It was inevitable that the Golden State Warriors' plan to construct an arena along the San Francisco waterfront would draw complaints from neighbors worried about bread-and-butter issues like traffic congestion.
Less expected are complaints increasingly coming from the management of the San Francisco Giants, whose home at AT&T Parks sits only a few blocks away from the Pier 30-32 site targeted by the Warriors.
In recent weeks, the Giants have increasingly raised concerns about the gridlock caused by the influx of traffic brought in by the over 200 events likely to be held at the arena each year. These transit issues could become particularly thorny when said events overlap with Giants games, bringing up to 60,000 visitors into the area at any given time.
"You need for traffic to work for 41,000 people at our games," Giants President Larry Baer said in an interview with KCBS radio. "You have to make sure traffic works, the parking works, you have to have the transit supply work," Baer said. "So you can't overtax Muni, you can't overtax Caltrain, you can't overtax BART. You have to be able to move people around in the right way or you're going to have gridlock."
Instead of the Piers 30-32 site along The Embarcadero, the Giants have been pushing for an arena at Pier 50, south of Mission Bay, on the other side of AT&T Park.
Pier 50 is adjacent to the parking lot of AT&T Park, where the reigning World Series champs plan to build a 27-acre apartment, park and shopping complex.
The Giants' favored location for the Warriors' new home base comes with a number of issues. The Chronicle reports that Pier 50 would be significantly more expensive to renovate to the point where it could safely support a sports arena than the current site. Not only there a number of historic buildings and a port maintenance facility the franchise would be required to move or preserve.
"One of the reasons we moved the America's Cup development from Pier 50…was the challenge associated with a mixed-used development there--both the regulatory and cost challenges," Jennifer Matz of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood and Workforce Development told the Chronicle.
Interestingly, this isn't the first time the Giants have pushed the Warriors to develop a site near Pier 50. Last year, when Warriors management first contemplated a move to San Francisco, they entered into talks with the Giants to build an arena in the parking lot of AT&T Park. However, the Warriors quickly decided they'd rather go it alone and get a property where their landlord would be the city of San Francisco rather than their friendly neighborhood MLB franchise.
The Port of San Francisco has already granted the Warriors a 66-year lease on the property provided that the franchise completes the renovation work required to make the two 13-acre piers support a 17,500-seat arena. Cost projections for the overall deal have run around $1 billion.
The potential for gridlock has been a major issue for the arena's neighbors since the day the project was first publicly announced. A survey of nearby residents by the South Beach-Rincon-Mission Bay Neighborhood Association found that 49 percent of area neighbors opposed the plan, largely for traffic-related reasons, and that opposition grew more intense the closer people lived to the proposed construction site.
"We have serious concerns about changing from a mixed-use district with primarily residential neighborhoods and a major stadium to one that has a major stadium and a major arena along The Embarcadero," a neighborhood association spokesperson wrote in a statement. "We are able to handle the pressures of the major ballpark, but we are having trouble visualizing how the neighborhood can absorb the year-round impacts of two major sports complexes without overloading the infrastructure and becoming no longer family-friendly."
In addition, another group of locals has created a Change.org petition seeking to block the arena's construction.
When the city's Board of Supervisors gave the thumbs up to the plan in November, Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district includes the proposed arena, included an amendment calling for the mandatory environmental impact report to include a comprehensive review on its traffic impacts.
At a neighborhood town hall meeting held last month, Warriors Chief Operating Office Rick Welts said that one of the reasons why the Piers 30-32 site was chosen in the first place is due to its proximity to both parking and transit. "Our analysis shows 16,000 public parking spaces within a 20 minute walk of the site," Welts told SFBay. "One of the very main attractions of this site is the proximity to public transportation. The MUNI stop is literally 100 feet from the site. The Embarcadero BART is a short walk from the site."
In a piece published over the weekend, Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius took out his anti-NIMBY stick and beat the Giants' objections to the Piers 30-32 project over the head with it:
It is hard to believe the Giants can raise some of these objections with a straight face. When they were planning what is now AT&T Park, all the familiar concerns were raised: a downtown facility would be a traffic nightmare, neighborhoods would be ruined, and the noise and congestion would be intolerable. The Giants battled through those perceptions, built a jewel of a ballpark, and won nearly everyone over.
And by the way, a facility on Pier 50 won't reduce traffic. If anything it will increase it. A surprising number of fans walk from BART or downtown offices to the ballpark now. Piers 30-32 are half a mile closer to Market Street. No one will walk all the way down to Pier 50.
The Warriors hope to move into their new home by the start of the 2017 NBA season.
Check out these designs of the proposed new arena:
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