The cost of rebuilding Piers 30-32 for the Warriors’ grand project is skyrocketing — surprise! — from the original speculative figure of $100 million. The latest figure is $130 million and is expected to rise to $170 million. The City is on the hook for $120 million of that as a reimbursement for pier repair.
Mayor Ed Lee has labeled this his “legacy project.” He might want to rethink that. This has been a bad idea from the start.
This is not about a basketball arena. If that’s all Warriors co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber wanted to build, there are other areas in the city which would be appropriate and would be welcomed by fans.
Instead, Lacob and Gruber are proposing a mammoth structure on the waterfront that would include two parking garages, a hotel, two condominium towers and retail space spread across that site, and a 2.3-acre site across the street.
I believe this is a bad idea for several reasons. One is that a huge amount of concrete will have to be poured into San Francisco Bay to provide support, raising the water level for a city that is already threatened by the potential of rising water with climate change. It would obstruct views on The Embarcadero, which has become a showplace for The City since the monstrous Embarcadero Freeway came down after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Because the plan is for 220 night events a year, only about a quarter of those Warriors games, it would be a traffic nightmare, especially when the Giants also have night games.
Former Mayor Art Agnos, who started the renovation of The Embarcadero area, has been talking to small groups of San Franciscans to tell them about this plan. He told me that roughly 70 percent are opposed when they hear the details of the plan.
That doesn’t surprise me. In campaigning for several sports projects over the years, including a possible arena in the mid-1970s at the area where the Moscone Center now stands, I learned that San Franciscans are politically active in a way that is much more similar to East Coast cities than California coastal cities. And they are very concerned about what is built in their city, as the current debate over the 8 Washington St. project shows. That’s probably one reason there has been no attempt to put the Warriors’ plan on the ballot.
A complete plan for this project has yet to be presented to The City. The only number that has been mentioned is the early figure of $120 million for the piers, which isn’t even close. There’s also a narrow time frame because the Warriors’ lease on Oracle Arena in Oakland expires before the 2017-18 season.
When a plan is finally formulated, it must pass approval by several groups, the most demanding of which will be the Bay Area Conservation and Development Commission. The BACDC was formed in the ’50s to counteract the developers who wanted to fill in the Bay to build condominiums. I doubt this commission will approve the grandiose Lacob-Gruber plan.
They could still build a basketball arena in San Francisco, but that wouldn’t be a monument to their egos.