Union to appeal Sodo arena decision
The longshore workers union will appeal a ruling that the agreement to build a new sports arena in Sodo didn’t violate state environmental laws.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The local longshore workers union is taking its fight against the Sodo sports arena to the state Court of Appeals.
The union plans to challenge the Feb. 22 ruling by King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North that the agreement to build a new arena with up to $200 million in public funds did not violate state environmental laws.
Attorneys for the longshore workers say North ignored evidence that the agreement to build the arena — reached in October among the city of Seattle, King County and investor Chris Hansen — already has set in motion a quest to bring an NBA team to town, architectural designs for the new building, and an environmental review that won’t change where the arena is built.
All those government actions required an environmental assessment and an evaluation of alternative sites first, said Peter Goldman, attorney for Local 19 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The union will seek an expedited review, he said.
“We think Judge North was wearing blinders. He ignored where the arena deal was at and where it’s going,” Goldman said.
Goldman said union members also are concerned about the scope of an economic-impact study required under the agreement. He said that at an initial meeting of stakeholders last week, the consultants hired by the city to conduct the economic study seemed interested only in the direct impacts of arena events on Port of Seattle operations.
Goldman said the Memorandum of Understanding with Hansen clearly requires a broad study of the arena’s impacts on all industrial and maritime businesses in the Sodo area, also known as the Greater Duwamish Manufacturing and Industrial Center.
Port officials are concerned that a narrower scope for the study could mean some economic impacts from the new arena will be overlooked in both the economic study and the planned city environmental review.
Geri Poor, regional transportation manager for the Port, said excluding businesses in the greater Duwamish area, including the railroad yards, trucking firms and other support services, “would underestimate the true economic effect to this sector.”
Poor made her comments in a Feb. 27 email to Nathan Togelson, the city’s arena project manager, after an initial meeting with the consultants who will do the economic-impact study, ProForma Advisors of Los Angeles.
Local 19 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, whose members load and unload cargo at Port of Seattle facilities within blocks of the proposed Sodo arena site, filed a lawsuit against the arena deal in October, saying a state-required environmental-impact assessment should have been completed before the deal was signed.
Union attorneys argued that the Sodo location, where Hansen has spent $53 million acquiring property, threatens freight mobility and the livelihoods of union members. They said the agreement to build the arena names the Sodo site and creates unstoppable momentum for building at that location, regardless of what an upcoming environmental study reveals.
North sided with attorneys for the city, county and Hansen, saying the agreement clearly says that no final transaction documents, or final government approval to go forward on the project, will be issued until the environmental review is completed. The union sought to void the agreement and force the city to complete the environmental review and evaluate alternative sites before signing any deal with Hansen.
The Seattle Department of Planning and Development is preparing the scope of work for the environmental review that will include the Sodo site, two Seattle Center locations, and a no-build alternative. The impact statement and recommended mitigation are expected to be completed by November.
Hansen and an investment group that includes Steve Ballmer and Peter and Erik Nordstrom have signed a purchase agreement for the Sacramento Kings and have asked the NBA to relocate the team to Seattle for the 2013-14 season. The NBA Board of Governors is expected to vote on that request, and a competing offer from a Sacramento investment group, at its meeting in April.
Lynn Thompson: email@example.com or 206-464-8305. On Twitter:@ltompsontimes