Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and State Senator Darrell Steinberg (Photo: Morgan Ragan)

The city of Sacramento announced today that it is beginning its environmental review process at the proposed site for a new downtown arena.

Aaron Bruski of NBC Sports ProBasketballTalk was first to report the news.

According to a city press release, the environmental impact study will take between 12-14 months to complete and a report is expected be ready by next spring.  A 30-day public review period commences today and ends on May 13th.

Sacramento is slightly behind Seattle on its EIS study, which is expected to wrap up this fall.

“The environmental process will be completed, the final EIS, in early November,” King County Executive Dow Constantine told media last week in New York.  “At that point we will be able to identify those things that need to be mitigated, if any, and then move forward.”

In Seattle, legal arguments will be heard following its EIS and before an official term sheet can be voted on.  The two pending issues the Hansen-Ballmer group face are the potential lawsuit with the Seattle Longshoreman’s Union and proving that the deal in place is compliant with Initiative 91.  Earlier today, a lawsuit challenging the arena’s compliance with the Seattle law was dismissed.

Constantine was confident that neither of these issues would create any major obstacles going forward.

“I think that the EIS will show that if there are impacts, they’re impacts that can be mitigated, including with the $40 million we’ve set aside for transportation improvements,” Constantine said.  “And the city-only issue, which is a city initiative (I-91) that says they have to get a fair return on their investment, I think will be settled on the facts.  The facts show that they will be getting a good return on their investment in this project.

“All in all, we’re in solid shape legally, politically, financially and we’re ready to go,” Constantine added.

While the Seattle group may feel they are in good standing against any potential lawsuits, there is an open-ended legal process that could drag on indefinitely.  Without a clean bill of health on the project, it cannot be voted on, meaning ground cannot be broken.  Chris Daniels of KING-TV in Seattle reported yesterday that the Hansen group “hopes” to begin construction by November.

In California, a law was passed to streamline the judicial review of an EIS and a 175-day cap was placed on all legal proceedings that follow.  Although the Sacramento deal may be a few months behind Seattle’s plan, a solid target date for completion can be established because of assembly bill 900.

AB 900 has faced some setbacks in a California court, but Senate President Pro tem Darrell Steinberg made promises both publicly and to the NBA’s relocation and finance committee that the project would fall under the streamlined process established by the California Environmental Quality Act.

“My job was to ensure the NBA, that Sacramento, and the state of California, is prepared to do all that it must, reasonably, and I emphasize reasonably, to avoid any unnecessary delays in the construction of a billion-dollar plus investment in the downtown arena and all that comes with it.” Steinberg told local radio host Grant Napear last week.  ”And I think it was very well received.”

Below is a list of issues the EIS will evaluate:

  • Air Quality
  • Biological Resources
  • Cultural Resources
  • Geology and Soils
  • Greenhouse gas emissions and climate change
  • Hazards and Hazardous Materials
  • Hydrology and Water Quality
  • Land Use and Planning
  • Light and Glare
  • Noise
  • Parking: On-street and parking structures
  • Population and Housing
  • Public Services
  • Recreation
  • Transportation/Traffic and Parking
  • Utilities