State legislature helps Clippers take next step toward new home arena

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Steve Ballmer has been trying to do something the Clippers should have done long ago — move out of the shadow of the Lakers by playing in the same building. The Lakers are the dominant basketball fan base and brand in Los Angeles, and if the Clippers plan to put a bigger dent in that they need to strengthen their own identity. A new building — rather than being the third tenant in Staples Center behind the Lakers and the NHL’s Kings — is a step in that direction.

The Clippers got help with that from the California state legislature this week, which passed a bill to streamline the environmental review process for a proposed new home in Inglewood.

California Gov. Jerry Brown still needs to sign the bill for it to take effect.

What the bill does is limit the number of legal challenges that can come against the project during the stringent California environmental review process for a development. Most California developers of major projects build a year or more into their timelines to deal with the inevitable legal challenges from project opponents. This legislation reduces the timeline by “streamlining” the legal recourses of opponents.

And there are opponents from residents in the area, many of whom want to see housing built on the land because of the high demand for it in Southern California (those opponents have already filed a lawsuit to block the project). There also has been a push against the project by the Madison Square Garden group — owned by Knicks’ owner James Dolan — which upgraded the nearby Forum (where the Lakers used to play) and turned it into a popular concert venue. In MSG’s agreement with the city they were not supposed to have major competition in a new building built nearby, and this is less than a mile away. Both are also near the under-construction arena that will be home the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.

The Clippers propose an 18,000-seat arena that will be privately funded and also house the team’s practice facilities. There also would be retail and restaurant spaces, plus some office space. The working title for the project is the Inglewood Basketball and Entertainment Center.