October 19, 2012

It's No Slam Dunk Nor Layup For A Warriors Arena In San Francisco

With San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee deeming it his legacy project, and the project sponsors lining the pockets of nearly every political, development, and public relations consultant in the city, some might consider the Warriors Arena that’s proposed to be built upon Piers 30-32 to be too big or connected to fail. But this is San Francisco, after all.

Birds helped overturn the approved development of 555 Washington. NIMBY neighbors have stalled the approved development of 8 Washington for at least another year. And an early plan to develop the very Piers upon which the Warriors Arena would be built fell apart during negotiations of the financial terms.

The draft development deal with the Warriors would cap the City’s exposure on the billion dollar project to a $120,000,000 reimbursement for Pier rehabilitation and potential public improvements with funding of the reimbursement limited to rent credits (the piers would be leased to the Warriors for $1,970,000 a year), the sale of Seawall 330 for an estimated $30,400,000, and new property tax revenue generated by the Warriors development.

The Fiscal Feasibility and Conceptual Framework for the Piers 30-32 project:

Assuming a term sheet for the deal can be agreed upon, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission approves the use, the Piers are successfully rezoned for development over 40 feet, and any legal challenges are overcome in a timely manner, San Francisco and the Golden State Warriors will have a new Arena by 2017.

Yes, it can be done. But make no mistake, the development of a Warriors Arena upon the Piers in San Francisco is no slam dunk nor layup.

The Plans For A Legacy San Francisco Warriors Arena Upon The Piers [SocketSite]
The Design For The Warriors San Francisco Arena On Piers 30-32 [SocketSite]
555 Washington's EIR Certification Reversed [SocketSite]
8 Washington Approval Upheld But Now On Hold Until 2013 Election [SocketSite]
Piers 30-32 Dropped From AC34 Development Plan, Lawsuit Filed [SocketSite]
Plans For Seawall 330 Remain As Murky As The Rendering [SocketSite]
Timeline And Key Milestones For Building The Warriors Arena In SF [SocketSite]

First Published: October 19, 2012 4:00 PM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

As the design moves forward and evolves thru the talented minds of the architects, this arena and open space could very well be the "Sydney Opera House" of our magnificent bay.

Posted by: futurist at October 19, 2012 4:51 PM

I guess the Warrior's owners missed the sign on the Bay Bridge with our Motto on their way into San Francisco.

"Yo Mr. Developer, welcome to San Francisco, just a reminder. Mandatory notice, your project will cost more and take longer then you think.

Check your pain threshold before proceeding.

No whining, you have been warned.

Mayor Ed Lee"

Posted by: SoMares at October 19, 2012 6:40 PM

However, I think all developers are quite aware of what you pointed out. That's reality in San Francisco.

But that does not mean projects don't get built.

There may even be some whining. Big deal.

Those who hang in there for the long term will succeed.

Posted by: futurist at October 19, 2012 7:55 PM

$175,000,000 to $225,000,000 in "soft costs"? Wow.

Posted by: CH at October 20, 2012 9:59 AM

there is no doubt that this design is important and that there is potential to create something lasting and beautiful; but it's a stadium and will be very hard to create anything as beautiful / iconic as the Sydney opera house. I'm not sure there is a stadium example to draw from that has the architectural sophistication to really be considered landmark. I guess there is always a first and this is really too important of a structure in the bay to wind up being a "design by compromise". I'd rather it just not get built than blight the waterfront for all eternity. It's quite lovely as-is.

Posted by: eddy at October 20, 2012 10:09 AM

^eddy, you can't be serious...anything would be more "lovely" than the decrepit pier/parking lot that's currently there. And I think plenty of people would disagree with you when you say there are no stadiums that are landmarks. There are even two in SF, or do AT&T and Candlestick parks not count as landmarks to you? Also this isn't a stadium, it's an arena, and it would include some nice open space as well. It would undoubtedly be a vast improvement over what's currently there.

Posted by: cbf at October 20, 2012 12:20 PM

Yes, cbf, I am serious. Although I'm referring to the waterfront, in general, as lovely. The piers are not nice, and neither is the maritime museum. Whatever gets erected in this space needs to be more iconic and noteworthy. Not just a "landmark". Thanks for clarification on arena versus stadium, btw. Perhaps you could apply the same logic towards "landmark" and "architectural sophistication". You cannot seriously think Candlestick has any architectural merit whatsoever; or think that building a concrete monstrosity on our bay would be better than the current dilapidated parking pier. Becaseu by your definition, "Anything... would be a vast improvement". I think you get the gist of what I'm saying, right? We don't need to be so literal.

Posted by: eddy at October 20, 2012 12:42 PM

You cannot seriously think Candlestick has any architectural merit whatsoever; or think that building a concrete monstrosity on our bay would be better than the current dilapidated parking pier.

I think both of those things. Candlestick is one of the last remaining football/baseball combo stadiums, and while I do hope it is torn down, it definitely has architectural merit.

And yes, a "concrete monstrosity" of any type is better than what we have in a rotting pier. It could be a simple concrete box and be fine for me - the waterfront is dozens of miles long with plenty of other nastiness that is worse.

Posted by: anon at October 20, 2012 1:21 PM

So much for 'no taxpayer dollars whatsoever'

Posted by: anon at October 20, 2012 7:44 PM

Re: anything "would be better than the current dilapidated parking pier".

The thing about "the current dilapidated parking pier", is that unless you're fairly close to it, you don't notice it. You certainly can't make it out from across the bay or further south.

If a "concrete monstrosity" of any type (and I don't think this proposal quite qualifies as that, but I'm accepting this criticism for the sake of the current argument) gets built, you will see it from all over the place and that's why the architects should be aiming for something highly "architectural sophisticated".

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at October 21, 2012 6:15 AM

Having Ed Lee and his gang of thugs embrace your project is a certain kiss of death.

Posted by: 4oceans at October 21, 2012 8:41 AM

SODP (prounounced "SODP") has a list of demands, including but not limited to:

1. The Dilapidated Pier must be reconstructed in life sized version using run down reclaimed pieces to extent possible; and
2. Our group will need funding similar to the expected "Soft Costs" associated with construction of the [arena]; and
3. If our demands are not met we will shortly begin a permanent tent camp occupy on the DP ("Dilapidated Pier"), assuming DP will support SODP and our extensive media IT equipment.

Posted by: SODPs-Save Our Dilapidated Piers at October 21, 2012 8:53 AM

"...but it's a stadium and will be very hard to create anything as beautiful / iconic as the Sydney opera house"

Really? How about this?

http://www.mondoarc.com/projects/Architectural/209848/the_birds_nest_stadium_beijing_china.html

Posted by: Joshua at October 21, 2012 1:55 PM

@ Joshua: Exactly. Great example and there are others.

Since the owners have picked one of the most talented, innovative and sensitive architectural firms, Snohetta, this project has the potential to become our "Sydney Opera House".

Posted by: futurist at October 21, 2012 2:20 PM

Back on one of the previous threads, 1965 wrote::

This is the right way to create great architecture. Do your homework, hire a competent/appropriate architect and let them do what they do best.

Competitions, well, competitions lead designs like the Transbay Tower.

Okay.

Everyone knows that Danish architect Jørn Utzon produced the design for the Sydney Opera House — that people are holding up as some kind of a gold standard for iconicness in this thread — for a design competition, right?

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at October 22, 2012 12:43 AM

Not really following your train of thought exactly, Brahma.

But, yes, I used the "example" of the Sydney Opera House as the kind of iconic building/place that COULD happen with the proposed arena project.

Competition or not is irrelevant to me. It's about the possibility of what could happen, with all the best factors in place, including the architectural team, the developer/owner, appropriate budget, civic and neighbor support, and, last but not least: the desire for excellence.

Posted by: futurist at October 22, 2012 9:30 AM

This structure is 12 stories... those in favor of this building on the water should go down to pier 23 and see what a new two story building looks like and then imagine 10 more stories. It will give you a good idea of what we are talking about.

Also, I am interested in seeing the transportation study. A cruise ship departed on Sunday and tied up traffic on embarcadero from the wharf to Brannan Street.

Posted by: Grace at October 22, 2012 10:22 AM

And what exactly are we talking about?

How do you know it's going to be "12 stories"? How do you define a story for this type of building? How many feet is in a "story" by your definition?

There are plenty of examples of cities with tall structures, hotels and residential on the waterfront: Boston, Vancouver, Seattle come to mind.

Also with regard to traffic: We live in a CITY. Traffic happens. The City did not collapse. The sky is not falling.

Such drama.

Posted by: futurist at October 22, 2012 10:33 AM

@Grace - to see what a structure of this height along the waterfront will look like, you only need to walk west a bit to AT&T Park. No need to imagine - we already have a structure of identical height right there on the waterfront, and it's phenomenally awesome that it's there. Would love to see more height along the waterfront, with walkways around like this will have.

Access to the waterfront for all is great, and should be preserved, as it is in this plan.

Posted by: anon at October 22, 2012 10:40 AM

you violated the cheerleaders sensibilities.

How dare you question those who must be obeyed

Posted by: contrarian at October 22, 2012 11:20 AM

futurist: I think the people who deride design competitions would agree with you that the Sydney Opera House is a great example of an iconic building/place that could happen with the proposed arena project, which is why I point out that it was the result of a design competition.

I was just responding to those who are dead certain (as evidenced in the thread on the transbay tower) that a design competition must necessarily result in pedestrian (or worse) design. Didn't intend to attribute that point of view to you.

All that said, though, what I've seen so far on this project doesn't even come within shouting distance of either the Sydney Opera House or the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing in terms of iconicness. I hope it'll improve.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at October 22, 2012 11:59 AM

@ Brahma: well, I think I get what you meant. But a design competition or not does not necessarily result in superior design or mediocre design. And certainly, around here in SF there are many diverse opinions about design excellence (or lack thereof) as there are residents.

But I do disagree with you with regards to the current project proposal and very preliminary design concepts. They look fascinating, unique, iconic and of great urban sensitivity and scale.

The firm is one of the best in the world. This project looks to be of that quality. I've been to the Sydney Opera house several times and part of the success is not JUST the architecture, but the placement, the open spaces on the water and the amazing public access.

The arena design as shown would embody those qualities as well.

Posted by: futurist at October 22, 2012 12:23 PM

The notion that whatever gets built here will be comparable to the Sydney Opera House in design, scale, or context is ridiculous. The SOH holds 5,700 people and fronts a 74-acre park and botanical gardens featuring well over a mile of unobstructed waterfront. The proposed Warriors arena is three times the size and as Brahma notes as currently designed is hardly iconic. In fact it feels rushed, and unworthy of Snøhetta -- the Oslo Opera House (occupancy 1,800 by the way) puts it to shame.

Posted by: adam at October 23, 2012 8:51 PM

@Brahma I agree with you in general. I'd like to believe in the integrity of design competitions, but in real life, the design that planned to pay the most for the Transbay parcel was the one that won.

Utzon's iconic design for the Sydney opera house was in fact initially rejected by the competition jury, only to be saved later in the process by Eero Saarinen when he revisited the rejected proposals. An outlier in the grand scheme of design competitions.

Posted by: 1965 at October 23, 2012 11:54 PM

Adam, you're not really listening to the broad comment I made re: the SOH. You're focusing too much on details (which you pointed out).

I'm simply talking about the inspiration, the potential for this arena which could have a great impact on more public access to the waterfront.

That's all. Don't see how that thought can be "ridiculous".

Posted by: futurist at October 24, 2012 11:17 AM

Height of the opera house is about 220 feet high and has 5 stages additional rooms and lots of other stuff, so don't ask as if the smaller seating makes it a much smaller facility.

Posted by: sparky*b at October 24, 2012 12:22 PM

I question whether comparisons to the Bird's Nest stadium or Sidney Opera House are appropriate given that those were public works type projects, and at least in the case of the former, meant as a statement piece to announce China's arrival on the world stage.

In short, construction cost was probably not as much an issue as it will be for this arena being underwritten by a for profit organization that cannot necessarily afford, or want, grand architectural gestures.

Posted by: sardonic at October 24, 2012 12:56 PM

If the Warriors can't afford, or don't want, a grand architectural gesture, they can always build at some other location instead of on the waterfront.

There's no shortage of other places in The City where they could build something pedestrian and instantly forgettable. Hell, they could move back to the South Bay again for a year and revamp Oracle Arena again if they want to do things on the cheap.

San Francisco doesn't have unlimited numbers of piers. In exchange, we should get something beautiful, even if they are funding it privately.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at October 24, 2012 1:42 PM

@futurist: My point, which you seem to have missed, is that the context matters, and that the scale of the project has a huge impact on how high the architects can aim. The Oslo and Sydney opera houses are in highly visible locations but are in fact quite small. The constraints that the architects need to meet around massing, floor area, sightlines, and (especially) cost, are much more manageable on these smaller scales, which encourage risk-taking. While I admire the exterior walkway on Snøhetta's Warriors Arena, I find the overall design -- what I can see of it through all the ground fog in the renderings -- dull and uninspired. As Brahma notes, if we're going to give up the pier (and for locals, the ability to drive or conduct daily business in their own neighborhood), it should be for something amazing.

@sparky*b: The SOH footprint is about 150,000 sf. The Warriors have committed to no more than 60% coverage of the pier (current design is about 50% coverage). The pier is about 550,000 sf, so assuming the current design that's a 275,000 sf footprint, nearly double that of the SOH. Oh, and I forgot to mention before: the SOH has no parking and is adjacent to an amazing multimode transport hub. We have Muni, which grinds to a halt on Giants game days already, and BART 3/4 of a mile away. I'll believe in these water taxis when I see them.

Posted by: adam at October 24, 2012 4:25 PM

Nope, didn't miss any points.

Scale of a project has nothing to do with architectural merit or success. The simple bathhouse designed by Louis Kahn over 50 years ago is still regarded as a significant piece of modern architecture.

The conceptual rendering by Snohetta is purposely vague because, I assume, they are in the very early stages of exploring ideas, shapes, forms and massing. Let them design.

And this whole "traffic congestion" problem is hardly a significant factor in design excellence. Yes, there will be congestion on game days, just as there is when the Giants play: big deal. traffic is part of dense urban living. It clears up. Traffic moves. Stop whining.

And yes, the Muni problem is real. Hardly an architectural problem. Let's get Muni to solve their problems, but I'm doubtful.

But I'm not doubtful about this arena being an exceptional new facility with all kinds of public access amenities to the waterfront, that do not exist now.

Posted by: futurist at October 24, 2012 5:14 PM

I agree with Brahma that such a prominent location deserves a dazzling design. Lets hope that the rendering of the giant marshmallow above is just a placeholder and that the architect will deliver something better.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at October 24, 2012 5:50 PM

And when you want to call it a "giant marshmallow",then right away you are already developing a negative attitude and setting up your preconceived notions of failure.

This is interesting, but here on SS why are there so many more negative commenters (on many projects in the design stage) than there are people who, like me, believe in the potential with this project for great architecture and public spaces?

Some of you, without valid reasons, are always hoping the architect "will deliver something better" when you have NOT even seen much more than one conceptual digital rendering.

Posted by: futurist at October 24, 2012 8:15 PM

@futurist:

You obviously did miss my point, as I was saying that the larger the project, especially when the scale is horizontal, the more difficult an architectural problem it is to solve. Please show me more gorgeous stadiums and conference facilities and I will revise my thinking.

Regarding my "negative attitude…and preconceived notions": Craig, the Snøhetta partner, presented his renderings to a roomful of stakeholders last week. I didn't demand that he do so; it was a decision made by the developers, the architect, and (presumably) the City. So I'm not supposed to respond to what they showed? Please tell me, when am I allowed to have an opinion, and until then how much of a handicap do I need to allow for all future drawings?

You're ridiculous. Of course people are going to respond to what the architect presents. If the Warriors team didn't want that to happen, they should have restricted Craig to showing simple massing models and rough outlines. That wouldn't have kept them from introducing the exterior walkway idea.

And speaking of that walkway, please tell me more about all these public access amenities that we'll be getting. I'm sure the views from the walkway will be great, and yes there's a ferry dock. How else does this project connect the City to the bay, an achievement that the rest of the eastern waterfront development has conspicuously failed to achieve?

Finally: yes, traffic is a fact of life in a city. Does that mean that there are no combinations of land use and transit capacity that are fundamentally untenable? Clearly there are, and your dismissal of traffic as a concern is at best unrealistic -- especially given that the Warriors are talking about up to 250 events per year at the new facility.

Posted by: adam at October 24, 2012 10:06 PM

Yeah, and futurist seemed to have misinterpreted my sentiment too. I've raved about Snohetta in the past and acknowledge that this rendering is probably a placeholder. If that marshmallow turns out as good as or better than Selfridges in Birmingham's Bullring (another amorphous blob) then I'd be pleased. But that distant rendering doesn't reveal the surface finishes.

Seems like someone is searching for a negativity strawman.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at October 25, 2012 9:22 AM

Oh my. Such protests by Adam and MOD.

Larger projects have nothing to do with the difficulty in solving the problem successfully. A small residence can be as difficult to design as a new airport. I submit it's not about the project, but more about the talent and expertise of that particular firm.

And MOD, seriously, you're already concerned about the concept rendering NOT showing any finishes? Really?

Built in negativity vs. believing in the potential.

Posted by: futurist at October 25, 2012 1:21 PM

"... you're already concerned about the concept rendering NOT showing any finishes"

I said that? I think all I said was that the distant rendering didn't reveal any finishes.

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at October 25, 2012 3:00 PM

Oh well, excuse me your highness for not properly quoting you exactly.

Posted by: futurist at October 25, 2012 8:39 PM

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