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July 27, 2012 at 2:37 PM

Planning Commission urges caution on arena deal

The Seattle Planning Commission warned city officials Friday that a new sports arena in Sodo could threaten port operations and industries that are vital to the economy and merit protection.

A new arena “holds a strong likelihood of displacing living wage jobs and nearby businesses and disrupting container port operations and freight mobility,” says a 17-page report by the commission, an advisory group of 16 volunteers appointed by the mayor and City Council.

At the least, the commission says, more review and analysis should be conducted before the city takes further action on the proposal to build a $490 million arena with up to $200 million in public investment. “Our first suggestion is one of caution,” the report says, referring to any approval of an agreement with private investors led by San Francisco businessman Chris Hansen.

The commission’s position is consistent with one it took during a heated debate in 2007 on whether to relax zoning rules that protected the city’s industrial areas.

Responding to questions from City Council members, the commission’s report notes that the Sodo industrial area has faced pressure to convert its land to other uses. The proposed arena would likely increase that pressure on manufacturing and industrial businesses.

Converting industrial land to other uses can be a problem, according to the commission, because it adversely impacts the surrounding area by increasing land values and lease rates, while generating traffic, reducing parking and access to local businesses.

Industrial areas warrant some protection, the commission said, because they produce about 38 percent of the city’s total business and occupation tax revenue annually.

Because an environmental impact analysis has not been conducted yet, decision-makers lack sufficient information to identify and mitigate potential adverse impacts of the arena, the report said.

The commission couldn’t discern the impact of a new arena on city-owned KeyArena. But, it noted that the investors’ largely private analysis of four possible arena sites is very different from the process of siting other public sports facilities, such as Safeco Field, which included a “robust evaluation” of alternative sites.

The commission’s charge, according to Chairman David Cutler, is to provide independent and objective advice to the mayor, the council and city departments. Many commissioners work in fields related to development, such as architecture and planning.  In their arena report, 11 commissioners disclosed that professionally they’ve worked with public and private entities — such as the city, King County and Port of Seattle — that may be affected by the arena outcome.

 

Comments | More in Basketball arena, homepage, Politics Northwest, Seattle City Council | Topics: basektball arena, Chris Hansen, keyarena

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