Arena foes will appeal court ruling, but Kings still going forward with demolition

The Sacramento Kings plan to start preliminary demolition work on Downtown Plaza early Friday despite a last-minute court appeal by a citizens’ group trying to stop the team’s $477 million arena project.

The group of 12 citizens filed a notice of appeal Thursday, seeking to overturn a judge’s refusal to grant an injunction halting construction of the planned Kings arena. The citizens, led by retired Caltrans director Adriana Saltonstall, sued the city under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.

Kings spokeswoman Laura Braden said preliminary demolition at Downtown Plaza will begin as planned early Friday. The team declined additional comment.

Saltonstall questioned whether it makes sense for the Kings to proceed. “The appeals court could issue an injunction after the work has started,” she said.

City Attorney James Sanchez said the appeal won’t derail the construction schedule. “We remain confident in our defense of the case,” he said.

The Saltonstall group sued the city under CEQA, saying the project would create enormous harm in the downtown area.

Last week, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley turned aside the group’s request for an injunction. On Wednesday, the Kings announced they had completed their financing plan and received the necessary approval from the NBA on the terms of the arena deal, setting the stage for demolition to begin.

In fighting the injunction request, the Kings said a delay could create enormous problems with the construction timetable. The building is scheduled to open in October 2016, and if it isn’t open by fall 2017 the NBA has said it has the right to buy the Kings and move them out of town. Saltonstall’s group said it doesn’t believe the threat is real.

“They have not provided any written documentation as to why they have to go so fast,” Saltonstall said.

Her group has also challenged the constitutionality of SB 743, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, which makes it harder to get an injunction blocking the arena project. The judge rejected that argument, too.

A second group has also filed a CEQA lawsuit against the arena but hasn’t yet sought an injunction to block construction.

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