Port workers union plans suit to block Seattle arena

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on October 12, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Updated Friday, Oct 12 at 5:23 PM

The union representing many workers at Port of Seattle facilities said Friday that it plans to file suit to block efforts to build a new sports arena just south of Safeco Field.

Local 19 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said it plans to file lawsuit in King County Superior Court to block Chris Hansen's $490 million arena plan.

ILWU attorney David Mann said the lawsuit will be filed because the City of Seattle and King County should not commit public funds to a project in SODO without completing an environmental impact study on the proposed site.

Mann said the need to "back up and look at available sites" in other parts of Seattle and the county.

The Port of Seattle and unions representing many of the workers at its terminals oppose adding a third sports venue to Seattle's stadium district because they believe the area's transportation infrastructure can't handle the added traffic. Port interests worry that freight moving to and from the Elliott Bay docks will be impeded by added event traffic, sending business to nearby ports like Tacoma.
   
"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, president of Local 19.

According to a statement issued by the union, the suit "will argue that the [arena agreement] ... effectively fixes the site of the arena in SODO and sets business terms that apply only to the SODO site." According to the union, the city/county agreement to provide bond financing to the project "makes a mockery of the requirement that government agencies considering public projects consider alternative sites in an environmental impact process."

The Port of Seattle itself is not a party to the union lawsuit.

The city and county councils are expected to vote Monday to give final approval to the arena deal.

Joe McDermott, chairman of the King County Council's budget committee, said he doesn't believe Local 19's suit will have merit. He said the agreement endorsed by the city and county councils requires environmental review of the proposed SODO location before construction can begin.

And Seattle City Attorney Peter Holmes made the same point in a statement sent out Friday afternoon. He said the arena agreement "would not bind the city or county to Hansen’s proposal but rather allow Seattle and King County to consider that proposal among other alternatives."

Reporting by KING 5's Chris Daniels.

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