After being denied the opportunity to create a palatial arena of their dreams at Piers 30-32 in San Francisco, Warriors ownership last year confidently pivoted to Plan B, a China Basin site a few blocks south of the Giants ballpark.
There was tremendous civic support when the Warriors announced their intentions to move to the current 12-acre arena site, which sits across the street from the sprawling new UCSF Mission Bay medical campus. Mayor Ed Lee, after previously supporting the proposal at Piers 30-32, hopped aboard the new plan.
But this is San Francisco, where ambitious waterfront plans often die before the blueprints dry.
That’s where the Mission Bay Alliance and its deep pockets come in. The newly formed non-profit group dedicated to the medical facility wants the Warriors to scrap the arena plan, citing its impact on traffic and parking near the hospital. The mere thought of ambulances stuck in traffic is bound to strike a chord with citizens.
The group also has its own vision, preferring that the proposed arena site be utilized for biotechnology research.
MBA spokesperson Sam Singer, a high-profile local PR specialist, expresses extreme confidence that the project will be derailed.
“I’d bet my bottom dollar,” he said Wednesday night. “I can guarantee you that we’ll get this done.”
Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber believe they’ve done their homework, including the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which was released last month, and are ready to act in hopes of getting the new facility open in 2018.
“Anytime somebody threatens to sue your project, you have to take it seriously,” team spokesman P.J. Johnston said Thursday morning. “And you certainly have to take it seriously when that threat is coming from a bunch of anonymous billionaires. We have to assume they’re going to be able to put a lot of money behind their litigation.
“Nevertheless, we sort of always anticipated somebody would likely challenge the EIR or sue us because that’s just what happens in San Francisco, or any big project in California. So we’ve been extra careful and extra cautious about dotting our I’s and crossing our T’s all the way along.”
What we have is a battle between two deep-pocked entities that could threaten the team’s projected ‘18 opening.
The MBA has hired a platoon of lawyers and launched a petition in hopes of killing the arena plan through community disapproval or by litigating the Warriors into submission.
The MBA was formed shortly after the arena project was unveiled in 15 months ago. The coalition of UCSF stakeholders, donors, faculty, physicians and other San Franciscans – but not the university itself – didn’t like what it heard as the Warriors made their presentations to various civic groups. So they lined up in opposition.
The California Nurses’ Association joined the MBA’s cause by protesting earlier this week. There was on Tuesday a public hearing at City Hall during which speakers filled the air with pros and cons related to the EIR, which in some ways actually acquitted the Warriors.
The Warriors seemed to have broader support. Most of the speakers were behind them, as well as the political establishment. It was evident the Warriors had coordinated with the various city and county agencies that would be involved.
“It has been a very transparent open process, and that will serve us well if and when this should get into the courts,” Johnston said.
For all the progress the Warriors have made on the basketball court, last month winning their first NBA championship since 1975, the San Francisco arena pursuit continues to be hazardous and fraught with headaches, if not overt rejection.
The point is that this still may happen. Might even be likely to happen. But it won’t be as smooth as the Warriors would like.
The Warriors contend San Francisco deserves something it does not have – a world-class arena worthy of top-shelf sports and entertainment. It is the only American city of its size that lacks such a venue. The Warriors, who have an option to buy the land from Salesforce.com, also say they will construct without public funds.
Sounds like a great idea, made even greater by the rise of the team’s profile during its championship run. The Warriors are hot, and it’s hard to imagine them getting any hotter.
That does not intimidate the MBA.
“Fortunately for us, we don’t have to play the Warriors team,” Singer said. “We’d be in big trouble if we did. They’re really good at basketball.
“We have to play the owners. And we think we can take Joe Lacob and Peter Guber.”