By now, you all have probably seen the poll that was commissioned by the Port of Seattle and other maritime interests, which concluded that 75% of those asked felt that the arena should not be "a priority" for the Seattle City Council. This article isn't about the clever wording of "not a priority," which doesn't mean the person is against the arena, per se. Or the fact that a "priority" project wouldn't take four years to get to this point. Or the fact that the question that preceded it compared the arena's importance to that of homelessness and transportation, items that anyone would be hard pressed to say are less important than a sports arena. Or the fact that the anti-arena option in every multiple choice question invited the asker to "READ LAST." Or the fact that 22% of those polled didn't know the arena plan even existed, and 69% said they weren't following the story. Or...
You get the idea. What we're focusing on today is one question in particular, question 18, which asked whether the participant agreed or disagreed with the following statement:
First off, the notion that "with no professional teams looking to locate in Seattle, there is no need to rush" was addressed in Brian's conversation with super agent Leigh Steinberg, who said "The concept of waiting until there is a promise for a team precludes any chance of ever getting a team." No city is getting a team without an arena. We've tried not having an arena for eight years, maybe we should try having one and see how that goes. By that, I don't mean we need an arena standing, but we need a plan that is ready to go at a moment's notice. You've heard the phrase ad nauseam, we need an arena that is "shovel-ready." For that, of course, we need the vacation of Occidental Ave.
Back in October, the various maritime interests sent a letter to City Council member Tom Rasmussen and Seattle Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly. According to their attorney Peter Goldman, they were "urging the city not to give away Occidental Avenue South through the street vacation process until the city makes an up or down decision on the arena.
"This letter does not say the street should not be given away, it says that decision should be deferred, postponed, until we know this arena deal is moving forward," he added. As it turns out, that's kind of how it works.
According to the above question, "handing over public property to a private developer" (also known as "granting vacation of a city street to a developer who has gone through the proper channels") is an "irreversible step." This isn't just misleading, it's patently false.
According to the SDOT's website on street vacations;
"The vacation approval process is in two parts. If the Council grants the vacation, the Petitioner receives conditional approval and may proceed to develop the project and work on meeting all the conditions imposed on the project."
In this case, "meeting all the conditions imposed on the project" means "building an arena."
For further clarification on this, Sonics Rising reached out to Beverly Barnett of the SDOT and asked her to shed some light on the issue. She confirmed that the street vacation is not irreversible.
"With this project, one of the conditions is that the project be built as presented to City Council, so the approval is granted for an arena as presented and approved by the Council. A different project cannot be built using the vacation approval from this project, if the Council does approve it. The ordinance that completes the vacation process is only done after the project is built consistent with the conditions imposed by the Council, and all fees are paid.
"The idea of moving forward with the conditional approval was to have a project that would be ready to move forward quickly should a team be identified. If a team is not identified the vacation would not be completed and the street would remain public right-of-way." [Emphasis ours]
To summarize, no arena means no street vacation. Chris Hansen can't build office buildings in the middle of Occidental Ave. He can't build a roller coaster or the world's longest Taco Bell drive thru. He can only build an arena. If he doesn't, the street remains as-is and is eventually given back to the city. Vacating the street is not an "irreversible step."
If this one question can be so wrong, what does that say about the rest of the poll?