The local union representing longshoreman said the city of Seattle should have started an environmental review of a proposed sports arena as soon as it became clear investor Chris Hansen wanted public funds.
Union leaders and their attorneys held a news conference this morning to reiterate their plans to sue the city and King County for violation of state environmental laws if the agreement with Hansen is signed by Mayor Mike McGinn and Executive Dow Constantine.
The King County Council unanimously approved the agreement this afternoon, and the city council passed it 7-2.
“We have issues with how these negotiations were conducted, behind closed doors and without stakeholders consulted,” said Cameron Williams, president of Local 19 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents about 3,000 workers who load and unload cargo at Port of Seattle terminals.
“We’re adamant that a site in Sodo is not feasible. We’re here to defend our jobs in the maritime industry, to defend our living wage jobs in Sodo. You can build a stadium anywhere but you can’t build a deep water port except where it now exists,” Williams said.
Land use attorney David Mann, who is representing the longshoreman along with environmental attorney Peter Goldman, said state environmental law requires governments to prepare an environmental review “as soon as they have a proposal before them.”
McGinn conducted secret negotiations for more than six months with Hansen over a proposal to build a $490 million arena in Sodo, with $200 million in public funds, before announcing the negotiations in December. The union’s attorneys said the city and county councils should not have continued to negotiate an 85-page arena financing agreement that lists Sodo as the project site before examining alternate locations and their environmental impacts.
Hansen, a Seattle native and San Francisco hedge fund manager, has spent about $51 million for land in Sodo and has said he’s not interested in building an arena on another site. The Memorandum of Understanding spells out the requirements for a state environmental review, including an examination of at least one other site.
Goldman said the lawsuit was not only a matter of defending industrial lands, but of demanding good government from elected leaders.
“We should not allow an individual to strong arm government to place an arena at the site he would prefer,” Goldman said.