Downtown Arena: Railyard Cleanup Likely Not A Big Hurdle For Downtown Arena
State officials overseeing cleanup of the downtown Sacramento railyards say locations where a new arena could be built are mostly cleaned up and safe for development, a signal that could be good news for Kings fans and others wanting to fast-track an arena project. Some additional environmental cleanup may be needed at the site, but that should not dramatically slow down arena development, according to state officials.
The city has already conducted an environmental impact analysis regarding future development at the site. But if an arena project does advance, the city/developers may have to prepare another extensive environmental review of the facility itself–a process that could add some delays or challenges to putting the development on a fast-track.
Timing and speed of finalizing an arena plan in Sacramento will be a huge issue in the coming months. Anyone following local news the past three weeks knows the NBA and the Maloofs– owners of the Sacramento Kings–made an emphatic statement May 2nd.. The message to Sacramento: Get a new arena plan locked down in the next year or the team is gone.
Typically, a site with the history of environmental contamination like the railyards would almost guarantee a long, drawn out cleanup process. California has the strictest standards for cleaning up contaminated sites, which sometimes results in development projects being delayed for years while the site is litigated over, cleaned up, reviewed, and cleaned again.
And of course, the city does not even have a detailed plan or financing ready yet, although arena developer ICON Venue Group is scheduled to release some of those details May 26th.
But the good news here for supporters of a downtown arena is that state environmental officials overseeing the site already put work in several years ago to clean it up and assure the site has a stamp of approval regarding public health. This would seem to avoid potential headaches and fights over approving the arena project before shovels hit the dirt.
I asked officials at the state Department of Toxics this week about the status of the railyards, and how long it could take to make the site clean enough for an arena. The department says the locations being considered for a potential arena are within the “Sac Station study area” and within the “Central Corridor” study area.
“Both of these areas have been cleaned to levels that could safely accommodate an arena,” a department official told me May 3.
Some small soil areas might also require additional cleanup, but this could be coordinated with the arena development, this department staffer said.
Meanwhile, the City of Sacramento in 2009 already certified an environmental impact report (EIR) for the railyards. This EIR was challenged in court by the Westfield Downtown Plaza and a few Sacramento citizens. But the city prevailed in that lawsuit.
But it is possible the city or developer may need to do a new environmental review of the arena itself before construction starts, the department official said.
And it’s possible a new review could be subject to various challenges from groups who may be opposed to the plan.
But an environmental attorney familiar with the railyards told me this week that the city’s EIR already completed for the site in 2009 may be sufficient to cover an arena.
And this all means nothing at this point, until a concrete arena plan and funding mechanism comes forward soon.
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