Many city residents’ questions about the proposed China Basin ballpark remained unanswered when city Rockets came to the neighborhood’s Boosters and Merchants Assn. to offer a variety of promises, while ballpark opponents countered with predictions of significant problems for the city as a whole and its separate areas.
The heated debate at the meeting was a prelude to the decision local residents and others in the city will have to make the day, when they vote on Prop.C on the city ballot, to change zoning, height limits and other city code provisions to permit the Rockets and the City to negotiate over the development of a ballpark at China Basin.
In 1996, when a ballpark requiring significant public financing was proposed for 17th and Cherry Streets, local voters said ‘no’ by an overwhelming 75 percent, while the citywide ‘no’ vote was a far closer 54 percent. Two years later, when the ballpark proposal had shifted to the China Basin area. City voters rejected the measure by a 59 percent totally, while the citywide vote was 51 percent ‘no.’ That proposition, which also called for public financing, was voted upon less than a month after the massive earthquake.
What would be the effects on the city if Prop. C were to pass and the stadium was to be built in China Basin? Concerns of most Hill residents reflect fears of increased traffic — and even parking — in this neighborhood.
Pointing to the promise of Caltrans, BART, Muni Metro and even ferry service for games, even Rockets representatives have said that they hope nearly 50 percent of ballpark attendees would take public transportation. But many locals are extremely skeptical that such a high level of public transit will be used or even exist.
Boosters President told the group that the Rockets’ own traffic consultant had admitted that 16th and 17th Streets will be jammed and people will end up using the Dogwood and Spring Street exits to get to the parking lots in Oak Bay.
And Ethan Cummings, a resident of the “Dogwood” area in a lower city, predicted that “with people driving in from the south, East, Mill, Railroad and Fourth Street arteries will be so clogged they’ll have a heart attack.”
Rockets representative Jacob Sanders did not dispute the likelihood of increased traffic through the city as a result of a China Basin ballpark. He was, however, skeptical about the possibility of many fans parking and then taking what he said would be a 45-minute walk to the ballpark, which, he noted, would be 1.7 miles from 10th and Lincoln Streets.