Smooth-talking PR pro Sam Singer, whose efforts of late have been focused on ousting SF Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, has a new target in his crosshairs: the Mission Bay Warriors Arena development.
After shifting plans away from Pier 30 and changing the stadium's design to look less like a toilet, the project looked to be in the clear. But now Singer speaks for the Mission Bay Alliance, whom he describes to SFist as "a group of people who have long supported the biosciences industry, as well as major donors," and they're firmly opposed. Others have characterized the group as "shadowy," and the Chronicle's mustache twinsies Matier and Ross simply call them "big-bucks donors to UCSF" with "an imposing cast of consultants."
Mission Bay Alliance board board members include Chiron founder William Rutter, Dr. Samuel Barondes, retired UC Hastings law Professor Richard Snyder, and former chairman of the Langley Porter Institute Dr. Samuel Barondes. And those consultants, in addition to Singer, include Jack Davis, "once the biggest political consultant in town and still a force to be reckoned with in semi-retirement," and retired UCSF Senior Vice Chancellor Bruce Spaulding.
Slightly scandalous: Willie Brown was on board, until somebody at the Chronicle told him that it would pose a particularly clear conflict of interest, what with his dictated weekly ramblings column, Willie's World. "Brown at first was on board with opponents," write Matier and Ross, "but decided Tuesday to back out because his involvement could pose a conflict of interest with his status as a weekly Chronicle columnist."
But what's the complaint? According to Singer, "There's a fundamental problem with the Warriors stadium. It's an 18,000 seat arena that has been planned to have 200 public events annually, and there are only 200 parking spaces that the Warriors have dedicated to them."
In fact, the Warriors would build just 950 parking spaces for the project and 650 of those would serve the two office towers. But still, says Singer, "That equals a traffic and parking disaster for San Francisco. Essentially, the Warriors stadium will kill the decades of planning in Mission Bay. We can't afford to have that happen."
Singer and the Alliance also take issue with the development's proposed office towers, two 160-foot-tall buildings that come with a large central plaza bigger than Union Square. Ambulances caught in traffic have also been invoked.
Singer would also like to let everyone know that, despite his position on the plans, he's a big Steph Curry fan. "Everybody wants to see them win the NBA championship, but loving the Warriors doesn't amount to agreeing with the stadium and office tower plans." He also reacted to Warriors spokesman P.J. Johnston, who said “It’s hard to know who or what this shadowy new organization may be, but they don’t appear to represent UCSF, and certainly not the community... [The] San Francisco public overwhelmingly supports the Warriors’ move to Mission Bay.”
"Johnston is so heavy-handed in taking this criticism so quickly and so seriously," says Singer. "His response proves that we have uncovered a very weak link in their plans, which is parking and traffic."
So, is the new group a real threat? It could be. Singer says the issue might be taken to voters in the style of the “No Wall on the Waterfront” campaign that vanquished the 8 Washington condo development. Overall, he says confidently, "I think the chances for our success are very strong. While people love the Warriors, they are unaware of the actual arena plans, unaware of the two giant office towers, and there has been very little discussion overall. We believe that once the public becomes aware of all that, the tide will turn."
The arena is scheduled to open by the 2018-19 NBA season and plans are due before the Planning Commission in the fall for approval of its environmental impact report, to be released shortly. Perhaps, speculates the Business Times, the Mission Bay Alliance's legal challenge to the environmental impact report "could delay construction at least a year." Rick Welts, the Warriors' president of the team, said “It’s never over until it’s over in San Francisco,” even before news of the Mission Bay Alliance broke.