Sacramento City Council to vote on Kings arena plan

After years of backfires and debates, the Sacramento City Council is poised Tuesday to formally approve a financing and development plan for a new downtown arena that will cement the Kings’ future in this city for a generation.

Four council members said publicly or in interviews with The Sacramento Bee on Monday that they intend to vote in favor of the plan at Tuesday night’s historic council meeting. A fifth council member said he was “95 percent comfortable” voting to approve the deal, meaning it will likely have the five votes needed to pass.

“This city is on the verge of doing something extraordinary,” Councilman Allen Warren said.

In an indication of their confidence, city officials and the Kings are planning a rally outside City Hall beginning at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to celebrate both the City Council vote and the NBA draft lottery, which will determine the team’s position in the draft next month. Food trucks, the Kings dancers and team mascot Slamson are scheduled to be on hand.

The City Council voted 7-2 last year to approve a preliminary term sheet on the deal, and many expect the same vote outcome Tuesday.

An updated agreement commits $255 million in public money to the $477 million arena project at Downtown Plaza, most of it from revenue bonds backed by city parking revenue. The council Tuesday is voting on the financial terms, along with development and design agreements and a certification of the project’s environmental review.

Mayor Kevin Johnson all but predicted Monday that the agreements would be approved by the council, saying he expected a “celebratory” atmosphere at City Hall. He said the city was about to “mark the end of one era and the start of another.”

“We know where we are going into (Tuesday),” he said. “We’ve knocked down every hurdle and addressed every concern.”

Johnson spoke at a press conference outside City Hall to announce the formation of an advisory committee that will gauge whether the arena construction meets goals on local hiring, sustainability and other “community impact” standards. The mayor said officials have pledged that 60 percent of workers on the arena construction will be from the Sacramento area, 60 percent of biddable work will include local businesses and 20 percent will go to small businesses.

Some advocacy groups have been calling on the Kings and the city to adopt certain “community benefit” standards, such as preferences in hiring for low-income Sacramentans. Labor unions have also requested that workers in a hotel and other development planned for around the arena be unionized.

The Kings had already made a public pledge to hire as many local firms as possible for the project. The Kings have also promised to make sure at least 70 “priority apprentices” are hired for the project from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and neighborhoods.

Tamie Dramer of the Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity said the assurances made by the mayor and Kings don’t go far enough. For example, she said, the group wants the Kings to commit to build affordable housing and to provide compensation to small businesses near the arena that might be forced to close or relocate as a result of the project.

Kings officials said they will contribute $864,000 into a citywide trust that funds affordable housing projects.

Another group that has been critical of the project – watchdog group Eye on Sacramento – issued a report on Monday saying city leaders had ignored a “sober assessment of alternative public investment opportunities” for the money the council plans to dedicate to the arena.

Eye on Sacramento said the city was also ignoring the will of voters who have opposed public support of an arena project for years.

“Basic notions of democracy and democratic processes fundamentally failed in Sacramento during consideration of the arena project,” the group said.

A group attempted to force a public vote on arena subsidies this spring, but signatures collected in support of that campaign were disqualified by a judge because of legal flaws.

Besides Johnson and Warren, council members Steve Cohn and Jay Schenirer both said Monday they intend to vote to approve the arena plan.

“We’ve been working on this for months,” Cohn said. “I feel very good about the deal.”

Schenirer said, “I think it’s a good project for Sacramento and I think it’s a huge opportunity.”

Councilman Steve Hansen, who voted in favor of last year’s tentative arena deal, said he would ask questions Tuesday night about the amount of money the city plans to borrow for the project. However, he said he was “95 percent comfortable” with the plan. Other council members were not available for comment.

City officials are expecting a large crowd for the City Council meeting and are asking members of the public who want to attend the hearing to arrive by 5 p.m., an hour before the session begins. Supporters and opponents of the plan will have access to an equal number of tickets to the hearing, city officials said.

The meeting will be held in the City Council chambers, 915 I St.

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