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Debate Continues Over Warriors Arena

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Dozens of San Francisco residents, advocacy groups, and community organizations packed a late-June special meeting of the San Francisco Commission on Community Investment and Infrastructure to voice their opinions about the proposed Golden State Warriors Mission Bay arena.  Attendees included the San Francisco Labor Council, which represents more than 100 unions in the City; Real Options for City Kids, which serves youth in Visitacion Valley; the Dogpatch Neighborhood Association (DNA); and the San Francisco Travel Association.  

Bicyclists and pedestrians, many in their 20s and early 30s, expressed their support for the greenspace and bike paths that the Warriors would build close to the arena.  Small business owners and Dogpatch and Mission Bay residents wanted the parks, economic activity, and entertainment that the Warriors would offer and attract. Nonprofit organizations, particularly those that work to empower and employ youth, aspired to having the Warriors in San Francisco to inspire and employ younger residents. 

Alex Doniach, a spokesperson with Singer Associates, Inc., attended on behalf of the Mission Bay Alliance, a group of biotechnology investors and former and current University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) staff and donors who oppose the arena. The Alliance has collected more than 4,600 signatures from residents and health care workers who are against building a stadium in Mission Bay.   

“I think cities tend to bend over backwards to bring teams into the area,” said Osha Meserve, a principal at Soluri Meserve, a Sacramento-based law firm engaged in the Alliance’s legal team.  Meserve also represents Sacramento residents who are opposed to an arena for the Sacramento Kings.

Other Alliance attorneys include legal team leader David Boies, who litigated the Bush v. Gore case in the 2000 election; Joshua Schiller, from New York-based Boies, Schiller, and Flexner; Thomas Lippe, who challenged the City’s America’s Cup plans; Susan Brandt Hawley, who fought the 8 Washington waterfront towers; and Patrick Soluri, a principal at Soluri Meserve. 

Meserve said San Francisco would invest huge sums of public resources to accommodate the arena. The draft environmental impact report (EIR) indicates that the City expects to spend $40 million on public transit improvements, including four new T-Third streetcars, an expanded platform, and a track to allow trains to pass one another on the Third Street right-of-way. These upgrades would cost roughly $6.6 million annually to operate.  

Meserve expressed concern about the types of jobs the arena would bring to Mission Bay.  “What kind of jobs do we want to create? Arena jobs are minimum wage jobs,” she said. 

According to Meserve, the draft EIR, an 800-page analysis released by the City earlier this summer, is problematic. Meserve said “huge chunks” of the draft EIR reference EIRs published in 1998 and 1990.  “A lot has changed since then. I would’ve done it all over,” she said. 

Maureen Dugan, a registered nurse who works at UCSF and is a California Nurses Association (CNA) member, said she and other CNA members employed at UCSF are concerned about patient and staff access to UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay.  “Our nurses have been working at that hospital for four months. We’re experiencing congestion right now. We would like to see some kind of plan. Why isn’t that in place right now, with the Giants games?”  

Dugan acknowledged that CNA is a part of the San Francisco Labor Council, which supports the arena.  “Our focus is patient services and patient care, so we may have different interests,” she said. 

Dugan said that CNA members she’s talked with say Mission Bay has limited parking even early in the morning. Congestion starts midday and lasts through the evening.  “Our patients come from all over the City and all over the state. They’re often very overwhelmed just to be in San Francisco. They’re used to just driving and parking somewhere. We’re concerned about gridlock for both our patients and staff,” said Dugan. 

“My biggest concern is the draft EIR says there will be a “significant unavoidable impact” on the neighborhood,” said Jonathan Decastro, a Potrero Hill resident who has previously served as Potrero Boosters president.  “Then they just walk right around that. The 280 Mariposa interchange is a disaster four nights out of five, especially on Thursday night. I don’t trust the City or MTA to come forward. Today, without a game, traffic is backed up. I agree with the nurses. We need better plans in that area if the arena is going to come to Mission Bay.”  

Annabel Ortiz, an arena critic, said she’s worked as a “volunteer” to survey patients’ families, residents, and UCSF staff in Mission Bay. Ortiz said an “overwhelming number of people” are opposed to the arena.  Several young adults also spoke against the arena, reading letters on behalf of others who couldn’t attend.   

Arena supporters used the terms “thorough,” “well thought-out,” and “forward-looking” to describe the draft EIR.  “It is not the case that hospital and emergency issues have been taken off the table,” said Patrick Valentino, vice president of the South Beach Mission Bay Business Association. “This is a chance to put housing next to work next to play. I very much support this project and so does our association.”

According to Vanessa Aquino, DNA membership and social media coordinator and David Siegel, DNA vice president, their association isn’t opposed to the Warriors project. Aquino “proudly supported the Warriors’ mixed-used development” and said the team has done significant outreach to DNA. Siegel described Dogpatch as a “small beleaguered neighborhood that is being relentlessly impacted by UCSF” and potentially will be similarly affected by the new arena. He stressed the importance of preserving the greenspace and waterfront views of Crane Cove Park, a nine acre site located within Pier 70. 

Other organizations were more definitive in their assertions that the draft EIR reflected a viable plan to cope with traffic and parking concerns.  “We have confidence in the City’s assessment that the traffic will be manageable,” said John Reyes, executive vice president of the San Francisco Travel Association.

“The draft EIR outlines a traffic management solution that’ll work for USCF, residents, and businesses in Mission Bay,” said Jim Lazarus, senior vice president at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.  According to Lazarus, the City was able to resolve similar traffic challenges at UCSF’s Parnassus campus, which for decades was a neighbor of Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park. 

Alan Ramo, professor of law at Golden Gate University, said the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which the Alliance plans to use to challenge the arena, is fact-specific.  It requires that if someone wants to have standing in any CEQA-related legal actions they have to file a statement within the 45-day public comment period for the draft EIR. The Alliance accomplished that by having Meserve and Doniach speak at the meeting.  “The key is to what extent are there irreconcilable land use proposals and how things can be worked through,” said Romo. 

Ethan Elkind, a professor of law at UC Berkeley and UC Los Angeles said the Alliance has numerous options to oppose the arena. “If the Alliance lost [its CEQA challenge] it could appeal to the California Supreme Court. It’s unlikely the California Supreme Court would take it up. There are other measures: get a ballot initiative, try to go for some sort of zoning or land use change. The Alliance could also file other types of lawsuits…Endangered Species Act or public trust doctrine.”

“CEQA’s relatively easy to use as a tool,” Elkind said. “The six to eight month delay it provides might give them time to organize another avenue. At minimum it is going to be half a year. Often litigation goes on for several years,” he said.  

If the Alliance is successful, the Warriors “would have to go back to the drawing board” and address areas where the arena is deficient, Elkind said. “In this case, it’s sort of an all or nothing proposition for the Alliance. Maybe they’re trying to get leverage, an agreement to pay for some improvements for infrastructure.” 

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