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How We Got to Street Vacation Vote: A SoDo Arena Chronology

A handy timeline for the Seattle Arena project permitting process.

Seattle Times

On the occasion of the Occidental Avenue South street vacation legislation being transmitted to the Seattle City Council Transportation Committee, we thought it an appropriate time to remind people of the extensive permitting process the Seattle Arena project in SoDo has been subjected to since it was first introduced to the Emerald City community in February 2012.

KING5-TV's Chris Daniels notes in his report that a vote by the council on the legislation is "widely considered to be the final step for the project in the lengthy Seattle process." Street vacation is necessary for the Seattle Department of Planning and Development to issue the Master Use Permit for the project. While some parties, like the Port of Seattle, will continue to state that not enough study has been done, this timeline should demonstrate otherwise.


December 2011: After months of negotiations, the Seattle Mayor and King County Executive reach agreement with Chris Hansen on a Memorandum of Understanding for the development of the SoDo Arena.

March 2012: Arena Review Panel appointed by Seattle Mayor and King County Executive convene to examine the arena proposal.

April 2012: After numerous public meetings, the Arena Review Panel issues its favorable report.

"Based on their review, the Panel believes that the proposal is favorable, has promise and is generally consistent with the principles set forth by the Mayor and County Executive..."

May 2012: King County Council Expert Review Panel undertakes comprehensive review of arena proposal.

May 2012: Seattle Department of Transportation-commissioned multimodal transportation access and parking study published.

"Arena event traffic is well within the existing parking, traffic and transit capacity of the area."

July 2012: County Council Expert Review Panel issues favorable report.

"The proposed public-private partnership is one of the most favorable to the public of any recent partnership. The public investment carries little or no risk to the county’s financial well-being, its bond rating or its general fund...."

May – July 2012: King County Council Budget and Fiscal Management Committee and Seattle City Council Government Performance and Finance Committee consider the proposal in multiple public meetings.

July 2012: Joint City and County Council public hearing on proposal.

July 2012: Full County Council consideration of Arena MOU – approved with conditions.

September 2012: City Council makes additional changes and approves the MOU.

"Throughout our Council work to improve the proposal, Chris Hansen negotiated fairly and has kept his word. He is doing exactly what he told us he would do - working to return NBA basketball to Seattle." - Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess

October 2012: City and County Councils both approve amended MOU.

The King County Council approved the MOU on a 9-0 vote while the Seattle City Council approved it 7-2.

October 18, 2012: MOU signed by Chris Hansen, Seattle Mayor, and King County Executive.

November 2012 – September 2015: 7 Downtown Design Review Board meetings culminating in unanimous approval of arena & site design, including public plaza and pedestrian bridge.

December 2012 – September 2015: 10 Design Commission meetings culminating in unanimous approval of urban design merit and public benefit of the petition to vacate Occidental Avenue South between South Massachusetts Street and South Holgate Street.

July 2013: Economic Impact Analysis published.

The new analysis of the SoDo Arena shows the facility would have "a total net positive economic benefit" of between $230 million and $286 million a year to the economy of King County, with most of the money flowing through the City of Seattle’s economy. - Puget Sound Business Journal

August 2013: Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) issued.

September 10, 2013: Draft EIS public hearing.

September 19, 2013: Draft EIS public hearing.

May 7, 2015: Final EIS issued.

While a number of potential transportation impacts, and associated mitigation measures to address those impacts were identified, no significant adverse impacts in any other area were identified.

October 29, 2015: Addendum to FEIS issued.

The Seattle Department of Planning and Development re-analyzed pedestrian traffic numbers used in the EIS following concern expressed by the Seattle Mariners. Upping the Safeco Field game attendance from 13,000 to 40,000, the addendum certified that "the changes do not create additional significant impacts."

November 2015: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray reiterates city's commitment to arena amid further noise about a KeyArena remodel.

"Sodo remains the best arena location not only in the city, but in all of King County." - Mayor Murray

November 30, 2015: SDOT report and positive recommendation for street vacation submitted to council.

Re: Port's objection to street vacation - "It should also be noted that the Heavy Haul Route legislation, passed (by the council) in October 2015, only identifies Occidental Avenue South as a "Heavy Haul Route" from South Horton Street to South Holgate Street. The segment proposed to be vacated is not included in the Port's important Heavy Haul Network. This is a clear sign that Occidental is not necessary to freight movement or Port Operations."

Vetting of SDOT's report is expected to be completed by the Transportation committee by January. It is anticipated that the street vacation proposal will pass muster on the strength of the recommendations of the Design Commission, the Design Review Board, SDOT, and the FEIS, and then be presented to the city council at large for its eventual vote.