Union Fights Site of Seattle Sports Arena

     SEATTLE (CN) – The Longshoremen’s union sued Seattle and King County to block construction of a pro basketball arena the union says will affect port operations.
     The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 claims the city and county cherry-picked a site for the new arena, and violated the state’s Environmental Policy Act by failing to look at alternatives that would be less disruptive for the Port of Seattle.
     Codefendant WSA Properties III LLC, dba ArenCo, wants the arena built just south of SafeCo Field, in the SODO (south of downtown) neighborhood, where the Seahawks football team and Mariners baseball team have stadiums.
     The union, representing 3,000 Port of Seattle workers, claims that traffic and congestion from the new stadium will cause freight corridors to become “congested and unreliable.”
     “In this highly competitive business, if another port can provide easier access to regional or national infrastructure and destinations for freight movement, relocation frequently occurs,” the union says in its complaint in King County Court.
     “A new arena can be built anywhere, but the same cannot be said about a world-class deep-water port terminal.”
     The Longshoremen claim that local officials approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the developer that focused on just one site. But the Washington Environmental Policy Act requires a review of alternative sites as part of the environmental analysis, the complaint states.
     The Longshoremen say the provisions in the memorandum “will create irreversible political momentum in favor of siting the proposed new arena on the SODO site in the SEPA review process, making the SEPA alternatives and impacts review process a sham.”
     Seattle’s NBA team, the Supersonics, relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008 and now play as the Oklahoma City Thunder.
     In 2011, San Francisco businessman Chris Hansen, a former Seattle resident, began negotiations with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn to bring a professional basketball team back to the city. Hansen also hoped to attract a professional hockey team to play in the new arena.
     Hansen began “quietly purchasing real estate for the proposed Arena and its parking lots,” the complaint states.
     “Mr. Hansen has publicly stated on numerous occasions that ArenCo is not interested in constructing the Arena on any other site in Seattle or elsewhere in King County,” according to the complaint. “Mr. Hansen has also publicly stated (as recently as October 16, 2012 on KING5 TV) that he and his investor group believe that since they are the majority owners of the proposed Arena they should have the right to choose its final location. Mr. Hansen’s public statement about the Arena’s SODO location completely contradicts and undermines the language in the MOU providing that the Councils would conduct a ‘full SEPA review, including consideration of one or more alternative sites … ‘ and the Councils’ repeated public statements that they, not Mr. Hansen, would ultimately select the Arena location. Mr. Hansen’s stated refusal to consider alternative sites renders the Councils’ reservation of the right to choose the Arena site after required SEP A review meaningless. In other words, given Mr. Hansen’s exclusive interest in the SODO site, it will be politically difficult, if not impossible, for the Councils to select an alternative site for the Arena because such a decision would effectively terminate Mr. Hansen’s willingness to proceed with the joint venture. This would put the Councils in the politically untenable position of killing Mr. Hansen’s proposal to return professional basketball and hockey to Seattle.”
     The Longshoremen want the city’s and county’s approval of the memorandum declared null and void under the state’s State Environmental Policy Act.
     They are represented by David Mann, with Gendler & Mann.

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