The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 19 filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court Wednesday challenging the decision of the City of Seattle and King County to move forward with an agreement to build a sports arena in Seattle’s industrial SoDo district.
Union leaders and their legal counsel announced their intention to file lawsuit earlier this week, and followed through after Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and King County Executive Dow Constantine signed a memorandum of understanding proposing the arena be built in SoDo.
The lawsuit alleges that Seattle and King County violated the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).
“While it purports in several sentences to require future SEPA review and reserves final siting of the Arena by the Councils in the future, virtually all of the 38 page-long MOU consists of planning and financial terms that only apply to the SoDo site,” the union said in a statement. “These provisions include identifying a specific location for the arena in SoDo just south of Safeco Field, the commencement of a process for the city and county to co-design the arena on this site, and extensive financial terms that apply only to the SoDo site.”
The proposed arena would be built on land currently held by the port, with the union and other port stakeholders concerned it would eat away at port- and trade-related jobs and economic growth. The developers of the arena are hopeful of luring an NBA team back to the city with the new project and surrounding entertainment venues. The proposed site lies next to the city’s recently built baseball and football stadiums.
“These provisions will create irreversible political momentum in favor of siting the proposed new arena on the SoDo site in the SEPA review process, making the SEPA alternatives and impacts review process a sham,” said Cameron Williams President of ILWU Local 19. “I repeat, ILWU is not against a new arena or bringing back the NBA to the Seattle area but we are not going to sit idly by while this arena and entertainment district, along with the traffic already generated by Safeco Field and Century Link Field, destroy the great working class jobs provided by our port and industrial area.”
The lawsuit asks the court to invalidate the MOU and to require the City and County to go back to the drawing board and work on an MOU and future SEPA process that “does not make the Arena site in SoDo a foregone conclusion,” the union said.
City officials told the Seattle Times
the document does not preclude the arena eventually being located at another site. They also said it does not alleviate the developer’s responsibility to do a SEPA review.
“City Attorney Pete Holmes said last week that the agreement does not preordain that the arena will be built in SoDo,” the newspaper reported. “Holmes said the language in the MOU mandates a full environmental review and consideration of one or more alternative sites, including Seattle Center (site of the former NBA arena, which lies north of downtown).”
The agreement reached this week between the city, county, and developer Chris Hansen calls for construction of a $490 million sports and entertainment venue, financed in part with $200 million in public bonds. - Eric Johnson