The Seattle Department of Transportation, in a bit of a reversal, is now claiming Chris Hansen's SODO arena group is responsible for slowing down his street vacation application.
It's a direct conflict with a previous statement about the application, which Hansen needs to be approved to move forward with construction of a new arena in SODO.
The issue came up on Tuesday in an email obtained by KING5 News. Seattle Councilmember Sally Bagshaw sent a note to Beverly Barnett, who manages street vacation applications on behalf of SDOT. Bagshaw confirmed her inquiry late Tuesday night, saying she had heard that Hansen "was concerned that we were delaying the street vacation."
She sent the email to Barnett at 12:36 p.m. on Tuesday, less than five hours before a public meeting on the city's tentative deal with the Oak View Group to build a new Arena at Seattle Center. Bagshaw wrote, "I am hearing about the proposed SODO street vacation. Can you give me a status update asap describing what Hansen et. al. still need to do before a street vacation review can be completed."
Barnett responded quickly, in less than two hours.
She said there was significant additional work yet to do until the vacation is ready for submittal to the council and listed multiple line items.
Barnett claimed Hansen's group needs to update the transportation analysis, and that it made that request on March 20, 2017. Barnett wrote the request asked Hansen's group to address any changed conditions in the area such as the Lander Street overpass, but that the group did not respond.
She also claimed Hansen's group has not responded to comments from city departments about the vacation or engagement with the community about a scheduling agreement. Barnett wrote it would take 2-3 months to finish that work.
She said SDOT also needed to work with Hansen on maps for council review and to set up a public hearing, and that would also take three months.
However, that directly conflicts with an earlier statement from Barnett to KING 5 in which she claimed the vacation petition was put on hold in August.
She wrote then, "The City has not prioritized completing its review of the new vacation petition for a proposed SODO Arena as the City has been marshaling its resources to consider options for a potential arena at Key Arena. The City Council has on its agenda...Resolution 31764 which supports ongoing discussions for a potential Arena at the Seattle Center and asks the Mayor to send legislation and a proposed MOU to City Council this fall. Continued review of the SODO vacation petition will be guided by these other actions."
Hansen made a personal pitch Tuesday in front of the Seattle City Council to move forward with his street vacation application. He told KING 5 he believes there can be two Arenas in the City, and allowing a conditional vacation would allow him to seek an NBA franchise.
The conflicting statements are also puzzling, given Barnett and SDOT recommended the street vacation in 2016. That request, however, was ultimately rejected by a vote of 5-4 in May of 2016. Hansen's group reapplied this year.
Barnett did not respond to repeated requests on Wednesday for clarification. SDOT spokesperson Mafara Hobson said Wednesday she would have to research the status of the application.
Hansen's attorney, Jack McCullough, says the group was surprised to hear about the request for more information.
"We've not refused a request to include anything," he told KING 5. In regards to the transportation analysis, "We talked with City staff (earlier this year) and were told it was not necessary and had been operating in that direction."
McCullough was adamant that "we have not refused a request, and have submitted everything asked of us." McCullough said if there was any confusion, his group would be willing to submit any additional materials right away, although he suggested: "the wheels are not turning to move in the city" on the street vacation petition.
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