Claiming that the final environmental impact statement on Chris Hansen’s proposed arena in Sodo is “legally inadequate and defective,” an attorney representing the longshoremen’s union requested Friday that the City Council produce a supplemental EIS because the original “omits, and blurs, intentionally, an inconvenient truth” — that a remodeled KeyArena can work for the NBA and NHL.
At issue is a report commissioned by the council and made public in 2015, after the FEIS comment period closed, by a consulting firm, AECOM. The report concluded that a remodel of the Key for $285 million would work for the pro sports teams.
The FEIS did not consider a remodeled Key as a solution on the grounds that the alternative “did not meet the purpose and objective” of creating a suitable arena for NBA and NHL, and analyzed Seattle Center alternatives presuming the Key would be demolished.
Attorney Peter Goldman, representing the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 , cited in a letter to council a state environmental regulation that says a supplemental EIS can be required when “there is new information indicating a project’s probable significant adverse environmental impact” including “discovery of misrepresentation or lack of material disclosure.”
Goldman contends that the council, despite spending more than $150,000 for the report, marginalized AECOM’s remodel plan because it appeared to create a potential conflict with the FEIS, which concluded there were no significant harmful impacts to Sodo from the 18,000-seat arena.
The FEIS was made public in May 2015, but the AECOM report surfaced in September only after public-records requests from the Seattle Times and KING5.
The Times reported Tuesday that city staff emails disclosed an awareness that the EIS and AECOM reports may be at odds, but did not include an amendment to the FEIS suggested by an AECOM executive that would have acknowledged another possibility — Goldman’s “inconvenient truth.”
The union, the Port of Seattle, the Mariners and Seahawks have issued lengthy statements opposing an imminent action by the council to vacate a portion of Occidental Avenue to make room for the arena. All have urged a delay on the street vacation vote until the Key remodel gets a vetting.
But the AECOM report considered only a building remodel, proposing that the playing surface be placed on a diagonal angle to create seating for hockey of 15,900, making it the NHL’s second-smallest arena. The report did not examine the transportation and parking issues around Seattle Center.
The FEIS went into great detail examining traffic and parking for Sodo project, after which Hansen agreed to pay for improvements and additions that included a parking garage and a pedestrian bridge. The Seattle Department of Transportation signed off the project, agreeing that the arena posed no significant impacts.
Presumably a supplemental EIS for the Center would have to consider parking and traffic, taking into account all the new development around the Center since the Sonics were relocated to Oklahoma City in 2008, including the Gates Foundation headquarters building.
Goldman’s letter focused on his belief that the city was deceptive:
In its apparent zeal to ensure that a rebuilt KeyArena did not emerge as a viable alternative to a Sodo arena, the FEIS undermined citizens’ right to a fair EIS process by omitting known facts and deploying misleading language to blur the truth. Seattle’s citizens deserve better of their City, particularly with millions of tax dollars and the economic future Seattle’s Port and industrial lands at stake.
The city council’s transportation committee will meet Tuesday at a public hearing.