Waterfront basketball and concert arena moving quickly despite neighborhood concerns
No standard defensive strategy is likely to stop the Golden State Warriors, Mayor Ed Lee, and their huge team of partners and employees from dominating the game of approving construction of a new basketball and concert arena on San Francisco's central waterfront. That became clear on Nov. 14, as the political operation overcame fire, darkness, and neighborhood-based opposition for the first big score.
The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee was set to consider declaring the project, which the Warriors want to build on Piers 30-32 by the 2017 basketball season, to be "fiscally feasible," recommending it move forward with more detailed environmental studies and a term sheet nailing down myriad administrative details.
Before the 11am hearing, the project team held a packed press conference to announce that the Warriors had volunteered to abide by the city's local-hire standards for public works projects, hiring San Francisco residents or military veterans for at least 25 percent of total construction jobs and 50 percent of apprenticeships. A beaming Lee praised the deal as an "unprecedented" indicator of the Warriors' willingness to partner with the city.
The event overflowed with union members in hard hats and orange "Build It Now!" T-shirts, as well as a full range of local political pros, from former mayoral and current project spokespersons PJ Johnston and Nathan Ballard to former aides to progressive supervisors, David Owen and David Loyola. Among the agreement's four signatories were Joshua Arce, the Brightline Defense Project head who last year crusaded for Sup. John Avalos's local hire ordinance, and building trades chief Michael Theriault.
Strikingly missing at the press conference was Sup. Jane Kim, in whose District 6 the project would be built — over the objections of many residents who are raising concerns about the loss of waterfront views, huge crowds attending what is projected to be more than 200 events per year, high interest rates paid by city taxpayers, the project's accelerated approval schedule, and other concerns.
Kim is one of the three members of the Budget Committee, which held its meeting despite an electrical fire in the basement of City Hall that knocked out power to the building. Portable photography lighting was brought in to supplement the emergency backup lights, making it bright enough so the televised show could go on but giving a strangely surreal feel to the proceedings and reinforcing the urgency project supporters feel to move this forward without delay.
Kim raised the concerns of her constituents, winning support for amending the resolution to ensure the Citizens Advisory Committee — whose chair was given two minutes to convey how its members feel steamrolled by the accelerated process, asking it be delayed by a month or two — will be given chances to weigh in and pushing the EIR scoping meetings back a few weeks to January.
In the end, Kim and the committee voted to move the project forward. A few days later, on Nov. 19, the process repeated itself with another flashy press conference in the Mayor's Office — with another important union endorsing the project — followed by the Land Use Committee responding favorably to the project.
The full Board of Supervisors was scheduled to approve the project's fiscal feasibility the next day, after Guardian press time, but there was little chance that the full board would take any other action than giving the Warriors, Lee, and their huge roster of teammates what they want.
This despite unusual financing and some very real concerns about waterfront development.
JOBS, MONEY, AND SUPPORT
Mayor Lee — who has placed a high priority on this project since announcing his deal with the team in May — emphasized its job creation and contribution to the local economy during the Nov. 19 press conference.