The City Council should shelve the street vacation and absolutely not give Chris Hansen five years to take advantage of the street.
IF Seattle wants an NBA team back as soon as possible, the last thing it should do is transfer a street to developer Chris Hansen under terms proposed by Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council.
Doing so is likely to keep Seattle sports fans in limbo for years to come and scare off other investors, who might have a better chance of securing a team than Hansen.
If you missed early episodes of the Sodo arena saga, here’s a recap:
Hansen, a San Francisco investment manager, made a deal with Seattle and King County officials in 2012. The public would finance $200 million toward a $500 million arena if he secures an NBA team by November 2017.
In 2013, Hansen’s standing with the NBA fell when he was caught breaking California campaign rules while trying to lure Sacramento’s team. Then in 2014, Hansen lost his biggest partner, Steve Ballmer.
Last week, NBA and NHL commissioners poured cold water on Hansen’s project, telling Times reporter Geoff Baker that no teams for Seattle are in sight.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave Hansen an additional slight, saying that remodeling KeyArena could be just as good as a new arena.
Meanwhile Murray and the City Council are going through the charade of advancing the Sodo arena.
At this point, the only sure thing is that maritime interests will sue the city because a Sodo arena would severely affect traffic, industry and Port operations.
The city teed up this lawsuit by failing to include relevant information about arena alternatives in its environmental-impact study.
Rather than pausing to fix the study and see if Hansen can make the deadline, the city is charging ahead. Actually, it’s poised to make a bad agreement worse.
On Monday, the City Council should reject a proposal to vacate Occidental Avenue South through Hansen’s site at Murray’s request. The only reason to vacate now is to help politicians score points with Hansen supporters.
Don’t be fooled if city officials try to obscure the negative impacts of this decision by announcing a side deal with Hansen to coordinate game times with other venues. A traffic plan was required anyway and won’t magically improve a terrible location.
The proposed vacation also would give Hansen five years — down from seven suggested by Murray — to take advantage of Occidental and fulfill his obligations.
This time frame could give Hansen an opening to renegotiate his deal and seek more time to secure a team.
But as long as Hansen’s deal drags on, other investors aren’t likely to propose another NBA or NHL option, such as remodeling the Key or building in a better location. Seattle is then left waiting on a divisive project even leagues aren’t promoting.
Council members must know this stinks. Asked to clarify their stance on the vacation and five-year time frame, only one of nine responded to questions from this editorial board.
Kudos to Sally Bagshaw, a former county attorney, who said there’s no reason to vacate Occidental now — and especially no reason to give Hansen five years to proceed.
Council President Bruce Harrell recently questioned why the city wouldn’t bind the vacation to Hansen’s November 2017 deadline.
The two of them should talk sense into the rest of the council. They should shelve the street vacation and absolutely not give Hansen five years to take advantage of the street — especially if they want to see the NBA in Seattle anytime soon.