Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

The Site - Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle
I've lived in San Francisco for twenty years and near the city for the past twenty-four. I even own a bit of the City that we use for weekends and mini-vacations, for all intents San Francisco is my hometown. I lived through the busts and gusts of Candlestick Park (absolutely no remorse at its passing), the Marina that today looks and acts like it did in 1971 – a village of young families, baby carriages (more like high-tech mini-hot rods), the earthquake and collapse, with the help of God, of the Embarcadero Freeway (when the city wouldn’t do it), the twenty year adventure to build the Moscone Center, and of course the construction greatest baseball park in the world – AT&T Park (or whatever its name is this season). I've watched the city evolve as every city does; I'm also amazed at its luck.

Luck has played a huge part in its success as well as money. And with the regions vibrant economy and wealth pushing up from the South Bay and Silicon Valley and the contribution of the refugees from Oakland's troubles, every rental unit and home is filled. And one of the most visible refugees is the Golden State Warriors basketball team.

When it was announced in May of 2012 that the Warriors would be building a new arena on the site of a derelict parking lot and wharf under the San Francisco Bay Bridge (the recently renamed Willie Brown Bridge), everyone was excited – for about two minutes. Then the shouting and screaming started, organized groups put the arena on their hit list, politician's looked for cover. And the costs to build an all-purpose world-class arena on the waterfront of America's most iconoclastic city grew and grew. Who would have thunk it?

But miracles happen. Just as the past and controversial mayor Art Agnos began to rally his opposition forces there seemed to be the classic bait and switch. The Warriors suddenly acquired a site in the center of San Francisco's newest and most modern neighborhoods directly south of the downtown. It was like putting a heart in the rusted chassis of the Tin Man. There was a revered and admired columnist Herb Caen, who called San Francisco Baghdad-By-The-Bay, after the last decade that's fallen out of favor, but for now it could easily be called the Emerald City.

To be honest I thought that the Pier 30-32 site would be great and like the Giants' Ballpark become one more pearl in the necklace of the waterfront. The drawings were cool and the imagery spectacular, and unlike the pending wasteland that was once the site of Larry Ellison's America's Cup venue (now cruise ship terminal), this would be a real touch the water and celebrate the city project. Boy was I wrong, I think a Whole Foods store would have better luck being approved.

Step in They secured a 12-acre site a few years back adjacent to the waterfront in the heart of expanding Mission Bay development for their business campus. But soon fell in love with one of the new high rises under construction just south of Market Street and decided to move there. Result: a great site needing a new owner – and in a deal to make most real estate experts' heads spin – the Warriors picked it up, dumped the water front location, secured Art Agnos's endorsement, moved the signage, and just stunned the city politicians and powerful.

I have not seen the plans, I can imagine the architects aren’t sleeping much these days trying to pull together one of the greatest architectural and urban opportunities the City's seen since the opening of the California Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park and the new terminal downtown development. And another nail seems to be driven into the coffin that is the political and economic disaster that is Oakland.

More later when the plans are unveiled – this should be good.

As was said more than a half century ago in this very city, this is, "The stuff that dreams are made of."

The Warriors Presentation on YouTube

Stay Tuned . . . . . . . . . . .

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