Brutal Public Backlash Against City Councilwomen Continues

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May 092016

The Seattle City Council has learned to have a pretty thick skin when it comes to public comments.  I’m sure their staff filters a lot of vile e-mails and tweets, and they have put up with StandUpAmerica and the like for a while now (even Megan Murphy? who spoke after Josh crazily, but didn’t graciously accept council’s cheer for her expression of support).  After rejecting the Street Vacation, a barrage of insults (and apparently some support) were hurled at the council members voting against the vacation, particularly the 5 of 5 female councilwomen who voted against the vacation.  Chris Hansen eventually posted a warning not spew such ire, but that didn’t stop it.  At this morning’s council briefing, a full week after the vote, the council resolved to find a way to stand up to some of the more egregious breaks of decorum (President Harrell at 1:30 and Bagshaw at 8:20). Harrell’s statement is more of “shame on you” as opposed to Bagshaw’s suggestion of taking some sort of stand.

This afternoon, one person apparently took their two minutes for public comment as an opportunity to attack the council some more, in front of cameras.  Of course, this elicits “if you can’t stand the heat, don’t be on the city council” comments from the likes of Jason Rantz (who needs some web-savy people to appropriately link to this afternoon’s full council video, once the 5/9 video is actually posted).  EDIT:  Video has been posted of Josh Shea making the targeted comments 6:10.

After spending countless hours on an arena for a team that looks even more impossible than 5 years ago, angry public backlash over something that won’t matter until a team is acquired is an interesting tact that’s sure to make city government wary of ever entertaining any hypothetical arena deals in the future.

May 022016

Videos will be posted later and we can all enjoy hearing councilmembers parade their personality today (be that Bruce’s sports phrase usage, Gonzales’ groaning at said sports phrases, Juarez’s talk of dams, or Johnson’s suggestion that 30% of the city is used for roads, as if a city can function with only 10′ footpaths and bus lanes).

Short summary – O’Brien, Burgess, Harrell, and Johnson voted in favor of the street vacation and Sawant, Herbold, Gonzales, Juarez, and Bagshaw voted against the street vacation.  There were many amendments and clarifications stated (including that a privately financed arena could be built to the terms of the MOU, excluding all those bits about public financing).  Interestingly, the Sonics Rising council vote live thread had a poll predicting the “yes” votes from the council which, at the start of the council meeting, had a tie between 4 and 5 (failing and passing), suggesting many knew all too well that the knife was being readied (insert GIF of proud new pappa Roose Bolton behind shived by “bastard” Ramsey Bolton).

Screencap from shortly after the full council vote concluded.

Screencap from shortly after the full council vote concluded.

In any event, now Hansen has to consider applying again?, changing his preferred site, or how he’ll design a privately financed arena with a public right of way running through the middle of it.  The location in SoDo requiring a street vacation has been something Hansen was pretty well set on, to the point of acquiring properties long before the MOU was even approved.  The current function of Occidental is why Hansen’s group carved a new North-South access road to the East of the arena.  It’s also a part of why the EIS’s site selection was somewhat lacking, it didn’t really give much imagination to using street-vacation-required parcels.  In many respects, this is the city council’s procedural way to escape this roller-coaster they’ve been on for years, particularly with a Nov 2017 expiration date functioning not so much as a deadline but being a harbinger of MOU re-negotiations/extensions.

Of course, Hansen does still own (or have options on) a bunch of land in SoDo, so he could still build LA Live-like attractions or parking garages or new commercial spaces like TV studios, if they pencil out.

Edit:  Video from the Seattle Channel has been posted.  The council takes up the street vacation at 1:12:15.

May 2nd – Expected Full Council Vote for Occidental Avenue South Street Vacation

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May 022016

The recommendation from the Sustainability and Transportation Committee was completed two weeks ago.  This afternoon, at 2 PM, the full council will consider and, likely, take a vote on the amended Occidental Avenue South street vacation.

Important scheduling parameters were agreed upon last week, leading to the following section of the vacation conditions

  • Events at the Arena on any non-holiday weekday or weeknight shall be separated from other events at the Arena by a minimum of 3 hours between the projected end time of one event and the scheduled start time of the next event.
  • No Arena event on any non-holiday weekday or weeknight may be scheduled to begin or end within one hour of the scheduled start or end time of any event at Safeco Field or CenturyLink Field, or both, if 1) the reasonably anticipated attendance at the Arena and one or more of those fields is more than 45,000 attendees, or 2) there would otherwise be three scheduled events starting or ending within an hour of each other at the Arena, Safeco Field or CenturyLink Field.
  • No Arena event shall start between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm on non-holiday weekdays if 1) the reasonably anticipated attendance at Safeco Field, CenturyLink Field, and the Arena would exceed 15,000 persons, and 2) the Arena event is otherwise scheduled to occur within an hour of the start or end times of events at Safeco Field or CenturyLink or both.
 Posted by at 9:22 am

Street Vacation Documents Show the Evolving SoDo Arena Design

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Apr 202016

One of the screwy things in the early “jet turbine” arena designs was the way that the south end of the Mariners’ parking garage was going to be accessed, via a tunnel cut out of the building and masked behind a “green wall.”  This would be an ~20 ft notch cut into the base of the arena.  March 2013 Vacation Petition

Tunnel design from the March 2013 street vacation petition

Tunnel design from the March 2013 street vacation petition

More recent documents show the access tunnel was no longer a tunnel, instead being a roadway external to the building but still west of the single set of railroad tracks along the west end of BNSF’s property (here is a google street view of the area with tracks).  April 19, 2016 presentation (note that earlier 2016 presentations to the council’s sustainability and transportation committee have similar sketches)

Access road now external to building in April 19 2016 vacation presentation.

Access road now external to building in April 19 2016 vacation presentation.

A view from the east in the same April 19 presentation.

A view from the east in the same April 19 presentation.

At some point, should the council be concerned about the original street vacation petition (long delayed by Hansen’s own actions) not being consistent with the current arena design?  Is the access road, as unobstructed as presented here, a defined requirement of the vacation (I don’t see any bullets suggesting that) ?

Fourth Arena Hearing On 4/19 and Materials/Amendments Are Online

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Apr 142016

The last (third or second, depending on how you count the evening comment period) meeting for the Occidental Street Vacation for the proposed arena had several amendments proposed, including reducing the street vacation’s timeframe to 5 years and adding language meant to emphasize arena-contingent conditional approval.


April 19th at 2PM is the next regularly scheduled committee meeting, where the street vacation could be forwarded to a full council.  Materials have been posted online for that presentation.


Edit:  Seattle Bike Blog is advocating for protected bike lanes on 1st avenue, instigated by the arena.

Sonics Rising is trying to muck-rake a comparison of Port aviation vs seaport operations and tries to stir public anger over the port pledging its taxing authority to contribute to the viaduct replacement, as if that contribution wasn’t a “business as usual” ask by the government to fund projects from local taxpayers without going through a public vote/levy.  In this case, the port’s contribution of “up to $300 million” was to help plug the gap left by the state lowering the toll threshold from $400 million to 200 million.

Third Arena Street Vacation Hearing Held – Video Up

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Apr 082016

The Sustainability and Transportation Committee held the third meeting on the WSA Properties petition to vacate Occidental Avenue to make way for Hansen’s sports arena.  The video of the meeting starts with some public comments from politicians and leaders from the Port of Seattle and some Save Our Sonics leaders too.  The SDOT part is at 42:45 and then the Port of Seattle’s consultant, Marnie Hughes? starts at the 2 hour mark.  Councilmembers O’Brien, Johnson, Juarez, Burgess, and Harrell were in attendance (only O’Brien and Johnson are assigned to the committee, Sawant and Herbold (alternate) were both absent).

Harrell took a bit of umbrage at the Port’s legal council’s suggestion of legal challenges and Marnie dropped the hot potato of making the council consider potential future use of the right of way that’s being vacated.  Johnson veered off for a bit to discuss tolling nearby freeways and seemed to wish to have a public forum to suggest tolling I-90 would benefit Port traffic predictability.  Marnie points out that the plan has changed a bit from how it’s initially presented, such that a  new parking garage is now directly south of the arena which wasn’t previously accounted for.


3 of 3 Against SoDo Arena on KUOW Week in Review

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Mar 182016

Audio will be up here later (about 7:30 into this mp3 and it will replay Friday at 7 PM on KUOW), but former King County Councilwoman Jane Hague, Q13 Analyst (and very missed Seattle Channel host) C.R. Douglas, and Ijeoma Oluo all voiced disapproval of building an arena in SoDo and described the street vacation as simply going through the motions half-heartedly at City Hall.  The feeling on the panel is that KeyArena is very much the preferred location.  Jane Hague even goes as far as to say this project should be privately financed.  Also mentioned in the show, Hansen’s shine may have been tarnished by the secret Sacramento political donations and fines.

Councilwoman Hague’s originally voted FOR the Arena MOU (the King County Council vote in 2012 was unanimous).  Obviously, time has changed how our councilmembers feel about going forward with a SoDo arena.  In original discussions with the Seattle City Council, the City Council pressed for a list of owners that could be financially vetted and the group’s only publicly disclosed billionaire, Steve Ballmer, has left for the Clippers.

From 2012 – “There are many miles to go and promises to keep,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “This begins the process of measuring environmental, economic and transportation impacts on not only the SODO site but other sites that also may emerge.”

Maddeningly, C.R. also comes down on the side of being able to be the pace car in the left lane of the highway.

Two of (at least) Four Street Vacation Hearings Down, Arena next to Tracks for “Oil Train Bombs”

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Mar 162016

The current issue before the city council is the Occidental Avenue street vacation necessary to clear the public roadway from the middle of Hansen’s preferred site for an arena.  This street is, in my opinion, how the explored alternate sites all ended up looking lackluster.  The EIS search focused on tracts of land without city streets running through the middle and Hansen’s site ignored Occidental.

The street vacation materials are here, with the presentation from 3/15/2016’s 2 pm meeting being this pdf.  The council staff memo outlines the following concerns of the street vacation (although public benefits can be somewhat nebulous – remember that McGinn opposed and urged a no vote for an alley vacation because Whole Foods wasn’t paying living wages, in his opinion):

1. Are the functions of the street right-of-way to be vacated protected?
2. Would there be adverse land use impacts resulting from the vacation?
3. Will there be sufficient public benefits to offset the loss of the right-of-way?

The Port has mentioned Occidental functioning as a relief valve, used when other main streets get backed up.  Proponents focus on public benefits of having an arena (and Hansen building railroad pedestrian overpasses and bike lanes that would further “calm traffic” in the area).

Adverse Land Use Impacts = 20,000 More Seats, Over 200 Events Adjacent to Oil Trains

“Adverse land use impacts” might also encompass the building of another arena located right next to rail lines used by oil trains which some council members protest/suggest are mobile bombs terrorizing our city.  A creative “NO” vote might be to attach the condition that any new building’s occupancy can’t exceed a few thousand people if oil trains still run along those tracks during times of peak usage, for the safety of the public.  You might not currently have the power to stop the oil trains, but you can restrict stitching together tracts of land to enable new buildings for mass assemblies of people that would be in the oil trains’ path.

It’s a disaster waiting to happen. That’s what protesters say about oil trains running right past the stadiums in SoDo. They staged a rally outside the Mariners game to raise awareness about the possible danger.  Thousands of people turned out to see the Mariners tonight. According to protesters, they were all putting their lives on the line, probably without realizing it.

It is such high time that we put a stop to this,” says Seattle City Council Member Kshama Sawant, who joined the protesters today. But she doesn’t have the power to change when or where the trains run.  “The governor doesn’t really have the power to stop the trains, nor does the county executive, nor does the mayor,” says Perk.

From 2014 “If an oil train did explode here, then downtown would be turned into an incinerator,” said City Council member Kshama Sawant. She called for a moratorium on oil trains in the city.

A 2015 protest with Mike O’Brien at nearby King Street Station had photos captured by Alex Garland.

"EXPLODING OIL" are the words behind Councilman O'Brien.

“EXPLODING OIL” are the words behind Councilman O’Brien.

Other Meetings

Additional Sustainability and Transportation Committee meetings planned to include this street vacation should occur on April 5th and April 19th (both at 2 PM) with the April 19th meeting being the earliest time a committee vote could be held.  The full council vote could happen after the sub-committee vote is held.

Video Record

Meeting #1 – At 18m 50sec in the following 3/15 meeting, you have the vacation presentation given to the council.

Meeting #2 – The 2.5 hrs of public comment from the evening meeting on 3/15.