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Originally published Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 4:06 PM

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Editorial: Take a timeout for Sodo arena hype

The Sodo arena proposal has not received the scrutiny it deserves or the law expects. Public officials must ensure the plan gets a rigorous look.

Seattle Times Editorial

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LOTS of eyes will be on New York this week, because the NBA Board of Governors’ agenda features a decision on the proposed sale and move of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle.

The assumption, of course, is the franchise has a home to move to in Seattle’s Sodo District. That expectation is presumptuous at best.

As Seattle City councilmembers Tim Burgess and Sally Clark assured the public, they are committed to seeing that a thorough environmental analysis of the plan also includes a review of alternative sites.

The churn of discussions around Chris Hansen’s 18,000-seat arena proposal is that it is on a flat, predictable timeline, with a foreseeable conclusion.

Plunking a third professional-sports facility into the city’s industrial zone is no casual decision. State environmental assessments exist to force thoughtful consideration of emotional investments of public dollars.

The nearby Port of Seattle is a regional economic engine. A hasty decision to build another sports venue would likely compromise public investments made to support the efficient movement of freight in and out of Sodo.

Recall the words of Dan O’Neal, chairman of the Washington State Transportation Commission, in a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn: “Adding an additional venue in the Sodo area, in our judgment, could seriously jeopardize freight mobility, pedestrian safety and overall vehicular access given it is already a very congested and challenging area for transportation movement.”

The intrusion of this proposal on a functioning, job-sustaining and tax-revenue-producing industrial area needs to be carefully explored.

The city cannot pick and choose when and how it applies the state environmental-review process. Indeed, a King County Superior Court dismissed a lawsuit Friday that sought to block the arena, because the city was essentially lending tax funds and not turning a profit, as a voter-approved initiative requires.

The judge said the lawsuit was too early, because so many questions are still to be answered by environmental reviews and contract details.

Yes, the list of unanswered questions stands in sharp contrast to promoter Hansen’s urgent timeline.

Economic impacts, alternative sites, respect for environmental process and protocols and fundamental protections for taxpayers are all open, unexplored and unresolved.


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