New lawsuit targets Sacramento arena plan

rlillis@sacbee.comJune 26, 2014 

Sacramento Kings arena exterior concept drawing.

SACRAMENTO ESC

A group asking the Sacramento Kings to pay for affordable housing and assist small businesses downtown filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the city’s approval of the environmental impact report for the planned downtown arena.

The Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity said in a news release that the environmental report did not “disclose, analyze or mitigate impacts to local street traffic, air quality and climate change” created by an arena at Downtown Plaza. The group also said the arena “would disproportionately impact the health and safety of low-income residents.”

While the group said it is not aiming to halt the $477 million arena project, a successful challenge of the environmental impact report could delay construction if the city is ordered by a judge to make significant investments to downtown transportation infrastructure or change the project’s environmental standards. City finance officials have also said they might have to delay issuing bonds to help finance the arena if there are pending challenges under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The NBA has given the city and the Kings a 2017 deadline to finish the arena or risk having the league buy and relocate the franchise.

Members of the coalition that filed the suit include the Sacramento Housing Alliance and the Environmental Council of Sacramento. Those groups want the Kings and the city to sign a community benefits agreement that would fund $40 million worth of affordable housing and set aside money to help small businesses that might be affected by the construction of the new arena.

“We are disappointed to have to take this matter to court, but our attempts to have discussions with the Kings ownership group and the city of Sacramento have largely been overlooked and ignored,” Darryl Rutherford, executive director of the Housing Alliance, wrote in a statement. “We remain committed to monitoring the current and potential impacts of the arena’s construction and operation that low-income Sacramentans face, and we vow to do our very best to defend their environment and quality of life by pushing for affordable homes, equitable transportation options and public safety measures.”

The Kings declined comment on the lawsuit. City Attorney James Sanchez issued a statement saying, “We cannot comment on this lawsuit, as we have not yet been served. However, we are fully prepared to defend the EIR.”

A separate lawsuit filed by a citizens group charged that the arena would lead to traffic disruptions and riots in downtown Sacramento. The city and the Kings have disputed every claim in that lawsuit.

The Kings’ ownership group said this week it will begin demolishing much of Downtown Plaza in mid- to late July to make way for the arena. The demolition work would be completed by December.

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at www.sacbee.com/citybeat.

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