City land-use law would be violated by the plan to put a basketball/hockey arena on the SoDo site where developer Chris Hansen has purchased land, according to a former Seattle city councilman who helped draft the legislation.
Holding up a 68-page document created by the city council on June 12, 2000, to a meet of the King County Council’s transportation committee Tuesday morning, architect and former city council member Peter Steinbrueck said the city created a district with a re-zone that permitted the baseball and football stadiums but did not create a “stadium zone” that would accommodate a third major project.
“No discussion, thought, planning or analysis went into any consideration of a third stadium,” Steinbrueck told reporters after dropping his bomblet at the lightly attended hearing. “I would bet money today that it’s not possible to do so within the stadium area that is legally binding today.”
Steinbrueck, an architect who served on the city council from 1997 to 2007 and who has considerable background in land-use issues, said he is on neither side of the arena-location issue, although his presentation came during a hearing specifically designed to give a forum to five panelists who represented the Port of Seattle, the Management Industrial Council and union members from the longshoremen and railroad workers, all of whom criticized the site for its potential for congestion.
The complaints were familiar, but Steinbrueck’s disclosures were the first time the legal issues of land use had a public airing.
Steinbrueck told council members that the arena proponents “put the cart before the horse” in attempting to get a memorandum of agreement accepted by the city and King County councils before a “programmatic” environmental impact study had been done.
“I believe (the project) is in noncompliance,” he said. “The city council, the county council and regional policy makers (made the law) to reinforce this SoDo area as an industrial center. That is the predominant and prevailing use in this area.”
Steinbrueck said that an arena would make Seattle the only market with three sports buildings in an urban area. Philadelphia has three sports stadiums adjacent, but in a suburban location.
“I’m not saying that that is right or wrong,” he said. “But it’s clear that it raises serious challenges, issues and problems.”
Asked whether the city can simply change the ordinances adopted in 2000, he said, “It can, but any number of litigants would jump into this if the city is ignoring its obligations. By approving the MOA before seeking a team (or an EIS), it raises serious legal questions and is ill-advised. We don’t have the analysis yet for the approval.”
Steinbrueck also said the arena dimensions have a footprint that is too large for the current site given the constraints on railroad tracks on the east boundary and First Avenue South on the west.
“Within the boundary (of the 2000 ordinances) the arena does work, but it absorbs all remaining land for a third stadium,” he said. “It loses the original intent as a transition area. A transition area is used to (space between) sports-recreational use and heavy industrial use. There’s a very heavy industrial use here.”
Steinbrueck said that he’s been researching the subject for some time on his own, and city staffers had been cooperative.
“They knew the documents I was looking for and have been very helpful,” he said. “But I think I’m the only one who’s read them all.”