Hansen Re-submits Street Vacation Petition for SoDo Arena

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Feb 232017
 

Following a lot of media blitz about local hero Russell Wilson joining the ArenaCo team and public pitches for an “all private” financing model that still includes significant tax breaks, Hansen announced the intention to re-submit the street vacation request for Occidental Ave South.  That petition (pdf) is now on-line contained in Clerk File 314369 .

 

The petition specifies an additional $1.3 million tentatively allocated to SDOT freight mobility projects including various planning projects and some smart signs related to railroad-based delays.

A Contribution of an additional $1.3 million to SDOT to implement the following 2016 Freight Master Plan projects (or other freight-related projects, at SDOT’s discretion):
  • Spokane Street Freight-Only Lanes Pilot Project, Phase I (FMP Project #24)
  • Railroad Crossing Delay Intelligent Transportation System (FMP Project #28)
  • 1st Avenue S./S. Atlantic St. Freight Improvements (FMP Project #37)

What other changes are included/excluded will require a bit more digging as this is a street vacation petition and not a full outline of the new, privately-built arena proposal.  The MOU being “thrown out” in bulk but aspects being retained leaves some gaps related to 1) the KeyArena use agreement that was in the MOU and included renovation funds based on early tax collections is now gone, 2) the MOU’s provisions for team non-relocate agreements is also gone (while owning the team and the arena might be good private motivation, team values could eventually rise enough to outweigh taking a loss on their old arena’s value with no primary tenant), and 3) various provisions related to Hansen/the investor’s financial security/maintaining a $300 million net worth are gone (something Geoff Baker’s recent Seattle Times piece outlining Valiant Capital Partners’ recent losses and opening up for new investors highlights).

The Seattle City Council has no planned meetings related to the street vacation petition.  Mayor Ed Murray has already said that the focus is on evaluating the KeyArena RFP proposals due in April 2017 before spending time considering SoDo again.

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.

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.

 

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.

SoDo Arena Final Environmental Impact Study Released – Murray Reminds Everyone NHL First Requires Money

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May 082015
 

People have been working themselves up into a tizzy about alternate arena proposals related to the NHL in Tukwilla and Bellevue.  Are they real, privately funded plans or just distractions prior to the SoDo arena FEIS being released ?  Nobody really knows as NHL team owners tend to do very little without public subsidy.

The FEIS is a huge document I’ll browse through later.  It’s being said that the document did not uncover huge roadblocks but did take a rather low-end view on traffic impacts and estimated a negative impact to the Port of Seattle of $-115,584 a year or so.

I also have noticed that the whole City of Seattle collection of arena documents for the city has gone dark with a 404 error.  (I think I found the re-designed collection for the County)  Hopefully, that’s a temporary issue.

NHL-First Means Sweeten the Private Money Pot

Ed Murray’s comments to the Seattle Times suggest the NHL first proposal will have to put in even more private money towards an arena than the NBA-only one.  I guess Ed realizes that NHL-associated taxes and benefits are likely to be far fewer than that of a NBA team.

While hailing Thursday’s release of a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as “another major milestone” reached, Murray said he’s prepared to look elsewhere if entrepreneur Chris Hansen and his hockey partner can’t produce an “NHL first” funding proposal by fall. Murray told The Seattle Times he needs a “much, much better” public funding package to present to the Seattle City Council than the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Hansen, the city and King County.

That deal calls for up to $200 million in bonds toward a $490 million arena if an NBA team is acquired. But Murray believes there’s no chance of that now, meaning a new proposal with more private money for a riskier “NHL-first” scenario is needed.

“Folks have got to come up with a plan that’s viable for us to finalize this process,’’ said Murray, who needs less public funding to help him sell the council on a request to close a street that’s part of the 627-page EIS. “The timeline you see for decisions on the arena are the timelines for when we either go forward, or we pull the plug.’’

As a refresher of how much public financing (aka, the money the public would be getting to support public functions if this were an entirely private arena) is involved, from way back in September 13, 2012’s meeting we had this chart.  Does Hansen and his NHL partner have a way to sink $400+ million into just the arena and still have things pencil out ?

The range of public money that would be going to the arena project under NBA-only and NBA+NHL scenarios.

The range of public money that would be going to the arena project under NBA-only and NBA+NHL scenarios.

Nov 062013
 

The race for the Mayor of Seattle was thought to be decided in preliminary polls, but NBA faithful pulled for Mike McGinn as their candidate.  Kris “Sonics Guy” Brannon and Brian Robinson (who both, incidentally, do not live in Seattle and thus can’t vote for Mike) of various Sonics fan organizations endorsed Mike McGinn just before the primary.  Sonics fans were encouraged to phone bank, drag their friends into voting in this off-year race, etc to try to stem the tide of McGinn’s trailing by over 10 points.

It failed.  The first ballot count posted Tuesday night indicated McGinn was trailing 43% to 56% (39,124 votes to 50,938).  That sort of deficit is unlikely to be made up.

The Seattle City Councilmen who voted against the Hansen arena MOU, Conlin and Licata, are both safely re-elected.  Conlin’s challenger Sawant was nipping (and, oddly, endorsed by many NBA fans), but it looks unlikely for Conlin to be unseated.

District elections for Seattle City Council positions finally won, which will be interesting to see how it plays out and who ends up representing the SoDo contingent.

McGinn Defeated By Arena-Opposition

As we’ve heard said about Nickel’s 2009 defeat being a referendum on his handling of the Sonics’ departure, I guess the same can be said about McGinn’s defeat being helped, in no small way, by the nearly 3/4ths of the voters out there who remembered voting for I-91, against building an arena for the NBA without making money on it.

While not at all overturned by a credible challenger, the 22% of the vote going to “not-Dow Constantine” for King County Executive – candidate Alan Lobdell – could also be a good sign of growing foment against those who promulgate another taxpayer-assisted arena.