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Morning Fizz: Some outstanding questions about the report

Site of the proposed new arena in SoDo. First Avenue South is the western boundary; the Safeco Field garage is to the north. Credit: Sportspress Northwest/City of Seattle

1. A study funded by potential SoDo arena funder Chris Hansen concluded, not surprisingly, that the arena will have a negligible impact on traffic in the neighborhood. Seattle Department of Transportation officials and a consultant selected and hired by Hansen made that announcement Wednesday. 

During the 52 days a year when the arena is the only venue in the area hosting an event, the consultant, John Perlic of Parametrix, said, it would bring about 6,000 vehicles into the neighborhood — a number that "could be accommodated within the existing roadway, parking, and transit capacity in the area." (That number assumes about three people per car.) When both the arena and one of the two existing stadiums are hosting an event, the number of patrons would increase, but the existing parking would still be enough to accommodate them, the report concluded. 

The report, which was budgeted at $50,000, ultimately cost around $70,000, or 40 percent more than expected.

Some outstanding questions about the report: 

  • Given that the city says it will do everything in its power to encourage people to get to games on transit, why did the report assume that a greater percentage of people will drive to events in SoDo after the arena is built — between 78 and 84 percent, compared to 57 percent for a Seahawks game and 82 percent for a Mariners game now. 

Asked why the city is assuming an increase in driving, rather than an increase in transit use, Perlic responded that because games will be at night, when transit is less frequent, the consultants decided to make the conservative assumption that the vast majority of patrons will drive. Bob Chandler, from the Seattle Department of Transportation, said SDOT expects the percentage of people using transit will increase once Sound Transit opens light rail stations north and east of Seattle, allowing people to drive their cars to rail stations and park at one of Sound Transit's park and ride lots, which are expected to grow by 5,600 spaces once the entire east and north lines are completed.   

  • Will people really walk up to three-quarters of a mile, through a heavily industrial area, from their cars to get to the new arena?

Parametrix's analysis assumes drivers will be willing to walk up to three-quarters of a mile through industrial SoDo to get to the arena on days when there are events both at the arena and at one of the other stadiums. When it comes to transit, however, conventional wisdom is that the maximum distance most people will walk is half a mile. Why does Parametrix believe game-day drivers are different? Perlic said people are already willing to walk farther than that to get to Seahawks games. And he said the city plans to make pedestrian and wayfinding improvements to make it easier for people to walk to the arena and stadiums. 

  • Why did the study exclude the scenario in which an arena event happens at the same time as a Seahawks game?

Perlic said that simultaneous Seahawks/Sonics games would lead to a scenario "that could bring 87,000 people" to the SoDo neighborhood — more, in other words, than the area has parking capacity to accommodate. Given that such a situation is unlikely (the Seahawks typically have just eight regular and two preseason games a year), he said, the firm didn't feel the need to consider such a doomsday parking situation. Additionally, Chandler said, SDOT expects that any new NBA team will sign an agreement with the Seahawks not to hold games at the same time; the Mariners and Seahawks already have such an agreement.

2. Looking for guidance from the 36th District Democrats on who the best candidate in the crowded field to replace retiring longtime state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-36, Ballard) is? Oh, well.

Even though the group's executive board recommended two of the five candidates for endorsement last week (going with Progressive Majority leader Noel Frame and Seattle Port Commissioner Gale Tarleton), the full body didn't give any of the candidates the nod last night at its endorsement meeting.

Supporters of two other candidates, Mike O'Biren aide Sahar Fathi and green jobs advocate Brett Phillips, combined forces to block either of their rivals from securing the two-thirds vote needed to lock up the endorsement.

Tarleton snagged the Metropolitan Democratic Club endorsement Wednesday, though.

3. Three womens' rights groups — Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington, and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington — endorsed 41st District state senate candidate Maureen Judge on Wednesday. Judge is running against moderate Republican state Sen. Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island), who has typically enjoyed the support of womans' rights groups; he has serverd as a NARAL PAC board member, voted "yes" on gay marriage, and has been a solid pro-choice vote. Last session, though, he voted against a move by the Democrats to attach the Reproductive Parity Act (legislation to guarantee abortion coverage as part of insurance plans) to the budget.

Litzow, and his Democratic ally state Rep. Deb Eddy (D-48, Kirkland), who is co-chairing his campaign, have defended Liztow's vote as "procedural."

Dana Laurent, the political director of Planned Parenthood, doesn't buy it.

"Women and families don't understand what a procedural vote is, but they do understand when a candidate runs on a platform of protecting women's health but then votes three times against protecting women and families," Laurent said in a statement backing Judge.

4. After the Cascade Bicycle Club, along with neighborhood and community activists, sent out an email blast urging Sound Transit not to build a huge new parking garage at its light rail station at Northgate, the agency hastily announced a second open house "to discuss Northgate construction plans, including a potential shared use, replacement parking garage and an integrated station access plan."

Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray confirmed to Crosscut that, as we've reported, the agency is considering "a 600-to-900-stall garage" at Northgate that would be shared with Northgate Mall owner Simon Properties. He adds, however, that "it's not a done deal and it's going to be several more meetings before" Sound Transit makes a decision. The arena parking study, incidentally, assumes no additional park-and-ride spots at Northgate. 

5. He ran and lost three times for Seattle City Council. Blue Seattle is probably glad they never elected him.

It turns out, after running as a Democrat, landlord and civic activist Robert Rosencrantz is now running for Precinct Committee Officer in the 43rd District — as a Republican.  

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