The Occidental Street Vacation is a Seriously Bad Idea



I recognize the time and money that has gone into this street vacation proposal and I very much appreciate my council colleagues and applaud our sport fans and supporters who have come to dozens of meetings and events since 2012, making their wishes and recommendations known loud and clear.

That said, I cannot fathom why we are offering up this street vacation at this point.

When we signed the MOU in 2012 the deal was Mr. Hansen would provide an NBA team and possibly an NHL team. We hoped that the Sacramento Kings would be sold to Mr. Hansen and that the SuperSonics would be back in Seattle. We were wrong.

I concur with all the fans that it would be tremendous if the NBA returned to the area, but there is absolutely no evidence that the NBA Commissioner will allow the SuperSonics to return to Seattle within the next several years. In fact, there is ample evidence to the contrary; that no team is for sale and expansions aren’t under consideration.

Speaking with reporters April 24, 2015 at the Associated Press Sports Editors commissioners meetings in New York, Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner, said NBA expansion would dilute the talent in the league — something none of the owners want.

Adam Silver, March 11, 2016 said: “We had great teams in Seattle, a great history of basketball there. I personally love the city; I spend a lot of time there. The issue for the NBA, right now, is that every team in essence can have a global following. …..the way the owners see expansion at the moment is really the equivalent of selling equity in the league. We’re 30 partners right now, 30 teams; all of those teams own 1/30th of the global opportunities of the NBA. So the issue becomes, if you expand, do you want to sell one of those interests off to a new group of partners?”

 The answer is NO.

Beyond the fact that we don’t have a team, traffic problems are real on 1st Avenue and 4th Avenue now through Downtown and in SODO. I live and work on both those Avenues and see it every game day on my walk or ride home. On game days now, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Avenues are congested beyond tolerance.

Under the terms of the proposed street vacation, we councilmembers are being asked to give away a 65’ wide street forever. The traffic has not been mitigated under the terms of this street vacation. It will only get worse if this new arena is sited there without functional replacement of transportation space on Occidental Way.

Buses, freight, and perhaps a street car will compete for space. Not one extra foot of capacity has been added.

In SODO we have family wage jobs in maritime industries and aerospace; we have infrastructure that has taken 100 years and billions of dollars to build.

Why do we want to displace these blue collar businesses and gentrify? SODO is important to our diverse economy.

We have a growing economy connected to trade. We need our Port. We need the growing relationship with Tacoma. Personally I don’t want us to lose to Prince Rupert, B.C. We should be looking to BENEFIT SODO as a working port, not make it impossible for freight to get around and traffic to get through.

Under the current vacation proposal, we have not addressed the functional replacement of Occidental. We have made other property owners do this work when petitioning for a street vacation – why are we shrugging our shoulders on this one?

Traffic is a serious problem for people who live and work in SODO, West Seattle and anyone who wants to come in or leave Downtown. I simply do not see the traffic benefits that are being offered by this deal.

One individual is getting a sweet deal, but the taxpayers and Port are not.

YES, I want NBA to return here, and YES, it may be appropriate for a deal to include public funding, if the terms are right.

I know Council President Harrell thinks I have a tattoo that says “Seattle Center”. I’m not admitting to that. But before we agree to vacate Occidental, let’s consider what’s best for our city and taxpayers. Let’s dig deeply into cost/benefit analysis raised in the AECOM study and seriously consider what could be done at Key Arena.

There’s no legal obligation for the city to give up a street under this proposal at this time, and we are putting a lot at risk for an NBA team that doesn’t even exist. We’re hoping for fairy dust.

The Council and the Mayor should consider benefits for our city and region, not just what’s best for one man and a hoped-for basketball team.

We MUST consider all factors – traffic mitigation, our blue color jobs, the Port, real public benefit, and functional road replacement. This hasn’t happened yet.

Please, let’s be sensible. Let’s do what’s best for our City as a whole. This street vacation clearly is not it.

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