City Hall

Proposal Would Bar Arena if it "Significantly" Disrupts Industrial Uses

By Erica C. Barnett August 14, 2012

The city council approved considering 11 potential amendments to the city's comprehensive plan (basically, the city's long-term growth management plan) yesterday. Among them: An amendment that would prohibit the proposed arena if the city concludes it would "significantly restrict or disrupt existing industrial uses." The council won't actually discuss or vote on the specific amendments until September at the earliest, but yesterday's vote keeps the arena prohibition amendment in play.

The term "significant" is not clearly defined in city law, so it's unclear how significant the impact would have to be before the city would decide an arena was verboten.

Anyone can submit an amendment to the comp plan; this one came from the local longshoremen's union (ILWU 19, the Port workers' union). The amendments go next to the city's planning commission, which will tell the council which amendments it thinks they should pass.

John Persak, the ILWU representative who submitted the amendment, says the union believes the arena is "out of conformance with the spirit of the comp plan. ...  I know it's unusual for a union to get involved in land use, but obviously, this is something that impacts us directly."

Maritime, freight, and Port interests oppose the arena because they say it will cause traffic congestion, lead to non-industrial development in industrial SoDo, increase the likelihood of collisions between trains and pedestrians; and conflict with its plan to dramatically increase freight volumes going in and out of the Port over the next three decades under its Century Agenda.

According to the ILWU's application, the amendment is needed "to address the contradiction between the established and intended uses" of the city's industrial areas and exemptions to the city's land-use laws that allow an arena in the middle of the SoDo industrial area.

The proposed amendment would also shrink the size of the stadium overlay district to exclude the area where the new arena would go, moving the district boundary north to include only the two existing stadiums (cutting out everything in the pink-outlined area from Atlantic St. south in the map above.) Although stadiums are allowed throughout the industrial district south of downtown, the city added a special stadium district to encourage pedestrian-friendly land use near the stadiums and protect the adjacent industrial areas.

According to the application, the amendment
will preserve the existing economic vitality and strengthen the future economic vitality of industry and maritime trade, which supports living wage jobs in both the industrial and maritime sector, the indirect and induced economic activity in related industries and export, and the private and public revenue derived from these. This amendment would restrict initiatives that will degrade the highest and most appropriate uses of industrial land that compliments these economic concerns.

City council member Richard Conlin, who sponsored the amendment as head of the council's planning committee, says the council's vote only signifies that the 11 proposed amendments, unlike dozens of amendments the council rejected, is appropriate to consider as part of the comp plan.
Show Comments