UCSF endorses Warriors arena in Mission Bay after SF promises to manage traffic

UC San Francisco has officially endorsed the proposed Golden State Warriors arena in Mission Bay after city officials agreed to numerous transportation improvements aimed to mitigate congestion around the new arena.

The support marks a key endorsement for the project, which has faced backlash in recent months from the Mission Bay Alliance group led by former UCSF officials who claim the arena will create detrimental traffic and noise in the area.

The university announced its support Tuesday after Mayor Ed Lee introduced legislation at the Board of Supervisors meeting to establish a Mission Bay Transportation Improvement Fund.

The fund will pay for more Muni light rail vehicles and traffic officers, among other efforts to mitigate traffic, with revenue from the Warriors arena.

Current UCSF leaders said in July the university would support the arena on 11 acres of land across the street from its Mission Bay hospitals at Third and 16th streets, contingent on the creation of a traffic management plan among the school, city and team.

Such an agreement has been reached with creation of the fund legislation, co-sponsored by Board President London Breed and supervisors David Campos, Julie Christensen, Malia Cohen, Mark Farrell, Jane Kim, Eric Mar, Katy Tang, Scott Wiener and Norman Yee.

The understanding also calls for a first-of-its-kind “special circumstances cap” that would limit the number of events with more than 12,500 attendees at the Warriors arena, if traffic becomes too congested when such events overlap with San Francisco Giants games at nearby AT&T park.

No other NBA arena operates with such conditions, city officials said.

However, despite the cap, UCSF leaders as well as The City and Warriors team leaders are confident the Transportation Improvement Fund will sufficiently manage the flow of visitors, traffic and transit in the area once the arena opens.

“Our focus from Day 1 has been to protect hospital access and patient safety,” UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood said in a statement.

“Together, these agreements — one creating a dedicated transportation improvement fund, the other a ‘special circumstances cap’ requiring last-resort limitations on certain dual events should traffic reach unmanageable levels — will provide the safeguards UCSF needs to fully endorse the Warriors’ Arena project.”

The fund is expected to generate $10 million annually to spend on traffic mitigation efforts on top of the more than $27 million the arena is already anticipated to produce for transportation and infrastructure improvements.

That money will be spent on adding four new light rail vehicles to serve the arena, an expanded light rail platform where the arena is planned, a “Local/Hospital Access Plan” that will keep certain streets clear of event traffic so UCSF and other businesses and residents will not be impacted, and increased bus and light rail service before and after arena events.

Efforts to mitigate traffic contestation were also outlined by city planners in the project’s draft environmental impact report that was released over the summer, including nearly $40 million in transit improvements slated for Mission Bay.

Lee emphasized the agreement allows the project to move forward in Mission Bay.

“For residents and visitors alike, San Francisco is already one of the world’s greatest cities,” Lee said in a statement. “With these agreements and solid working partnerships in motion, Mission Bay will now be home to UCSF, one of the finest medical institutions in the world, and the world-champion Golden State Warriors at a state-of-the-art, privately funded events center.”

But those who remain opposed to the project are unconvinced that such transit improvements will ease traffic congestion in Mission Bay.

“The proposed agreement between UCSF and the Warriors accomplishes nothing but permanent gridlock for San Francisco,” Sam Singer, a spokesman for the Mission Bay Alliance, wrote in an email to the San Francisco Examiner. “The Mission Bay Alliance will fight even harder to protect UCSF and healthcare in San Francisco since the UCSF Chancellor seems willing to sell out his own patients, staff and the public.”

Singer added that the alliance will continue to push the Warriors and city officials to consider an alternative site for the arena near Pier 80 in the Bayview that was identified last month.

A final draft of the environmental report is expected to be released this fall.

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