Downtown arena issues continue to bubble

The Sacramento downtown arena issue heads into a new year, with at least two pivotal moments expected in January.

Sacramento County elections officials will review petitions submitted by two groups opposed to the city’s proposed arena subsidy, to determine if the petitions contain enough valid signatures to qualify for a June public vote.

Meanwhile, Caltrans says it will issue formal comment on a new traffic analysis by the Kings that concludes congestion will be minimal downtown on event nights, with the exception of a hot spot on Interstate 5 at the J Street offramps. Caltrans is likely to demand remedies if it determines freeway traffic impacts are significant.

Bee reporters Ryan Lillis, Dale Kasler and Tony Bizjak chatted with readers Friday online about the arena. Here are excerpts from that conversation, edited for brevity and clarity:

Shouldn’t the City Council want a project of this scale to receive voter approval? What are they afraid of?

This is a common argument and it’s why California has an active initiative process. Arena supporters and some council members say the council was elected to make these decisions.

What are your thoughts on whether this (petition drive) goes to a vote?

A lot will depend on whether STOP has enough valid signatures (from registered city voters). They turned in more than 34,000 signatures. They need 22,000 valid. We’ll know the answer on Jan 23.

I’m a big fan of the new arena, but seriously, how can (they) say traffic will not cause a huge mess? It’s already contested at 5 p.m. with no arena.

The consultants say their computer modeling showed congestion will be minimal to moderate in most places (when most Kings fans arrive between 6 and 7 p.m.), but really bad at the I-5 J Street offramp. Most commute traffic will be gone by the time Kings fans arrive.

Couldn’t the traffic issue be easily solved by moving game start times from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m?

It might not make a huge difference, given that there already won’t be much of an overlap between the evening commute and fans arriving for events. It’s worth noting that many NBA teams start their home games at 7:30.

When is actual arena construction set to begin?

They are talking about demolition of parts of Downtown Plaza starting in May, and construction starting late summer.

Would the light rail that’s directly in front of the mall stay or does it get rerouted?

It stays. That area around Seventh and K streets would be a major entry point for arena events. The Police Department is considering closing down that section of Seventh Street to automobiles to help get people in and out of the arena easier.

What are some of the legitimate ideas being floated around for redevelopment of the current arena site in Natomas?

A medical complex has been talked about. A community college campus, too.

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