Full Council Arena Street Vacation Vote

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Arena drawing from street vacation petitionThe Full Council did not approve the conditional street vacation of Occidental Avenue South for the proposed arena project by a vote of 4-5 yesterday (Bagshaw, Herbold, Sawant, Juarez and González voting no; Harrell, O’Brien, Johnson and myself voting yes). This vote is a major disappointment for those who hope to bring an NBA team back to Seattle; at a minimum, the Council’s decision yesterday sets this effort back.

I voted in favor of the conditional street vacation both in committee and at the Full Council meeting yesterday. I explained my committee vote in this earlier post.

When determining my position, it was important to me that the street vacation would have been conditional on many factors. Most notably, the street would have been vacated only for the proposed arena project. It could not have been vacated for a large office complex, even though that use is permitted on the parcels on either side of Occidental Ave S. It also would have been conditioned on a detailed scheduling coordination agreement we asked the arena proponents and other major teams to work out together.

Per Council policy, the street vacation would have lasted for five years, but the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) approved in 2012 that commits partial public financing of this project expires in November, 2017. After the expiration of the MOU in late 2017, any arena construction would have needed to be completely privately financed. If an arena was not constructed by 2021, the opportunity for a street vacation would have expired.

My colleagues who voted the opposite way based their opposition on concerns about traffic impacts and the proposed arena’s effect on maritime jobs. While I respect my colleagues’ decision, I saw no convincing evidence to back up these claims. In fact, the city’s traffic engineers and the professional consultants the city hired assured us the traffic impacts could be mitigated.