San Francisco is banking on nearly $40 million in transit improvements to help usher in a proposed Warriors arena in Mission Bay, a plan The City is confident will mitigate the impacts of adding thousands of visitors to the neighborhood at a given time.
But opponents who argue the arena will create detrimental traffic congestion and permanently scar the neighborhood are nonetheless ready to take their battle to the courtroom or potentially the ballot box to prevent construction of the waterfront arena.
The draft environmental impact review for the arena, released Friday by city planners, outlines the potential results of adding an 18,064-seat arena and office, retail, parking and open space on about 11 acres of waterfront land at Third and 16th streets, across from UC San Francisco’s new hospitals and research centers.
While traffic and transportation have been among the greatest concerns from those opposed to the arena, as well as impacts on the adjacent hospitals that opened in February, a number of major efforts to the tune of nearly $40 million will reportedly curb congestion on the roads.
The Warriors have played home games at what is now Oracle Arena in Oakland since 1972, but the lease for their current site expires after the NBA 2016-17 season. Oracle Arena, built in 1966 and remodeled in 1996, is the oldest facility still used by the NBA.
Adam Silver, commissioner for the NBA, told The San Francisco Examiner on Friday that the need for a new arena for the Warriors was evident after the team hosted the first game of the NBA Finals Thursday.
“They need a new arena,” Silver said. “We’re even seeing it for these Finals, the kind of infrastructure that’s required to contain 1,800 members of the media, who are onsite [with] digital needs, or for the programming that comes out of the Finals.”
Silver said he has not yet toured the proposed site in Mission Bay for a new Warriors arena, but commended the team’s leadership for exclusively using private funding for the project. He also recognized there is opposition to the project, and urged for an open dialogue.
“So far there’s nothing that I’ve read that would suggest to me it’s not a terrific idea to go forward with this arena,” Silver said.
Efforts to improve transit come as the EIR studied various traffic scenarios: simultaneous games at AT&T Park, housing and offices planned for Mission Bay and nearby Dogpatch neighborhoods, and traffic during peak commute hours, among others. The EIR determined The City’s planned transit improvements will ease the congestion.
According to the EIR, the event center would be used for some 225 events per year, with events ranging in capacity from 3,000 to 18,500 patrons.
Transportation improvements include purchasing new Muni light rail vehicles, allowing crossover tracks for light rail vehicles to pass on the T-Third line, and extending the adjacent Muni platform near the arena.
Installing changeable message signs and cameras for real time traffic management, as well as other capital investments, are also in the works, said Peter Albert, urban planning initiatives manager for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
The City is also confident there will be no significant impacts to emergency vehicles at UCSF children’s, women’s or cancer hospitals.
However, the Mission Bay Alliance group led by former UCSF officials vehemently against building the arena in Mission Bay, isn’t convinced such efforts will make a difference. The alliance is not affiliated with UCSF, which supports the project.
“The streets can’t handle that level of traffic,” said Sam Singer, a spokesman for the alliance.
The alliance has hired a team of experienced land-use attorneys who are combing the EIR to determine whether it complies with the California Environmental Quality Act that ensures all aspects of the environmental impact are studied and properly managed.
There are also talks of putting a measure on the ballot next spring to stop the arena.