The Los Angeles Clippers arena squabble has already gotten plenty ridiculous, what with Madison Square Garden’s owners suing because they don’t want a new arena to compete with his arena nearby, and the mayor of Inglewood canceling a public meeting and running away to avoid being served papers in another lawsuit. But this really ups the ante for ridiculousness:
Two legislators have accused the California Air Resources Board of racism over delays in approving a proposed Clippers arena, alleging the agency has put the Inglewood project at risk while expediting approval for other sports complexes in more affluent communities….
In the Oct. 1 letter, [Sen. Steven] Bradford and [Assemblymember Sydney] Kamlager-Dove wrote that CARB’s “inaction poses an imminent threat to the viability of the project” and could jeopardize several community benefits offered by the Clippers, including a proposal to pay $75 million toward affordable housing.
“Why put more roadblocks in front of them than any other community?” Bradford asked in an interview. “I think its an implicit bias related to race. This is a minority-majority city and, again, they’re being treated differently.”
The theory here goes, as I understand it, that while California is generally fairly tough on new-sports-venue requests, thanks to laws allowing voters to have a say and stringent environmental review requirements, the state has also been very lenient about fast-tracking sports projects through the environmental review. Which the Clippers project has received as well, but the review has dragged on for longer than the usual nine-month limit, which is what has Bradford crying racial discrimination: If you really wanted to be fair, you’d just glance briefly at our environmental impact materials like you do for majority-white cities!
Even aside from the weirdness of claiming equal civil rights to evade environmental laws, there’s a way easier explanation for why the state agency might be doing more due diligence in the Clippers case, which is that MSG’s owners are making a big public stink about how the arena will encourage more people to drive to events and thereby increase emissions of greenhouse gases. Which may or may not be true — I don’t envy the CARB having to try to project how many Clippers fans will simply be driving to the new arena instead of the old one — but it’s almost always the case that objections to a big development project get more attention when you have a giant corporation and its lobbyists making them. So while racism could conceivably play a role here — this is America, after all — there are probably several simpler explanations for why the state is trying to actually do its job for once.