Seattle Arena: Council rejects vacating Occidental Avenue 5-4

A close vote by the city council leaves a four-and-a-half year old project in limbo.

SEATTLE -- The Seattle City Council Monday voted 5-4 against vacating Occidental Avenue in order to build a new NBA or NHL arena south of Safeco Field.

The narrow vote means a complicated, often acrimonious, saga around a new Seattle arena will go on.

Council President Bruce Harrell voted yes along with councilmembers Tim Burgess, Rob Johnson, and Mike O’ Brien.

Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Lorena Gonzalez, Lisa Herbold, Debora Juarez, and Kshama Sawant voted no.

The vote was on whether to allow arena investor Chris Hansen to buy, and vacate, a one-block stretch of Occidental Avenue.  It was the last step before the City of Seattle could issue a Master Use Permit for the project, and potentially lure an NBA or NHL franchise to Seattle to fill it.

Afterwards, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's office released a statement, acknowledging the vote, "makes it less likely that the NBA will return".

Investor Chris Hansen, who leads the arena effort, posted on his website, "we don’t believe it is the end of the road in our quest to bring the NBA and NHL back to Seattle."

RELATED: Seattle Arena: Finality looms, yet uncertainty remains

Before the street vacation vote, the council voted against an amendment brought by Bagshaw that would only allow the vacation to be granted for an NBA team. Had it passed, it would have killed any chance of an NHL team prompting construction.

The council unanimously passed an amendment by Burgess, who was heavily involved in closed door negotiations between the Seahawks, Sounders, Mariners, and Hansen’s group regarding strict scheduling guidelines for the arena. The franchises and Hansen’s group signed off on it last week. 

The three-term councilmember Bagshaw has drawn the ire of arena supporters for her perceived “flip-flop” on the project.  She approved the arena MOU in 2012 and even attended a party with Hansen to celebrate the approval immediately after.  However, in recent weeks she has been the leader of the opposition, writing in her blog post, “I cannot fathom why we are offering up this street vacation at this point.” Herbold co-signed an op-ed with Bagshaw in the West Seattle Herald signaling she would also vote no.

Councilmembers Burgess, O’Brien,Johnson, and Harrell all voted the proposal out of the transportation committee April 19 and gave supportive comments after the deal on the scheduling agreement.

Gonzalez, Juarez, and Sawant were left in the undecided column -- until Monday.

Copyright 2016 KING


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