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Brian Robinson's letter to the Seattle City Council

April 29, 2016

To: Respected Members, Seattle City Council:

From: Brian E. Robinson

Members of Council,

I have advocated on behalf of the Seattle Supersonics for nearly a decade. During that time I have been blessed to work with a wonderful and diverse family of fans including, Save Our Sonics, Sonicsgate, Bring Back Our Sonics, and most recently I have supported arena efforts both publicly and confidentially in Bellevue, Tukwila, KeyArena, Mercer Arena and Sodo while working closely with several potential owners and officials at city, county and state levels.

I continue to stay involved with this effort not because I believe an arena is more important than housing, education, transit or other significant issues we face. Rather it is because I have been so sincerely touched by the passion of the fans and community members I have met during this process. The uprising of support that has emerged around this effort is in and of itself illustrative of the way sports can bring together diverse members of the community, building unity and contributing to civic pride. Bringing back the NBA and NHL would be a joyous celebration for our city that I, and thousands of my friends believe to have tremendous cultural value.

In addition I truly believe that this arena will create good, union wage jobs and provide a venue for world class music and performers. The sports franchises and concerts hosted in the building will fit with Seattle’s vision a vibrant downtown full of amenities for our residents and booming tourism industry. These amenities help our growing firms compete with other markets for the world’s most talented workforce.

Just yesterday it was announced that arena investors, acting at the direction of council have reached a joint scheduling agreement with the Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders FC. This agreement will help define the schedule not just for events at the new arena, but also CenturyLink and Safeco Fields. This type of thoughtful plan for Sodo traffic is long overdue. By working cooperatively, the various parties have produced a well-crafted set of guidelines that is considerate of freight and maritime needs. It offers virtually every concession requested (such as 3-hour event separation, no arena events between 4 - 7pm on weekdays) and not only mitigates the traffic impact of the new arena, but also could potentially lessen existing congestion caused by the current teams.

This agreement is a great win for the city. It is also a generous concession put forward by the arena investment team, Mariners, Seahawk and Sounders, all of whom participated in the process and gave a little ground as part of their good faith efforts. This agreement is not the first demonstration of Chris Hansen’s sincere efforts to address city concerns. Consider that as part of this process:

  • A $40 million contribution to Sodo traffic improvement funds was added to the package to address council’s initial concerns about traffic.
  • To address concerns that anticipated value will be unrealized the MOU added significant revenue guarantees, including unprecedented personal guarantees by the franchise and its owners.
  • During the design process a pedestrian overpass and vastly upgraded bike and walking access features were added to address concerns about pedestrian access and safety near rail tracks.
  • Funding for the Lander Street Overpass has been included and prioritized as a result of the arena project.

That commitment to compromise has stood in sharp contrast to arena opponents who have throughout this entire process shown no willingness at all to compromise for a solution. The same folks who claim traffic is their only concern appear dismissive of the new scheduling agreement as they have been dismissive of all other reasonable efforts to mitigate the arena’s impact. Based on their actions it seems obvious that they simply want to kill this project and are unwilling to accept any alternative, no matter how reasonable.

Unfortunately, a vote in favor of street vacation will, in all likelihood, expose council to litigation. ILWU Attorney Peter Goldman has made clear his intention to challenge your decision. ILWU, whom Goldman represents has used proxy media to lay the groundwork for this case by creating a narrative that city hall has "greased the skids" for this project, alluding to wrongdoing in the mayor’s office and city council. I was offended when they recently named a city staffer in a front page article by Geoff Baker with implications of conspiracy and wrongdoing. To make those allegations without a shred of evidence was wrong.

  • These previous allegations of misconduct will be put forward as "proof" of the claim that the project has been insufficiently vetted despite 4 years of formal review by multiple agencies including city staff, the mayor’s office, council members, the department of transportation and design review.
  • They will dismiss an EIS, traffic studies and scheduling agreements as a sham even while asking for those same reports to be prepared for KeyArena.
  • KeyArena will be presented as an option despite the fact that it lacks an investor, funding or any semblance of a plan. That project also has been thoroughly vetted. Multiple interested parties have concluded that renovations, while hypothetically possible are constrained by historical status, Seattle Center Master planning, and changes to the neighborhood since the Sonics last played there. While a return to KeyArena may be conceptually possible multiple investors have concluded the project lacks sufficient practical merit to study further, let alone pay for.

    It should also be noted that under the current proposal for Sound Transit 3 there will be no light rail arriving at KeyArena until 2038. Any effort to support KeyArena as an alternative to the currently designated stadium district would likely require an acceleration of that schedule at the expense of the West Seattle line and proposed 130 th Street Station.

This creative narrative of "shameful" conspiracy and easy KeyArena alternatives is being put forth by the same people who ask Seattle to trust them about the impacts of coal trains and offshore oil rigs. Much like their current claim that Occidental Avenue is a major freight thoroughfare instead of an alley these allegations border on laughable and should be rejected outright.

While Goldman may be effective in generating a few more fiery headlines his case lacks legal basis and will largely be ignored until it is dismissed. A lot of people have worked hard over the last 4 years to create a quality contract whick will stand up in court. I have faith that City Attorney Pete Holmes will do a great job in handling the matter.

I find it egregious that arena opponents and their proxies have continued to make these allegations of conspiracy and litigate against the city rather than produce any new data to back up their claims. The port has had ample opportunity to produce new traffic studies or provide data quantifying actual harm. They have chosen not to define what specific impacts this street vacation would lead to but instead ask Seattle to accept claims of massive economic impact while making broad claims that "40% of the state’s jobs could be at risk."

I would suggest that members of council consider this report by the Municipal League of Seattle, who has been providing independent review of government Since 1910. In the executive report of their extensive port review the watchdog organization states:

The Port justifies nearly all of its decisions on broad claims of "economic impacts." References to large numbers of jobs created or taxes generated are meaningless without analysis of the related costs that produces such benefits and the forgone opportunities that may have been sought...the Port’s hybrid functions as a quasi-governmental and quasi-private entity have led to a culture that has raised significant issues about uncompetitive deal making, poor accountability, cronyism and ethical lapses.

The port, and other arena opponents are doing the community a disservice by refusing to accept the informed and thoughtful decision of council in 2012. They are failing in their obligation as community partners by not working in good faith towards a mutually agreeable compromise like Chris Hansen, the Mariners, Seahawks and Sounders did when directed by council. They should not be rewarded for choosing obstructionism and litigation over cooperation and compromise.

I urge you to vote in favor of this routine street vacation because the broader arguments around this arena, its impact, mitigation options and public benefit have been heard. It is time to move forward and turn our focus to more pressing issues such as transit, housing and education.

Thank you,

Brian E. Robinson