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California appeals court ruling a win for Warriors’ arena efforts

The Warriors’ new arena plans achieved a vital legal victory when the San Francisco Court of Appeals upheld the city’s Environmental Impact Report, readying the franchise to begin construction on Chase Center.

The Warriors expect to open Chase Center in Mission Bay in 2019.
Golden State Warriors c/o Manica Architecture

With the San Francisco Court of Appeals upholding the Warriors' Environmental Impact Report on Tuesday, the franchise's goal of moving to San Francisco and opening Chase Center in 2019 became much more realistic.

“We’re very pleased by the Appellate Court’s ruling,” Warriors Team President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts said in a statement. “We engaged in an extensive public planning process and we were approved by every board, agency and regulatory body we went before.”

“Now our project has been upheld by the trial court and the court of appeals,” Welts continued. “This decision clears the path for us to build a new state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue and bring the Warriors back home to San Francisco.”

As a result of this ruling, the Court of Appeals effectively slammed the door on the environmental impact report as a thorn in the Warriors’ side. This had been a major legal argument by the stadium’s opponents, the Mission Bay Alliance, which had sued (losing that case in July) and then appealed — alleging that the report was not thorough enough in regulating traffic and pollution and should not have been approved by the City of San Francisco.

“The Mission Bay Alliance, Jennifer Wade, and SaveMuni are deeply disappointed with today’s court ruling,” the Mission Bay Alliance said in a statement. “Our legal team is reviewing the opinion and considering options. We believe that the proposed Warriors’ arena is incompatible with the Mission Bay South neighborhood and would result in blocked access to UCSF hospitals, dangerous air pollution, and traffic gridlock throughout the community.”

The Warriors had won the case in district court over the summer, when Judge Garrett L. Wong of the San Francisco Superior Court dismissed the Mission Bay Alliance’s complaints in a 54-page order.

In unanimously upholding Judge Wong’s ruling (3-0), the First Appellate Court of Appeals of California concluded that the City of San Francisco’s analysis and approval of the Warriors’ Environmental Impact Report was indeed thorough and sufficient.

Throughout its ruling, the appellate court consistently concluded that the plaintiffs’ arguments held “no basis” (p. 15 of the ruling), were based on statements “taken out of context” (p. 26), or did not reflect the actual facts of the matter:

“We have carefully considered each of plaintiffs’ contentions raised on appeal. Although in some instances defendants’ analysis of potential environmental impacts might have been expanded, as is commonly the case, in general the record reflects a thorough and exhaustive study of all environmental impacts to be anticipated that were not considered in the 1998 [final subsequent environmental impact report], and identification of numerous mitigation measures to lessen adverse impacts to the extent feasible. We conclude there is no merit to plaintiffs’ objections to the sufficiency of the city‟s environmental analysis and its approval of the proposed project” (p. 4-5).

The defendants — led in court by David Kelly, the team’s General Counsel, city attorneys, as well as attorneys from Thomas Law Group, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and Remy Moose Manley — and the city were, as expected, thrilled by the result.

“We’re very pleased with the Court of Appeal’s thoughtful and comprehensive ruling,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement. “This event center is an important civic priority that has been thoroughly scrutinized and has won overwhelming support every step of the way.”

Now that the Environmental Impact Report has been upheld by the appellate court, barring any future legal holdups (team owner Joe Lacob has posited that, though highly unlikely after losing twice in court, the Mission Bay Alliance could “ask for an appeal to the Supreme Court of the State of California”), the team projects to move forward quickly with construction.

Lacob said recently that the franchise planned to begin construction of the 488,000-square-foot arena (along with retail, restaurant, office and open space) in January.

Welts said, “We’re looking forward to breaking ground soon.”

You can read the full 61-page ruling here.

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