Warriors’ Arena Decision a Bow to San Francisco Waterfront Height Limits Campaign

Warriors, San Francisco, ULI, Urban Land Institute, Art Agnos, waterfront, Mission Bay, Mission Rock, height restriction, San Francisco real estate
Embarcadero Freeway and Ferry Building San Francisco waterfront real estate The Registry
The Ferry Building with the Embarcadero Freeway behind it, circa 1960, as it once existed along San Francisco’s waterfront.

By Nancy Amdur

Controversy surrounding proposed San Francisco waterfront developments helped push the Golden State Warriors to scrap plans for a new stadium at Piers 30-32 in favor of purchasing land for the arena in the city’s Mission Bay area. The move comes on the heels of city election officials certifying a June ballot measure that, if approved, would require voter consent to increase existing height limits on waterfront projects.

[contextly_sidebar id=”547974715ccb1049311b78fa00064faf”]It makes sense that the Warriors opted to buy 12 inland acres, which can be developed without a lengthy approval process and the growing expense tied to building on the waterfront, said Tim Colen, executive director of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, which advocates for well-designed and well-located housing and opposes the ballot measure.

“It’s a huge missed opportunity, [but] you can’t fault the Warriors, certainly. No one planning a project of that scope needs a risk to it,” Colen said.

The Warriors bought the land from Salesforce.com for an undisclosed price. The cloud computing company reportedly purchased 14 acres in Mission Bay for about $278 million in 2010 to be used for its new corporate headquarters. However, the company instead is moving into what will be known as Salesforce Tower, under construction at 415 Mission St.

Jon Golinger, director of the No Wall on the Waterfront campaign, which helped place the initiative, known as Prop. B, on the ballot, said the group is pleased with the Warriors’ shift in arena location.

“Two years ago when the Warriors’ plans were announced to fanfare, the result was a plan that actually didn’t have widespread support. The better way to build on the waterfront is true community engagement early on.”

“The Warriors chose a location that has less built-in problems,” he said. Transportation and environmental impacts are still to be discussed “so it’s not a done deal from day one, but it has a stronger chance of making it through,” he said.

The Warriors revealed that its 18,000-seat arena in Mission Bay, slated to open for the 2018-19 basketball season, will be privately financed on private land located a few blocks south of the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park and bounded by Third, 16th and South streets and Terry Francois Boulevard. The Warriors project also will include a 5.5-acre waterfront park. The deal does not include naming or sponsorship rights.

Muni’s Third Street rail line and Caltrain will provide convenient transportation to the Mission Bay stadium. Also, a new I-280 freeway connection at Mariposa Street will take traffic within one block of the arena. The stadium will be next to two parking areas that can hold a total of about 2,100 cars.

The University of California—San Francisco announced in March that it is negotiating with Salesforce.com to buy a parcel of its Mission Bay land directly across Third Street from the UCSF Medical Center. UCSF plans to build 500,000 square feet of office and/or biotech space and a 500-car parking lot at the site.

Plans for the new arena location were announced just five days after Colen joined a panel of proponents and opponents of Prop. B at an event in downtown San Francisco, hosted by the Urban Land Institute, to talk about how the initiative could impact future development.

Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos said the ballot measure is part of democracy and giving voters a choice.

“This empowers the people and puts them on an even keel with decision makers of the city,” he said.

Colen argues that Prop. B is a “defacto downzoning of what is now derelict maritime and industrial land,” which could be used to build much needed housing in the city.

“The waterfront could accommodate thousands of homes that we desperately need,” Colen said.

But John Rizzo, political chair of San Francisco’s Sierra Club chapter, said the ballot measure is a way to protect “special public lands” and is not a downzoning of the waterfront.

This is a protection of the current zoning and an allowance for upzoning,” Rizzo said.

Other proposed waterfront projects, including the Giants’ plans to build the mixed-use Mission Rock project at Seawall Lot 337 and Pier 48, and Forest City’s plans for a mixed-use district at Pier 70, so far are still moving forward as planned.

“It will be interesting to see if San Francisco will find the civic will to repurpose derelict maritime land,” so the piers do not just “crumble into the bay,” Colen said.

Golinger added that most Prop. B supporters want the waterfront to grow but will wait for the right project. He said there is no shortage of project ideas making it unnecessary to “jump on the first one that sounds good.”

Photo courtesy of Telstar Logistics/Flickr