Mom Takes on NBA Warriors’ Arena Plan | Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 2, 2023
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Mom Takes on NBA Warriors’ Arena Plan

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - Sick children may not get life-saving treatment at the University of California-San Francisco Children's Hospital if plans to build an arena for the Golden State Warriors go forward, a mom and a nonprofit claim in court.

Jennifer Wade, the Mission Bay Alliance and its strategy and organizational consultant Bruce Spaulding sued UC Chancellor Sam Hawgood in Alameda County Superior Court Thursday.

The plaintiffs claim Hawgood on Oct. 7 secretly negotiated a memorandum of understanding to transfer UC property near the UCSF Children's Hospital to the Warriors basketball franchise.

"Such a transfer is unlawful because Chancellor Hawgood acted without the UC Regents' authority in purporting to bind UCSF and by extension the regents. Furthermore, the transfer is an unconstitutional delegation of the UC Regents' police powers, including the power to abate nuisances that affect land owned by the UC Regents; an unlawful gift of public property; and represents an abuse of the chancellor's discretion," the 93-page complaint states.

The Warriors want the arena built in San Francisco's Mission Bay neighborhood, a former industrial area on a "small peninsula on the eastern waterfront" that is now the site of private research labs and the "world-class" UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, which has a 50-bed intensive care unit for premature babies who would die without treatment, according to the complaint.

The hospital offers cutting-edge treatment for cancer, serious birth defects, and other life-threatening conditions, and the surrounding bioscience labs generate around $4 billion each year, the complaint states.

If built, the arena would be across the street from the hospital's emergency facilities, interfering with the ability of parents of children with "life-threatening medical emergencies" to get help, the plaintiffs say.

Traffic is part of the issue. Mission Bay has few access points and is served only by bus and the Muni rail line, problems exacerbated by "tens of thousands of commuters who pass through the area every day," the complaint states.

Plaintiff Jennifer Wade says that her six-year-old son Magnus "is alive today because of a series of heart surgeries performed by UCSF doctors when he was less than a year old.

"Magnus's heart condition is extremely rare and the risk of dangerous complications is high, so his mother Jennifer must take him to a specialized emergency room like the one at the UCSF Children' Hospital whenever he has a medical emergency," Wade continues in the complaint. "The family lives in the Mission District of San Francisco so the UCSF Children's Hospital is the only place Jennifer can take her son for potentially life-saving care."

Though several UCSF officials criticized the proposed arena and its environmental impact report and demanded concessions from the Warriors - like not overlapping Warriors games with Giants games, enabling access to the hospital via parking control officers and making sure the hospital helipad is not blocked by construction crews - the "Warriors and their allies at City Hall were in no mood to cooperate," the complaint states.

For years the owners of the Warriors have wanted to move the franchise from Oakland to San Francisco, where its value is expected to skyrocket to over $1 billion. After abandoning plans to build the arena at Piers 30 and 32 next to the Bay Bridge, the Warriors announced intentions to build near AT&T Park, "where the San Francisco Giants play at least 81 games per year," the complaint states.


The new site is only 1,000 feet from the hospital's emergency room. Should it be built, families seeking treatment for critically ill children and nurses changing shift would have to battle fans of the Giants and the Warriors to get to the hospital, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs claim that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who views the arena as his "legacy project," embarked on a campaign to pressure Hawgood into caving to his demands.

"That campaign succeeded. Hawgood did not go to the UC Regents to request assistance, nor did he consult with the regents' general counsel or retain outside counsel before entering into the MOU," the complaint says.

"Instead, after months of pressure, the chancellor agreed to waive on behalf of UCSF 'all rights in law and equity' to challenge the arena project and the harms that flow from it. The Warriors did not agree to any meaningful limits on their ability to schedule events that overlap with events at AT&T Park and it is the city of San Francisco, rather than the Warriors, that will pay for any measures to try to limit the impact of this arena project.

"This ill-conceived - and illegal - agreement forms the basis of this lawsuit," the complaint states.

Though the agreement purports to allow UCSF to demand caps on dual events, in practice it "creates a one-sided bargain in which UCSF gives away valuable rights in exchange for illusory promises," the plaintiffs claim.

Any concessions made in the agreement are so riddled with loopholes and caveats that they are effectively meaningless, according to the complaint.

Worse yet, the plaintiffs say, the agreement requires the university to permanently waive all rights to challenge any aspect of the project in court as long as the facility is in use, whether to challenge the adequacy of the environmental impact report, to force the Warriors to enforce mitigation measures or to bring an action for trespass.

And unlike the Warriors' side of the bargain, "UCSF's release is without caveats or exceptions," the complaint states.

The alliance says it tried to persuade Hawgood to choose the university and the children's hospital over the arena and warned him that he has no authority to negotiate the agreement without consent of the regents, but he refused to listen and sent a "terse, one-sentence explanation that they have 'a completely different view' of the situation,'" the complaint says

Hawgood did not immediately return emailed comment requests sent Friday.

The plaintiffs seek a declaration that the agreement is invalid, an injunction against implanting the agreement and an order setting it aside.

They are represented by David Boies with Boies, Schiller & Flexner of New York and co-counsel Tom Lippe of San Francisco, Patrick Soluri with Soluri Meserve of Sacramento and Susan Brandt-Hawley of Glen Ellen.

Mission Bay Alliance is a nonprofit consisting of UCSF stakeholders, faculty, doctors, and citizens of San Francisco opposed to the Warriors stadium project, according to the complaint.

Spaulding once served as UCSF's vice chancellor of advancement and planning and is a big supporter of biomedical research in Mission Bay.

Plaintiff Jennifer Wade, an assistant professor of biology, said in a statement that it "terrifies" her to think about getting caught in traffic while taking her son to the hospital for emergency care.

"California law imposes careful limits on leaders like Chancellor Hawgood and others," Josh Schiller, a partner at Boies, Schiller and Flexner, said in a statement. "The chancellor can't give away UCSF's valuable property rights, which belong to all Californians, and he can't sign agreements relinquishing the university's rights to protect itself from the arena in the future. Such actions are not only bad for UCSF and the patients who rely on its medical facilities-they're illegal."

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