SEATTLE - You could consider it the closing arguments in a case four years in the making.
On Tuesday, the Seattle City Council's Sustainability and Transportation Committee heard a nearly hour and a half presentation from SDOT and city staffers over the potential street vacation of one block of Occidental Avenue South. It's considered the final request before the City can grant a Master Use Permit to investor Chris Hansen for his proposed arena south of Safeco Field.
SDOT presented new numbers that show peak traffic flows in the morning hours on both Occidental and First Avenue South which decline through the day. They also showed ample parking within a 25-minute walk radius. It's what led City staffers to conclude at the end of the presentation that “It’s SDOT’s conclusion the street can be vacated."
The Port of Seattle again took objection with the recommendation, testifying before the Council committee that the elimination of one block of Occidental would have "severe negative impacts which cannot be mitigated."
The Port says 50 state lawmakers have signed a letter backing their claims.
Port Commissioner Tom Albro testified "we have to resist any action on this, in every way we possibly can." His colleague, Stephanie Bowman, urged the Council to "table this issue."
Council members Tim Burgess and Rob Johnson seemed to take exception with the Port characterizations, with Johnson claiming the Port was dealing with "hypotheticals."
Council President Bruce Harrell interrupted Port experts multiple times, and took issue with a suggestion that vacating the street could leave the City open to legal challenges.
Burgess, Johnson and Harrell were joined during the presentation by Council members Mike O'Brien and Debora Juarez. Council members Lisa Herbold, and Kshama Sawant, who are both part of the committee, were not in attendance.
Burgess and O'Brien both floating minor amendments to the Arena legislation, including mandating 23-foot sidewalks and lights along the designated pedestrian corridor. Burgess says his amendments will include mandating an east access road, along the Arena, which has been important to the Mariners, and strengthening a possible scheduling agreement.
Mick McHugh, who has owned FX McRory's in Pioneer Square for 39 years, testified Tuesday that the arena is needed to drive business in the fall and winter months. He once held a celebratory party for Hansen after the original MOU was crafted back in 2012.
"Jeez, four years, four years ago, just about wow," he said.
McHugh says he sympathizes with his Seaport customers, but "We're talking about an alley, this is an alley, the same alley the Mariners you know, got to put their block over that," adding, "I think (Prince) Rupert, and Tacoma, our waterfront guys have had to hustle. We're a community here, we can all make this work."
It'll be a few more weeks before he'll know whether to raise a glass to make a toast, or drown his sorrows.
The committee will revisit the public benefit of eliminating the street, which includes Hansen's offer to build a park, pedestrian bridge and wastewater station, at a meeting on April 19.
The committee is still on target to vote on the legislation on that date, which would bring it to a full council vote on April 25, or May 2.