I could have sworn I just heard someone say, "No wall on the waterfront."
The Golden State Warriors unveiled a new design Tuesday for the team's proposed arena/event center/retail complex on Piers 30-32, just south of the Bay Bridge on the San Francisco waterfront. In a press release, the team says "the design incorporates more than a year of feedback from regulatory agencies and citizens" about the facility, which is now somewhat smaller and not quite as monolithic as earlier designs. The Warriors are taking note of some other feedback on waterfront development, too: last week's defeat of Propositions B and C, which if passed would have allowed construction of a big condo project on the Embarcadero just up the street from the Ferry Building. The battle cry of the No on B and C campaign: "No wall on the waterfront."
So, how much more petite — or less wall-like — is the new complex than the old? The original pavilion, a term that the team apparently prefers to "arena," totaled 771,000 gross square feet of event and commercial space; the new design calls from 695,000 square feet. Where the arena was first envisioned as 135 feet high, now it will be 125 feet. When the complex was first proposed, half of the 12.6-acre site was described as open space. Now that's up to 60 percent, 7.6 acres. The design also includes human-friendly features like valet bike parking, a public ramp around the arena, a kayak ramp, and a new public plaza on the Embarcadero at the site's northwest corner. The proposal also calls for a deep-water berth, part of fulfilling use requirements for the waterfront site, and a waterfront fire station.
Those changes aside, the Warriors and their allies, including Mayor Ed Lee and a host of business leaders, will still face a nearly certain ballot fight on the waterfront facility. Former Mayor Art Agnos promised as much as soon as the results for Props. B and C were in.
But the Warriors' owners say they're bestowing a gift on the region and criticize Agnos and those who have opposed the arena — mainly neighborhood residents and environmental and waterfront advocates — as "living in the past." Here's co-owner and team CEO Joe Lacob in Tuesday's San Francisco Chronicle:
I don’t think most people really want to live in the past. They want to live in a better future. We have to listen to everybody’s view and try to accommodate their views, and we can’t just do what we want to do. We [want] to make it something that for the majority of the people is a better place, a city, a better set of piers. That’s what we’re about: building something that is better for the future, not living in the past.
Lacob also says that the Warriors arena is fundamentally different from the condo project the voters were deciding on when they rejected Props. B and C. In fact, he compares it to arguably the most iconic of Bay Area landmarks:
What we’re doing is a much different civic-kind-of goal. Yes, it’s on the waterfront, but we want to create something to be used by so many San Franciscans and Bay Area residents. I hate to equate it to the Golden Gate Bridge, but, in the 1930s, it was thought of negatively. Well, it turns out that it’s a very useful and beautiful thing. People are proud of it, and it represents the city worldwide. I believe this can do the same. There are always going to be naysayers. There are going to be those who don’t want any development. They’d rather let those piers rot or have a new set of taxes levied. We’re going to spend almost $200 million to fix them and set the foundation for this arena. If we put this arena anywhere else, it would cost us $200 million less. This is not economic for us. We’re doing this, because it’s the best location as far as transit, near the new multi-billion TransBay Terminal. We’re fixing something on the pier, which is a great civic gift, frankly. I know some people won’t like the height or this or that, but I wish people would view this practically. It is sitting out on the water. It’s not blocking anybody’s views. We’re creating a 7-acre park for the good of all San Francisco. We’re creating a new San Francisco Fire Department building. That’s not something I wanted to do, but I realize it’s something we need to do to give something back. There is going to be a cruise ship terminal, bike paths, running paths, green areas. ... At the end of the day, I believe that we will have a positive reaction from the city planning department, the mayor, the ex-mayor and the people of the community.
Lacob, a former Silicon Valley venture capitalist, told CSN Bay Area that he resents suggestions that he's a wealthy interloper:
To be attacked by someone like Art Agnos, who is a voice of the past . . . to say that we are billionaires trying to take over the city is a joke. That's absurd and it's insulting. What is he trying to do for the city? We're trying to do something positive. It is going to be tough. We're going to have to convince him and others – or outvote them – that what we're doing is in the best interest of the majority of San Franciscans and people of the Bay Area.
Lacob also said in the CSN interview that he recognizes it may take a while to realize his dream of a new arena and that it may never happen at all.
I guess what I'd say to you is that we have alternatives – I'm not a fool – but we're going to [try] real hard to do this, even though it's more expensive than any other plan by far. It's not even close, and that's just the arena itself, not the surrounding area. We think for the next 40 years, 50 years, it will be something that all people of the Bay Area can be proud of, a great civic accomplishment.