On June 20 the California Assembly easily passed AB 1273, a bill from San Francisco’s Phil Ting that aimed to speed up the CEQA process by bypassing the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). That hope faded on the 25th, when a Senate committee refused to take action on the bill, citing the importance of the BCDC and the State Lands Commission. The bill was withdrawn from committee shortly thereafter.
The BCDC is the first and largest regulatory body that approves any and all development along the bay. The Warriors and SF pols hoped that by not involving the BCDC they’d be able to hit their target opening date of fall 2017. For now the 2017 date looks shaky, as involvement with the BCDC and contingent agencies could add a 1-2 years (or more) to a normal CEQA process.
Tim Kawakami saw the other shoe drop when he interviewed Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob this week.
LACOB: I do know there’s a possibility, certainly, that (the arena) could be delayed. It’s not a probability at this point. The probability is that we achieve our goal.
Not exactly a rallying cry, rather a more tempered response than Lacob has previously exhibited. Lacob has shown no signs of giving up on the project, as he and Peter Guber most certainly see the revenue advantages it would bring even the arena were delayed 1-2 years. Lacob also said that he’d consider Lot A across McCovey Cove/Mission Creek from AT&T Park, but not Pier 50 next door (which would bring up the BCDC threat all over again). Chances are that the W’s would only build on Lot A if they received exclusive development rights, which have already been given to the Giants with plans drawn up. Not that they couldn’t be changed if the right deal were struck. The Giants are refinancing their remaining debt on AT&T Park to help finance the Lot A project, so you have to think it’s already pretty far along in the process for them.
Interestingly, the apparent defeat of AB 1273 marks the fourth instance of large political effort to fast-track a project that has either backfired or failed to help the effort. A letter from the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (among others) made note of previous instances:
- AB 900 in 2011 was legislation for a Portside San Diego Chargers stadium. Eventually the plan fizzled as no one could figure out how to bridge the funding gap.
- A fast track bill for Farmers Field was passed in 2012, but became moot as Phil Anschutz wavered when confronted with the high price the NFL was going to make him pay to bring one or two teams downtown.
- Seattle interests also bumped up against their own working Port to ram through a SoDo Sonics arena.
The first two instances of demise were purely financial as no one could make the deal terms pencil out. Bills or other measures may have helped in the end, we’ll never know. The brief list doesn’t include Carole Migden’s failed attempt to block the 49ers’ move to Santa Clara. Seems like the memo to any teams trying these shenanigans should be to simply let the process work itself out, no matter how painful it is.
In the letter link above is also Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s opposition to the bill, framed in terms of economic impact to Oakland. Quan has also mentioned the BCDC in interviews, but she was smart to not include that argument in the letter. After all, she’s advocating for a ballpark at Howard Terminal, a piece of land that, like Piers 30/32 in SF, is subject to BCDC and SLC review. The BCDC website’s FAQ barely scratches the surface of the regulatory work required to build anything on the Bay (bold are my emphasis):
What types of activity require a permit?
A BCDC permit must be obtained before you do any of the following things within the Commission’s jurisdiction:
Place solid material, build or repair docks, pile-supported or cantilevered structures, dispose of material or moor a vessel for a long period in San Francisco Bay or in certain tributaries that flow into the Bay.
Dredge or extract material from the Bay bottom.
Substantially change the use of any structure or area.
Construct, remodel or repair a structure.
Subdivide property or grade land.
Shouldn’t be a problem for a Howard Terminal ballpark, right? Easy peasy.
In the Kawakami interview, Lacob also referenced the departure of AECOM from the project. According to Lacob, the AECOM had already finished its task of completing design work for the inside of the arena. That means that design work is largely complete, barring CEQA-mandated changes to the project. That should show you how serious the W’s are about getting this thing built.