SF commission certifies environmental report for Warriors arena

A commission gave the green light Tuesday to further planning for the Golden State Warriors' proposed multi-use arena in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood.

The Commission on Community Investment and Infrastructure met Tuesday morning at San Francisco's City Hall to consider certifying an around 5,000-page final subsequent environmental impact report.

The commission unanimously certified that report, setting the stage for the project's future approval. The proposed arena would be built on an 11-acre site at 16th and Third streets, south of AT&T Park.

In a statement, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said the approval of the study marked "another important milestone" to bringing this project to fruition.

Lee is one of the strongest proponents of the 18,064-seat multi-use indoor arena project, which also includes 513,000 square feet of office space and around 50,000 square feet of retail space. Preliminary plans also include a 3.2-acre plaza area.

"This rigorous and comprehensive study demonstrates the commitment of the city, the Warriors, (University of California at San Francisco), and the community to make sure the arena works for everyone," he said in a statement.

But the project isn't without critics.

A group called the Mission Bay Alliance, which is composed of UCSF stakeholders and concerned citizens, vows to continue fighting the project.

Thomas Lippe, an attorney hired by the group, made a dramatic show of opposition early in a public comment session prior to the vote.

He piled five thick binders on the speaker podium and offered it to the committee as potential evidence that the environmental report had deficiencies related to air and water quality concerns, as well as traffic issues.

Some of the later speakers accused the alliance being hawkish litigators who looked to obstruct the project from its inception.

Lippe contends that arena plan was misguided; he said the area could be better served by a different development altogether, such as space designed to accommodate more biotechnology companies.

"We have this great hub of biotech innovation - but instead of continuing to build on it, (the plan) is to build an arena, which would just distract from it," he said.

Lippe added that the arena could create traffic problems "that may make that hub less attractive" to businesses and their employees.

Another attorney representing the alliance, Susan Brandt-Hawley, argued the same point. She also said the land use purposes specified for the project - nightlife entertainment and recreation - don't fit the arena's development.

But the nearly 2-hour-long public comment period featured more support than opposition.

Around five local labor unions and many more residents defended the need for an arena, which they said could create jobs and host family-friendly entertainment.

Rick Welts, president and chief operating officer of the Warriors, said he felt it was a testament to the city's overall support for the project.

"It was gratifying," he said, "but not a surprise."
Public backing also came Tuesday from officials with the UCSF Medical Center, which initially witheld support for the arena. UCSF officials were apprehensive about whether its proximity to the medical center and the resulting traffic would threaten patient safety.

UCSF officials said many of their concerns are being addressed through parking expansion plans and the total $60 million the environmental report includes for various improvements to mitigate traffic impacts.

As for the alliance, which Welts said he believes is the only remaining opposition to the project: "We can match their binders with our binders," he said.

There are more battles ahead for the arena's supporters, given that the alliance said it plans on appealing the environmental study to the Board of Supervisors.

The alliance issued a statement after the report was certified, calling it a "rubber stamp process" that demonstrated the city was moving its plan along with "no opportunity for a thorough review."