The Golden State Warriors got a win Thursday even bigger than this week’s 50-point blowout of the Memphis Grizzlies, as the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved the team’s proposed Mission Bay arena.
While the $1 billion, 18,000-seat arena will probably face a legal challenge from opponents the Mission Bay Alliance, the vote represented the final major approval the Warriors need as the commission approved the project’s design, environmental study and two adjacent office buildings.
The vote was the culmination of a 31/2-year process that started with a different — and much more controversial — plan to build an arena on Piers 30-32 just south of the Bay Bridge. When opposition to that project arose from neighborhood groups and environmentalists, the Warriors moved a mile south to a site they bought from Salesforce.com.
“It has been an amazing journey,” Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts said at the hearing. “Along the way, I’ve made a lot of new friends I never would have imagined — they have last names like Kopp, Agnos and Burton,” he said, referring to former Mayor Art Agnos, retired judge and former Supervisor Quentin Kopp, and former state Sen. John Burton, who were all opposed to the Piers 30-32 plan.
Welts said that the long process — which included 11 meetings before theMission Bay Citizens Advisory Committee — improved the design by Pfau Long Architecture, AE3 Partners and Manica Architecture. “I would say in the end, guess what? The process works,” he said.
In addition to the arena, the project includes 3.2 acres of public green space and plazas, 577,000 square feet of office space, and a $60 million transportation improvement plan funded by taxes and fees.
Points of entry
The two office buildings will open up onto a public plaza, and Third Street will be lined with retail and restaurants.
Commissioner Kathrin Moore, considered the toughest design critic on the panel, called the arena “a nimble project” and “an exclamation point for Mission Bay.”
“It’s place-making in a major way — something that is sorely missing in (Mission Bay’s) vast collection of same-looking office buildings,” she said.
The project has the support of UCSF, the Mission Bay biotech community and the Mission Bay Citizens Advisory Committee. It was approved on Tuesday by the city’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure. The Board of Supervisors has to weigh in on some minor issues, including forming a Mission Bay Transit Improvement Fund.
It is opposed by the Mission Bay Alliance, made up of some former UCSF board members and biotech executives. They say the arena’s traffic will make it tough for patients and employees to get to the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, which is across the street from the proposed arena. The alliance also argues that the land should be preserved for life science research facilities.
But alliance members were noticeably absent from Thursday’s hearing, represented only by attorney Tom Lippe, who complained that the project is being “fast-tracked” and questioned whether allocating 577,000 square feet of office space was legal under Proposition M, the 1986 measure that limits the amount of office space the city can approve in a given year.
Planning Department Zoning Administrator Scott Sanchez countered that Mission Bay has plenty of space left under the cap — in fact, the Warriors are proposing to build 100,000 square feet less than they could.
Warriors spokesman P.J. Johnston said the unanimous vote shows that the Mission Bay Alliance’s arguments have not gained any traction.
“They are like a whoopee cushion that’s run out of gas,” Johnston said.
Fight isn’t over
But the alliance’s spokesman, Sam Singer, pledged to appeal the project to the Board of Supervisors. He said there was no point in sending opponents to testify when it was clear the commission was going to approve the project.
“The fix was in — that has been apparent from the start,” Singer said. “It’s disappointing that the commission is acting as a rubber stamp for what is a disastrous project for San Francisco. Just because the votes are lined up doesn’t make it a good project for the city.”
He said he expects the Board of Supervisors will back it as well, but that the alliance would fight on using “whatever legal actions are necessary.”
A dozen residents from Dogpatch and Mission Bay told the commission they eagerly await the arrival of the NBA franchise, which hopes to open the 2018 season there.
“Mission Bay lacks entertainment for children,” said Mission Bay resident Esther Stearns, who is raising three teenagers in the neighborhood. “The Warriors will make the neighborhood more enriching for young people.”
Retired San Francisco Deputy Sheriff David Wong simply said, “It’s time to bring the Warriors home.”
It was a sentiment shared by the Planning Commission: The debate on a $1 billion arena that will change the face of Mission Bay proved less controversial than several other items it heard Thursday, including a wine bar proposed for 458 Grove St.
“We had more opposition to the 800-square-foot restaurant in Hayes Valley” than to the arena, Commissioner Rich Hillis said.