The battle the last few months over the Golden State Warriors‘ proposed new arena on the San Francisco waterfront has been especially dull — basically, a bunch of rich donors to UC-Francisco opposed the plan because they were worried it would create too much traffic around the university’s hospital. This seemed like the sort of thing that was going to be easily compromised over when it first emerged in April, and sure enough, a settlement with UCSF (though not necessarily the donors) was announced yesterday. But it’s the details of the settlement that should be raising eyebrows:
At least $10 million in revenues from the 18,050-seat arena annually would be used to fund traffic mitigations for the life of the arena, pending approval from San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors.
Wait, $10 million a year? That is a huge amount of money, the equivalent of maybe $150 million in present value, which even on a billion-dollar project is a significant chunk of change. If Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber really agreed to pay that much to ease traffic concerns, that would be unprecedented.
It’s not entirely clear, though, whether this is actually Lacob and Guber’s money: Mayor Ed Lee’s press release just said the traffic funds would “come from new revenues generated by the Warriors sports and entertainment center,” which could easily mean city tax money, not team checks. Neither Lee’s website nor the city’s database of legislation has the text of the bill that Lee introduced on Tuesday, and it’s 6 am on the West Coast right now, so your guess is as good as mine what this actually means.
Not that it makes much of a difference in terms of the project’s financing overall, which is still extremely city-friendly: Lacob and Guber are paying for the full construction cost, plus the cost of acquiring the land, plus property taxes on the whole megillah. If anything, it’s set to be a model of how much team owners can afford to cough up for a new building when public funding is off the table — though admittedly, San Francisco is a bit of a special case since it’s a city full of rich people who currently have no full-sized arena to go and drop $300 a pop on Eagles tickets at. Still, it’ll be interesting if someday soon the bayfront features two sports facilities built with effectively no public money — it’ll be like visiting England, only with better seafood.