The crushing defeat of the Washington 8 waterfront condo project Tuesday night has provided us with two bold assumptions:
One, that the BatKid Make-A-Wish wish is still the city’s top priority, which is not at all a bad thing.
And two, that this means Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have to rethink their Warriors arena plan. That’s a much more squirrely proposition.
On the one hand, neighborhood grass roots effort overcame the desires of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and his predecessor Gavin Newsom to soundly defeat a project that would have required an exemption of the city’s height limit of 84 feet on bayfront construction. And it’s hard to make a basketball arena work by the bay that only sticks up 84 feet without dredging the hell out of everything in sight.
“Everything in sight,” in this case, also is known as “the environment.”
On the other hand, only a fool underestimates the power of rich men with a dream, politicians with a need and the money to combine those two things in the time-honored way.
This is why, as much fun as it might be for some to consider Lacob and Guber as defeated men, we prefer to see this as one of those interesting developments that will make them fulminate awhile and then return, engines fully steamed, to make the argument that one Stephen Curry is worth more than 134 condominiums.
I mean, how many condominiums can run the fast break, right?
The Warriors plan has always had that air of grandiose daftness, but more for the reasons of cost than opposition. Lacob and Guber have both laughed at the price tag, saying the dream is too important to be chased off by people with calculators.
But I’m going to guess that they must have understood at some point before last night that Propositions B and C were going to take a serious hiding by the voters, and have already begun work on whatever the hell Plan B is.
Or is it Plan L? It’s hard to know any more.
You see, Lacob, a man who talks it in anticipation of walking it, has not put many feet wrong since buying the Warriors from Chris Cohan. First, he bought the team from Chris Cohan, which made him a profoundly popular figure everywhere except in the dozens of homes of Larry Ellison.
Then he hired Jerry West, and Mark Jackson, and Bob Myers, and Rick Welts. And he traded Monta Ellis to present the team to Curry. And he fired Don Nelson to make room for Jackson. And now the team is a national darling, which most owners will agree is a much better thing than hosting a night for Chris Mullin under the impression that your fan base will love to hear you speak.
And with all that as self-esteem for the fire, Lacob and Guber are unlikely to view the death of the Washington 8 plan as more than an inconvenience, at least in the short term. They may rationalize it away as, “Yeah, but they’re not us,” or “Yeah, but we have a basketball team, not a bunch of grimy tenants,” or even, “Well, Ed Lee will work a hell of a lot harder for us.”
They may come to find out that the same 31,000 people who signed the referendum to force Washington 8 onto the ballot will still be waiting for them when their turn comes. They may find that their plan is greeted with no less skepticism and even revulsion. They may find that the 7 1/2 years it took for Washington 8 to get to this point will be longer than they want to wait.
Or they may say, “Screw it. Don’t these people know who we are?” Rich folks do that from time to time, you know.
I guess that counts as a rethink, too. But this much we do know: All other issues aside, their wait to find out if the arena can be built in its present form at its present site at the present cost just got a lot longer than four years.