Arena idea too sane for SF 

The Golden State Warriors are in play, San Francisco has a spot for a 20,000-seat arena and there’s a local billionaire who wants an NBA franchise. Could the basketball gods be shining on the sad state of our local sports affairs?

No. It makes total sense, which is why it will probably never happen.

More than a decade ago, city officials started talking about putting a big, new arena next to their big, new baseball park — the kind of critical mass for sports and entertainment venues that most cities can only dream about.

But filling such a large arena requires a “tenant anchor” in much the same way that a mega-mall requires a few major destination stores. And the Warriors play in Oakland, and they weren’t for sale at the time. So the arena plans — being pushed primarily by the San Francisco Giants franchise, which owns the property behind AT&T Park — was downsized to a 7,000-seat venue that would primarily host entertainment shows and concerts.

Fast-forward to the recent announcement that the Warriors are on the block, a rather convenient occurrence that took place just months after Oracle chief and sports heavyweight Larry Ellison publicly announced he would like to buy an NBA team.

League sources and others at Oracle say Ellison has made an offer to buy the club for $315 million, which many NBA officials reportedly believe is far below the $400 million mark they believe the franchise is worth. It’s almost certain that there will be other bids for the team, at which point Ellison can counter — and NBA executives are apparently so enamored with the thought of the high-profile billionaire taking over the team that it would be an upset if he didn’t.

So that talk of a new arena has been revived, though at this point it’s all crossed fingers and wishful thinking.

“It wouldn’t take that long to build a new arena, and the whole deal could probably be timed to when the lease ends in Oakland,” one person with knowledge of the site said. “The timing is very good if it’s ever going to happen.”

That’s why it will never be a slam dunk. A new arena in San Francisco would be a great fit for Bay Area professional sports, but this is one city that sneers at perfection.

Still, chances are that Ellison will get the Warriors. It’s one team that could use an oracle.

SFMTA driving ahead with outlandish plans

This week’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea comes to us, once again, from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which is considering a plan to install more than 5,000 new parking meters.

Oh, and the agency is likely to go ahead with a plan to extend meter enforcement to Sundays, a concept that’s about as popular as charging people to go to Mass.

Why not just make it illegal to own a car in San Francisco? Sadly, if they could, there are enough anti-car advocates in town to back such a lamebrain proposal.

There already are way too many meters in San Francisco, as much a blight on The City landscape as oversize billboards. At present, there are 25,000 meters, many of which extend right up to residential homes. The City needs a new way to make money — maybe by providing a better public transit system that people want to ride.

Time to admit failure, disarm commission

The only surprise about Mayor Gavin Newsom’s suggestion to eliminate The City’s Entertainment Commission was why it took so long.

This week, the commission proved that it cannot be considered a regulatory body since it refuses to oversee its own out-of-control industry. And that’s because it has too many members from that very same industry, a commission dragged down by its own conflicted makeup.

Instead of shutting down a Fisherman’s Wharf nightclub that has been plagued by violence, including a February shootout in which one person was killed and four others wounded, the commission voted to close Suede for 30 days.

That’s kind of like giving a gun back to a known shooter, but telling him that he will have to purchase his own bullets.
Officials say there were at least 10 instances that the commission knew about regarding Suede’s history of problems, yet it failed to act. But it’s just the latest in a series of inaction by the commission in dealing with violence-prone nightclubs, including one that was housed in a building owned by commission founding member Terrance Alan.

Alan said he planned to step down in June. And that seems as good a time as any to shut the commission down and return oversight authority to the Police Department. The commission has had seven years to figure out its role and straighten out its problems, and instead it’s weaker than ever.

The creation of an Entertainment Commission was a noble experiment. It just didn’t work.

Commercial salmon fishing would be a boon

Recreational salmon fishing returns to the Bay this weekend, and not a moment too soon — the reopening of the water has been accompanied by a full-court political press to make sure conservation never again means closure.

Nearly every sport and commercial fishing agency converged in San Francisco this week to demand Congress support a federal marine plan to restore adequate flows in the Delta that they believe will bring back salmon numbers in Northern California.
Or, as biologist Tina Swanson, head of the Bay Institute, said in a news release from the Environmental Defense Fund, “It’s not rocket science to know that fish need water.”

And fishermen need to fish, which is why record numbers of boaters will likely be seen around San Francisco Bay. Commercial fishermen are champing at the bit hoping their season also may be open soon, possibly as early as May.

Most people agree it would be a boon to the economy. One economic study said that the closing of the salmon fishing industry has cost Oregon and California more than 23,000 jobs and about $2 billion annually.

One thing is certain: Fishing makes for lousy politics. Somehow “salmon summits” seem as artificial as salmon farming.

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Doug Graham

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