Pleasanton Weekly

Column - January 31, 2014

Warriors move a knockout plan

by Jeb Bing

PF Johnston brought his push for the Golden State Warriors' planned move to San Francisco to the Rotary Club of Pleasanton last week, drawing loud applause and plenty of questions to his bid for support of the $1 billion project. Thanks to Johnston, a former press secretary to San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and now a crisis management specialist with his own firm, the Warriors' plans earned praise from Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross as "one of the best-scripted political plays (San Francisco) City Hall has seen in some time."

Johnston's skilled strategic communications efforts have not subsided. He's been talking up the Warriors for the last three years ever since Peter Guber, co-executive chairman of the Warriors, took a look with San Francisco leaders at the dilapidated 13-acre pier that's falling into the Bay and agreed to a massive redevelopment plan that would give his basketball team a new home.

The Pleasanton Rotary Club was no doubt one of his easier audiences. He's taken his rallying cry to city, county, legislative and environmental groups, and more recently has faced the wrath of organized opposition on both sides of the Bay. While East Bay/Oakland leaders have been mourning the potential loss of the Warriors, not everyone across the Bay is thrilled either. No-growth advocates are fighting plans for high density housing and tall buildings, including a large parking garage across the Embarcadero from Pier 30-32 where the Warriors' new arena would be built.

Their protests may be ill-timed since San Francisco officials are seeking ways to add housing sites in a city that's woefully short of accommodations for the thousands of new job holders coming to town. That effort by city leaders and a major story in this week's Wall Street Journal about the growth of technology companies in the city and the shortfall in housing helps Johnston as he and the Warriors move through a multitude of approval channels.

Johnston said the Warriors plan to build a state-of-the-art arena on the waterfront in time for the 2017 season, although permits from various agencies and a sign-off by the state Legislature are still more than a year away. He said an application to the state Environmental Quality Act agency is just starting the review process although it's been before the agency since early last year. Still to come are reviews and needed approvals from other agencies that get involved in any development on, near or involving the Bay, the ocean or California's waterfront. And that's OK, Johnston said, because in the end they all will be saying they've guarded the public trust, which is what the Warriors want.

A look at the video and slides Johnston showed Rotary make this the country's newest basketball arena a complex to behold. The 18,500-seat arena will be part of a 2.5-million-square-foot complex that would include 34,000 square feet of stores, parking for as many as 200 cars, 125 condominiums and a hotel with 200 rooms. The rebuilt pier will include a movie theater, grass areas and water elements, kayak docking areas, trails and even a new port for large cruise ships on its eastern side.

The arena will have moveable seats at one end of the court with a wall of glass to allow views of the Bay. During the off-season and at times when the Warriors are traveling, seating arrangements can be adjusted to concerts, cultural events, conventions and possibly even rodeos, Johnston said.

No wonder Rotarians cheered as Johnston ended another presentation to keep the Warriors move momentum going.

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