Warriors face fight over move to San Francisco

warriors.arenaThe record-setting Golden State Warriors, the defending NBA champions, have become one of the most beloved sports teams in recent California history. San Francisco politicians have embraced the team’s planned move from Oakland to San Francisco’s Mission Bay area, especially because the team’s wealthy owners are willing to pay for 97 percent of the $1 billion cost of a new 18,000-seat arena (illustration at right). On Tuesday, the city-county’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the project’s environmental impact report, and the team hopes to have the area built in time for the 2018-19 NBA season.

So everything is looking positive for the Warriors coming back to San Francisco? Not exactly. Critics have assembled a multimillion-dollar legal fund to fight the project at every turn, and a classic NIMBY battle between well-funded interests looms.

The main opponent “came out of nowhere” in April. The San Francisco Business Times had details:

A group of University of California, San Francisco, donors is threatening to sue or push a ballot measure against the Warriors’ potential Mission Bay arena over parking and traffic concerns. …


The group, a nonprofit called the Mission Bay Alliance, worries that arena traffic will bottle up to ensnarl ambulances headed to nearby UCSF Medical Center and threaten the neighborhood’s ability to grow as a biotechnology hub. Its proximity to AT&T Park and possible overlapping game days will exacerbate that, the group says.


Sam Singer, who is representing the alliance’s public relations efforts, [said], “The alliance wants to see the (arena) and office towers halted completely. If that doesn’t happen through the EIR and public participation process, the alliance will consider a lawsuit and going to the ballot to stop the stadium.”

Poll suggests public not sold on arena

On the eve of the supervisors’ vote, the Mission Bay Alliance released a poll of 540 voters that showed much less support than the Warriors have asserted. This is from a statement on the alliance’s website:

Based on what they know today about the proposed arena plan in Mission Bay, fewer than half of voters say they support it:


Support – 49 percent


Oppose – 42 percent


Don’t know – 10 percent  …


Once voters became aware of the facts surrounding the proposed arena and the expected regional impacts, including traffic gridlock, the lack of parking and clogged emergency access for adjacent UCSF hospitals, support for the arena plummeted even more:


Support – 38 percent


Oppose – 59 percent


Don’t know – 3 percent


Parking and traffic ranked as the two most problematic impacts, with 65 percent of voters concerned about traffic gridlock and 67 percent about a lack of parking in and around the arena. … [The project] does little to alleviate the burden the arena will put on regional transit like BART and CalTrain.

Being a popular champion helps sway debate

But the Warriors and the city leaders who back them up on the planned move could benefit tremendously from timing. San Diego voters agreed to help pay for PETCO Park for the Padres in the city’s downtown area in November 1998 — a month after the team won a rare National League title and advanced to the World Series.

The contrast is sharp with present-day San Diego and seemingly broad opposition to having local governments help the Chargers pay for a new NFL stadium. Other factors certainly come into play. San Diego’s reputation as “Enron by the Bay” has faded, but the city’s years of financial struggles have left scars. The city is debating a huge infrastructure program, prompting questions about why $200 million that might go to fix pocked roads and add fire stations would instead help a billionaire build a stadium. But it hasn’t helped the let’s-hold-our-noses-and-accept subsidies crowd that the Chargers have been hugely disappointing since their 14-2 season in 2007, rarely living up to expectations.

The Warriors, by contrast, sharply exceeded expectations in 2014-15, when they won their first NBA championship in 40 years. This season, meanwhile, they got off to the fastest start of any team in NBA history. That could be an ace in the hole for team owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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