices rose 37.3% between January 2016, when the National Football League approved the relocation of the Rams and Chargers franchises to Inglewood, and June this year. Construction of the SoFi Stadium, also in the city, and home to both NFL teams has been underway for years and likely driven housing prices up.
In court, Thomas Casparian, lead counsel for the Uplift Inglewood Coalition, which is suing to halt the Clippers project, argued that the city of Inglewood violated the California Surplus Land Act, which requires cities, counties and agencies to prioritize affordable housing development when selling or leasing land. The coalition is pushing for affordable housing to be built on the land where the Clippers hope to build a stadium.
John Spiegel, who was representing the Clippers, argued that the Surplus Land Act would not apply, saying that the site of the arena would not count as “surplus land” and that the project was a valid public use of land because it would contribute to economic growth. The Clippers said in an Inglewood City Council meeting in September that they would contribute $75 million to low-interest loans for the development of affordable housing.
Inglewood resident Grey, however, was skeptical of the potential economic benefits of the project.
“I believe you will have jobs,” she said. “But what type of jobs, where will they be and how many people from Inglewood, or how many minorities will have those jobs? And then, you know, it’s not going to change the fact that housing could be there. So I choose housing and a roof over people’s head and a warm place to go… versus work.”
Spiegel argued in court that because the stadium site is in a zone plagued by noise from planes flying to and from LAX, residents would not be living in those areas anyway.
However, Jose Plascencia, who lives one street over from the proposed site, said in a phone interview that the argument is “not valid at all.”
He cited the Lennox neighborhood adjacent to Inglewood, which also deals with noise pollution from planes flying over. “There’s a bunch of residents living there, so it doesn’t make sense that they’re saying residents wouldn’t live there,” he said. “We’ve been dealing with the airplanes.”
Plascencia, 22, who works two jobs, said that he is very worried that the new construction would force him and his family to move.
“Inglewood’s very close to my heart,” he said. “Honestly I can say it’s been a home to me, and I don’t want to be driven out of a home. For me, when I leave, I want to leave on my own terms. I don’t want it to be because the rent’s too high.”