Some quick hits from this morning’s Council Briefing session, including lots of discussion of the SODO Arena street vacation.
Council President Harrell is bringing some changes to Council rules and procedures to this afternoon’s meeting for approval, including the “Tsmierman rule” to try to constrain abuses of the public comment sessions. Harrell claims his office ran the changes by the ACLU and Municipal League and they registered no objections.
Council member Burgess is circulating a letter from the Council to the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Adminstration, which is proposing a new regulation requiring a minimum of two crew members on every train in the United States. The letter voices the Council’s approval for that rule.
Council member Johnson noted that last night a sinkhole opened up in the Roosevelt neighborhood over the Light Rail tunnel. Sound Transit filled it with cement last night. Authorities are trying to identify the cause of the sinkhole.
Johnson also noted that the public comment period for the draft Sound Transit 3 plan ends today.
Council member Sawant reported that at the next Energy and Environment Committee meeting, May 10, the committee will discuss (jointly with Council member Herbold’s committee) the overrun of SCL and SPU’s NICS customer service and billing system.
The big discussion point this morning was this afternoon’s final vote on the vacation of Occidental Avenue to make way for the proposed SODO Arena. Seven amendments to the bill will be discussed this afternoon: three from Council member Burgess, three from Council member Herbold, and one from Council member Gonzalez.
That suggests that Gonzalez is trying to get to “yes” on the matter, and that Herbold is as well — or at least both of them think that the bill will pass and want to try to improve it along the way.
Gonzalez’s amendment is to incorporate protections for public events and free speech in the public plaza similar to the amendment she offered for the “Amazon Alley” vacation earlier this year, with some additional requirements placed on the public art program.
Herbold’s amendments are more substantial:
- Requiring that ArenaCo acquire the rights to an NBA franchise before Occidental Avenue can be closed and construction can begin.
- Requiring the construction of a staircase on the south side of Atlantic Street at 3rd Avenue to facilitate north-south crossing.
- Requiring that the public plaza be made available for scheduling for no less than twelve events per year.
The first of these — the requirements for acquiring an NBA franchise first — prevents a “build it and they will come” approach. It also prevents getting an NHL team first and building the Arena on that basis. The MOU agreement already connects public funding sources with the prerequisite for an NBA team, but this would stop any progress if the NBA team isn’t acquired. All signs are that the NBA will not expand before the MOU expires in 2017, and the odds are low that Hansen could acquire an existing team and get the NBA to approve moving it to Seattle before the MOU expires in November of 2017, so this amendment could be seen as killing the deal. Council member Bagshaw voiced her strong support for this amendment; Harrell and O’Brien seemed fairly skeptical, and everyone else was quiet, so it’s unclear whether it will pass. If it does, this would likely lead to a 9-0 vote in favor of the street vacation, as Bagshaw and Herbold, the vocal opponents of the street vacation, would have little reason to continue opposing it.