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Port workers to sue over new Seattle arena

The union representing Port of Seattle workers says it will sue to challenge Seattle and King County’s expected approval of an agreement with developer Chris Hansen to build a new sports arena in the SoDo neighborhood.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 argues the arena would devastate the city’s maritime, industrial, manufacturing, and warehousing future by bringing traffic and construction congestion to the area.

“Our union supports the return of the NBA to Seattle and we are not opposed to an arena somewhere in the Puget Sound region. But we cannot stand idly by while Mr. Hansen and his well-connected lobbyists, along with our elected officials, build an arena in a location that threatens the livelihood of our members and many other workers in the maritime industry and SODO,” said Cameron Williams, ILWU local 19 President.

Both the Seattle City and King County Council’s are expected to vote Monday, Oct. 15 to go forward on an agreement with Hansen for the $490 million arena. The deal calls for taxpayers to help finance construction with up to $200 million in bonds.

Attorney David Mann, who represents the union, argues the proposal should have been subject to a thorough environmental review and other sites fully studied before it’s approval.

“If we’re going to use a public facility for a basketball team then there should have been no further commitment other than to look at available properties through an EIS process,” Mann says.

But Joe McDermott, chairman of the King County Council’s budget committee, insists the review will be thorough before Hansen can proceed at any location.

“That analysis will include not only a full EIS, but alternative sites and we’ve added a whole new layer on requiring an economic impact analysis as well,” McDermott says.

In a statement responding to the threatened suit, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said the SoDo location is not “preordained.”

According to Holmes, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the arena with Hansen would “launch a thorough vetting process of multiple factors,” that includes consideration of one or more alternative sites, traffic impact, impacts to freight mobility and more.

A spokesman for Hansen declined to comment.

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