EDITORS NOTES It was breezy and San Francisco-spring-perfect along the Embarcadero the other day. People were jogging, and rollerblading, and sitting in the sun. Red’s Java House was doing brisk business.
Out on the old, crumbling piers, cars were sitting in the lots that now make up most of the economic use of some of the city’s most spectacular and valuable land. Kind of a waste — but the upside (and it’s a big one) was the feeling of open space, the idea that we were all so close to the Bay, that nothing blocked the views of the waterfront or that sense that this is still a city that has some connection to the marine environment that surrounds it.
And then I imagined the Warrior’s Arena. Right there in the middle of everything. And I stopped for a second and wondered what I’d be feeling if I were walking past it 10 years from now. And it made me kind of sad.
I know that parking lots aren’t the best use of Port of San Francisco land. I know that the Port needs huge amounts of capital to rebuild the piers. I know that the most obvious way to get that money is to give developers pieces of waterfront land. I know that a new Warriors Arena will create jobs and bring in tax money. I know that AT&T Park has been a great success for the Giants, the city, and the neighborhood.
I also know that some of the people who oppose the arena are well-off homeowners who don’t want to lose the sight of the Bay out of their fancy condo windows.
But ever since San Francisco, with the help of Mother Nature and a 7.3 earthquake, tore down the Embarcadero Freeway, the waterfront area from Harrison to the Ferry Building has been a really nice place to hang out. Not perfect; not the “Grand Boulevard” that some dream of. But a part of the city where humans can feel the salt breeze and enjoy the outdoors in a relatively mellow way, just blocks from the downtown core. Put an 18-story arena there and it all changes. It mostly goes away.
Is this really the best we can do with the waterfront? What about a bond act for open space, and another Dolphin Club for swimmers, and waterfront parks? Other cities have done it; can’t San Francisco have a world-class waterfront too?