When Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. was elected to office in 2011, the city was marred in 17 percent rising unemployment and gang violence dominated the landscape.
On top of that the Lakers storied franchise bolted in 1999 to downtown Los Angeles, leaving behind the outdated Forum and legions of loyal fans who were left with antiquated Hollywood Park racetrack.
Inglewood was essentially bankrupt, with an $18 million deficit and many felt the best way forward was retail and property taxes.
“I didn’t buy that,” Mayor Butts explained to Inglewood Today during a wide-ranging interview this week.
“We had a plan and our goal was to strengthen and provide economic opportunity for the city,” he said.
Here we are eight years later and Inglewood is on the cusp of becoming the sports and entertainment capitol of the world.
Unemployment has dipped to about 4 percent, lowest among major cities in the State of California and a swelling surplus.
Ironically, just as the Lakers left 20 years ago for downtown Los Angeles, the Clippers have pledged to leave downtown L.A. in favor of Inglewood where plans to build their new area passed another major hurdle.
The team recently won approval from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to build a $1.2 billion arena in Inglewood.
While the CARB approval was huge victory for the city and the team, it will still take another nine months before the actual groundbreaking can begin, but according to Mayor Butts the arena should be on schedule to open for the 2024 NBA season.
The Clippers cleared the CARB hurdles by agreeing to spend tens of millions to make the arena a net-zero greenhouse gas emitter: planting 1,000 trees in Inglewood;
installing solar arrays on the arena’s roof and possibly over parking lots; installing 330 electric vehicle chargers at the arena’s parking lot and 1,000 residential EV charging stations in Inglewood; providing 10 electric vehicles plus two electric shuttle buses to the city of Inglewood.
Furthermore, the mayor revealed estimates of 7,500 construction jobs are anticipated, another 1,500 permanent jobs of which 35 percent of those are earmarked for Inglewood residents. Thirty percent of the construction will be designated for minority owned or disadvantaged business enterprises.
Butts had already engineered the renovating of the Forum that currently boast a robust concert menu. His blockbuster move was convincing the Rams to relocate and come to Inglewood where both the Rams and Chargers will open home field at SoFi Stadium in the fall of 2020.
The SoFi Stadium project brought along with it 3,000 construction jobs of which 1,200 went to Inglewood residents.
Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Philharmonic invested $50 million in Inglewood and will unveil a youth choir here and legendary rap icon Snoop Dogg will be moving his production studio to the city.
There are some critics who question the economic boon and massive renovation of the city and stoke fears of gentrification, but the Mayor scoffed at such rhetoric.
“We’re a city that historically has 51 percent Hispanic, 46-47 percent Black and 3-4 percent other. All of them are still here. Those who want to stay here can and those who want to cash in on their property because of this economic boon have the right to do so.”
Mayor Butts spearheaded a unanimously approved permanent rent control measures that will block property owners from increasing rents more than 5 percent annually, though there are exceptions, and the cap in some cases will be 8 percent.
Asked if he envisioned all this some 8 years ago and the mayor’s reply was most sincere.
“It has exceeded our wildest dreams,” he stated.
Imagine that. And he’s not close to being done yet.