Commentary: A KeyArena MOU without a comprehensive traffic mitigation plan would be reckless, irresponsible

I’d like to introduce you to Bob, who used his entire savings to buy an older home in Seattle. (Sound familiar?) His biggest frustration is the plumbing: The water pressure is awful, hot water comes out when he wants cold, cold when he wants hot. The drainage is terrible, the pipes are old and worn, and the plumber says there’s no easy fix.

The good news is, Bob’s brother is a contractor who’s offered to renovate his bathroom for free, replacing the old bathtub with a luxurious walk-in shower with rainforest showerheads, replacing the shabby toilet with a state-of-the-art porcelain throne that automatically opens and flushes, and replacing the run-down sink: Truly a bathroom fit for a king!

Except it doesn’t solve the biggest problem: The plumbing. The fully-renovated bathroom will look fantastic, but the awful plumbing issues will diminish Bob’s entire bathroom experience.

Earlier this week, the City of Seattle's Office of Economic Development confirmed that a comprehensive Transportation Plan won’t be a part of a Memorandum of Understanding for a potential renovation of KeyArena. By not properly addressing traffic and congestion in an MOU, it’s like making plans to refurbish Bob’s bathroom without addressing the bad plumbing in his home.

Admittedly, Chris Hansen’s original MOU for a SODO Arena didn’t have a comprehensive transportation plan. But maybe it’s because that location is already zoned for stadiums and arenas, has multiple transit options and suitable parking. And Hansen’s street vacation request has since been recommended by the Seattle Department of Transportation, confirming the minimal traffic impact it would have in the area.

But with traffic being a top concern at KeyArena, it would be highly irresponsible to not include a comprehensive mitigation plan with an MOU. Because as councilmember Tim Burgess warned, the city’s negotiating power with a developer “drops dramatically” once an MOU is approved.

Not to mention, it just looks bad: You wouldn’t move the Mona Lisa or a piece of famous artwork into a room with terrible lighting. And if some moron approved it, the top priority would be a comprehensive plan to fix that lighting.

In its proposal, Oak View estimated that 82 percent of arena consumers would drive to events in 2020 and close to 70 percent would still be driving there when Light Rail arrives in 2035. Their proposed mitigation solutions, from a parking app to shuttles from South Lake Union are all well and good, but they don’t make me feel better about the inadequate traffic infrastructure in Lower Queen Anne.

Look at when Oak View announced a partnership to bring concerts to Dodger Stadium, and Tim Leiweke downplayed concerns of traffic congestion there. To be clear, Dodger Stadium sits on the convergence of three major freeways in LA, while KeyArena sits in a residential neighborhood with one major freeway more than a mile away.

I commend city councilmembers Lorena Gonzales and Rob Johnson raising the red flag this week, prioritizing the transportation issue in Queen Anne and hopefully putting pressure on all parties to quantify the exact financial costs to the city and Oak View to mitigate traffic around The Key before they approve an MOU. It’s absolutely necessary – and reckless without one.

As for Bob? He’s trying to save enough money to replace all his pipes so he can finally enjoy his renovated bathroom. Unfortunately, he tells me that’ll take 18 years...right around the same time Light Rail finally has a stop in Lower Queen Anne.