By Mark Stiles, September 9, 2013, Puget Sound Business Journal
The city of Seattle and King County did not “stack the deck” in favor of building a sports and entertainment arena in Seattle’s Sodo area, the State Court of Appeals ruled on Monday.
The decision affirmed a King County Superior Court judge’s earlier ruling against Local 19 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).
Union attorney Peter Goldman said his client has not decided whether to appeal Monday’s ruling to the state Supreme Court. He added there will be other venues to fight the plan for an arena in Sodo, which he called “the worst possible location” for the $490 million project, which would use a public investment of $200 million.
Hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen bought property for the Sodo arena at First Avenue South and South Massachusetts Street, which is near the Port of Seattle. Officials of Local 19, which has around 3,000 members, have said the arena would interfere with the movement of freight to and from the Port of Seattle.
The city and King County signed an agreement with Hansen’s company, WSA Properties, outlining how the arena could be built. Local 19 sued, saying that by signing the agreement before analyzing the environmental impacts, the city and county illegally stacked the deck in favor of the Sodo site.
On Monday, the appeals court ruled that the agreement “does not predetermine where an arena will be built or even that an arena will be built at all.” The ruling added the courts “are not a forum for the union’s opposition to Hansen’s proposal.”
Goldman said the Appeals Court’s decision was “a procedural ruling” and not a ruling against the union’s arguments. All these and other arguments against the Sodo location can be made as the public process continues, he added.
The environmental review of the arena project is under way. A draft environmental impact statement (EIS) was issued last month, and there will be a public hearing about it Tuesday at Seattle City Hall.
Hansen and some partners, including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, had a deal to buy theSacramento Kings professional basketball team and planned to move the franchise to Seattle, which lost its NBA team when the Sonics moved several years ago to Oklahoma. But the National Basketball Association voted down the Kings plan this spring.
Hansen has vowed to pursue development of the arena in Seattle.