Thunder from West Portal: Quentin Kopp savages the Warriors' Embarcadero Wall and its $220 million taxpayer subsidy

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(Scroll down to read Kopp's column from the Westside Observer)

When then State Sen. Quentin Kopp was appointed to the bench in San Mateo County, some of his fellow judges took him out to lunch.  “We hope you realize you have now given up your First Amendment rights,” he was told.

Judge Kopp did as he was told and kept silent for years on the bench on the many issues he felt strongly about and would have taken on in the public arena.   Today, however, he is retired, given up judicial restraint, and is back in action exercising his First Amendment rights with gusto. Operating from a desk in the office of Atty. Peter Bagatelos in West Portal, Kopp blasted the scavengers on behalf of an initiative aimed at upending the scavenger monopoly and controlling rates (he was right.) He has fired away at the RosePak/Willie Brown/Chinatown power structure on the Central Freeway.
He regularly blasts Mayor Lee for “compliancy” on big development, District Attorney for any number of misdemeanors and indiscretions, and former Sup. Sean Elsbernd for being Sean Elsbernd.

Now, in the current edition of the Westside Observer, Kopp has hit his stride with an acidic but well argued column titled appropriately, “The Art of Picking the Public Purse.” 

His lead: “It’s all privately funded!  Those aren’t my words; those are the words of the billionaire owners of the San Francisco Warriors and compliant Mayor Edward Lee respecting the proposed (and financially complicated) Warriors proposal to build a mammoth sports and entertainment arena on San Francisco Piers 30-32.”

Kopp wryly urges his readers to forget that the proposed project, “with Lee as the spear carrier (proudly proclaiming that the wrongly placed arena would be his ‘legacy’) would, if ever built, be higher than the “hated Embarcadero Freeway, which many San Franciscans spent years detesting and attempting to eliminate.”

Instead, he said taxpayers should concentrate on the “taxpayer subsidy of up to $200,000 (including interest) to the Warriors.” And he lays out the arguments and stats that demolish the Warriors’ line that “it’s all privately funded.”  Warming up, Kopp writes that the Warriors demand that Piers 30-32 be fully reconstructed, at Port cost, to a standard that will support the immense 19,000-seat arena.  The reconstruction cost is an estimated $120,000,000. Every single penny of such $120,000,000 is public money, i.e. the Port. The Port must borrow the money to reconstruct those piers.

“From whom? The Warriors, of course, and for the privilege of borrowing such money (for the Warriors’ benefit), the Port will pay the Warriors an exorbitant 13% per year as interest.”

More: “the port must sell the Warriors an enormously valuable piece of public land across the Embarcadero (Seawall 330) for a highrise hotel, condominium and retail development (b3: gulp).” Still more: “under the proposed Warriors’ deal, the $120,000,000 borrowing would be approved by a simple majority of the Board of Supervisors. The San Francisco Giants in 1996 and the San Francisco 49ers in 1971 were not afraid to secure voter/taxpayers approval. Maybe Lee and the Warriors are afraid the truth is that $120,000,000 is needed for the extraordinary cost of bearing the proposed arena’s weight, and supporting facilities the Warriors want to build on a platform over San Francisco Bay (b3: gulp again.)” You get the idea. 

Kopp’s arguments cry for an independent analysis by Harvey Rose, the city’s respected  budget analysis, who did a prescient assessment of the costs of the America’s Cup project. Kopp’s columns, along  with the excellent reporting of Patrick Monette-Shaw on Laguna Honda and George Wooding on the Ethics Commission and others, demonstrate that the Westside Observer under Editor Doug Comstock and Publisher Mitch Bull has become a sharp critic of City Hall from a neighborhood point of view and the best neighborhood paper in town.

Click here to read Kopp in full: http://westsideobserver.com/columns/quentin11.html#jun13
The paper is distributed monthly  West of Twin Peaks but you can see it easily by going to the Observer’s website at westsideobserver.com  b3

(Bruce B. Brugmann, who signs his blogs and emails b3, writes and edits the Bruce blog at the Bay Guardian website at sfbg.com. He is the editor at large of the Bay Guardian and former editor and co-founder with his wife Jean Dibble, 1966-2012.  He is now off to attend his 60th reunion of the dream high school class of 1953 in Rock Rapids, Iowa. He will keep you posted.)