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Former Safeco Field Board member and Bellevue property owner Bob Wallace opposes the SoDo arena in Seattle

Bob Wallace is an east side property owner that writes opinion pieces in the Puget Sound Business Journal (PSBJ). He wrote in an opposition piece on March 25th. Former Seattle mayor Mike McGinn wrote a response. Both pieces are behind the PSBJ firewall. I've posted highlights of the discussion for cheap people like me.

Mike McGinn at the Washington Bus Candidate Circus, 2013
Mike McGinn at the Washington Bus Candidate Circus, 2013

In the March 25th issue of the Puget Sound Business Journal, Bob Wallace, the east side property owner and former Safeco Field PFD board member, felt compelled to revisit his failed opposition/competition with the proposed SoDo arena project.

The short of it is that Wallace prefers that our "neo-socialist city council" not bother to continue the three-and-a-half year-long review of the proposal because it has been rushed, and other locations that have failed over the past decade might blossom out of the manure he is shoveling.

Vacation of the street [Occidental] is entirely premature, and given the composition of the neo-socialist city council, it is astounding that the proposal garnered a line on the agenda. A little history is in order.

There are better locations for an arena should one be needed, and there is certainly no rush based on utterances from the NBA. So, City Council, please be good stewards of the public’s resources and defer discussion of vacating Occidental until there’s really something to talk about.

-Bob Wallace, PSBJ, 3/25/2016

Wallace then filled the ellipses above with a self-contradicting summation of historical low-lights that was both insulting to the people he wants to influence (to do nothing) and destroyed his own argument for stopping the process. He argued against the Seattle City Council ever entering into a mutually beneficial public/private partnership.

His trip down memory lane is used to criticize the east side, Bellevue, Renton, and Tukwilla for paying little more than arena development "lip service" to Clay Bennett in 2006, and ends his overall argument by saying some other site than SoDo will just magically become viable.

Wallace proposes that we wait for that failed situation from 2006 to happen now, and that the NBA will just walk in the front door. It apparently didn't occur to Wallace that the only thing preventing those locations, other than SoDo, from taking off over the past decade has been their lack of financial viability. Waiting around for a decade has produced exactly nothing except one viable plan in SoDo. But he thinks we should just stop, anyway.

Wallace's article also takes an odd twist when he takes a little poke at Mike McGinn in hindsight.

Given the voters’ repudiation, I find it remarkable that former Mayor Mike McGinn had the temerity to champion a new arena, and wonder how much it contributed to his demise.

-Bob Wallace, PSBJ, 3/25/2016

I guess Wallace would have a point if Ed Murray opposed the SoDo arena. I can tell you that I was at the Washington Bus Candidate Survivor Circus in 2013, both Mike McGinn and Ed Murray made the connection between support for the arena and younger voters. Richard Conlin was there, too. Wallace should go ask the former Seattle City Councilman how that election worked out.

Wallace's characterization of the nature of the proposal the Seattle City Council and King County Council voted in favor of in 2012 was baseless and hyperbolic.

What we have here is a real estate scam that would embarrass Donald Trump. Hansen overpays for some old industrial properties, hopes to induce the city to grant not only a generous up-zone but a gift of an important public right of way plus a huge financial contribution.

-Bob Wallace, PSBJ, 3/25/2016

Is that what the Seattle City Council and King County Council voted on?

Is that the agreement that will net Seattle $230 million dollars in net annual economic activity every year?

Are Bob's grapes sour?

I'll defer to Mike McGinn's April 1st response for the correction. McGinn listed 6 key facts. I've noted 3 facts below and his summation on the subject.

The arena will be developed and primarily financed with private funds. The public participation is designed to be self-financing and requires no new taxes or fees. The public financial participation will be repaid solely with arena- generated revenue that would not otherwise exist.

No public financial participation is triggered until an NBA franchise is acquired and located in Seattle via a binding non-relocation agreement.

The city will own the arena and land underneath outright, even after 100 percent of the public participation has been repaid.

This unprecedented financial deal is how the arena satisfies the requirements of Initiative 91, which regulates Seattle arena investments.

-Mike McGinn's response from 3/31/2016, PSBJ

The points I did not quote from McGinn were the specific requirements of the private investor to carry all the financial risk and guarantees to protect the city and county from construction overruns or tax shortfall. It's common knowledge by now.

Wallace even wrote that a Key Arena remodel would be good enough for hockey and the NBA.

In the meantime, studies have come to light which indicate that for a fraction of the cost of a new arena, the city’s albatross, Key Arena, could be rehabilitated as a fine venue for both hockey and, if we ever get a franchise, basketball.

-Bob Wallace, PSBJ, 3/25/2016

I've noticed that none of this has happened over the past decade. I've also noticed that the only reason anybody has give the future of Key Arena this attention is only because a superior alternative exists in SoDo. Seattle loses any leverage to resolve Key Arena's future if the council says no to SoDo and a miracle arena appears in the east.

The viability of a Key Arena remodel didn't escape Mike McGinn, either.

First, both leagues have made it clear that Key Arena is a non-starter – a position that has held firm for over a decade.

Second, no investor has ever stepped forward to make that kind of investment.

Finally, the Key Arena neighborhood has significant traffic and parking challenges.

-Mike McGinn's response from 3/31/2016, PSBJ

And don't forget the traffic. After all, it's a street vacation Wallace is opposing. McGinn cited the expert reports and careful analysis that led SDOT to recommend the street vacation of Occidental Avenue next to the Mariners parking garage, in support of the Stadium District in SoDo.

Concerns about traffic and the port are similarly unfounded. The Seattle Department of Transportation-commissioned multi- modal Transportation Access and Parking Study found that arena event traffic is well within existing parking, traffic and transit capacity of the area.

The SDOT Street Vacation recommendation submitted to the City Council last November said that the portion of Occidental Avenue proposed for vacation does not serve a critical function to the street grid or freight mobility. And the MOU creates a $40 million fund to improve transportation infrastructure in the Sodo area.

This is a good deal for Seattle and the region. An economic impact analysis found that the arena 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 that money flowing through the city of Seattle’s economy.

Some have argued that Chris Hansen overpaid for his properties with the hope to induce the city to grant a generous up-zone. What these arena opponents fail to understand, or choose to ignore, is that the arena site is within the city’s Stadium District. Just as was the case for the two existing stadiums, no zoning changes are being sought or needed for this project to move forward.

After more than three years of study, both the Seattle Downtown Seattle Design Review Board and Seattle Design Commission unanimously approved both the arena design and vacation of Occidental Avenue. While some may oppose a new arena for political purposes, no examination of the facts supports an argument in opposition to siting the project in our Stadium District.

-Mike McGinn, PSBJ, 3/31/2016

I think a little more history is in order. Here is Bob Wallace in 2012:

Bob Wallace, a downtown Bellevue property owner and member of the Public Facilities District that built and oversees Safeco Field, said Bellevue’s hopes for an arena could be boosted if Hansen’s proposal runs into local opposition or if the financing plan appears to be unrealistic.

"I say the same thing for both sides of the lake," Wallace said. "I don’t think it’s a done deal on either side. What it’s going to require is one or more billionaires who, A, decide they want to own a team and, B, put up the money for a new arena."

-Bob Wallace, Seattle Times, 2/28/2012

Well, this didn't happen on Wallace's side of the lake. Now he's just being a sore loser.