A proposed change to California state law could shorten the timeline for environmental approvals for construction of the Los Angeles Clippers' new basketball arena complex in Inglewood, CA, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The draft bill would require that legal challenges to the proposed venue under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) be resolved in nine months and would also restrict the power of the courts to stop construction based on CEQA violations. The measure would grant the same benefits to a nearby transit hub that is expected to serve Clippers fans and those headed to see Los Angeles Rams and Chargers games at their forthcoming $2.6 billion Inglewood stadium.
The team said it will comply with CEQA standards if the arena project comes to fruition, but critics of the potential new law said the Clippers would use it to get around environmental regulations.
Another proposed California state law would close the so-called loophole that allowed the Rams' development team to skirt CEQA during the stadium's permitting process, according to the Times. Assembly Bill 890, which passed in the California Assembly in June and is making its way through the state Senate, would prevent local governments from allowing projects to skip the environmental review process if developers can collect enough signatures to put them on the ballot.
That, critics said, is how the Rams were able to enjoy a very short six-week permit review process. The project's completion date was ultimately pushed back to 2020, however, due to a Federal Aviation Administration review and record rainfall.
Whether advocacy groups or others are using the current CEQA regulations to hold up construction projects has long been a point of contention.
CEQA litigation was behind construction delays on the new $1 billion Golden State Warriors arena, in San Francisco. The Mission Bay Alliance argued that the project would negatively impact nearby hospital operations and harm patients. After a lengthy legal process, however, a California Supreme Court judge gave the project the green light.
Even state projects are subject to CEQA scrutiny. The $17.1 billion California WaterFix tunnel under the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, for which Gov. Jerry Brown strongly advocated, has already generated heated debate between the state and environmentalists. The latter have pledged to use CEQA to block progress on the initiative.