The battle over moving the Golden State Warriors to San Francisco was billed as a battle between billionaires.
But when the California Supreme Court in January 2017 rejected lawsuits by the Mission Bay Alliance to halt the construction of a new stadium that would force the relocation of the basketball team, a lifelong San Franciscan knew it was time to bring this to the voters. By October, Allen Jones — who is homeless and relies on crutches to get around due to a spinal birth defect, which led to carpal tunnel syndrome in his hands — submitted more than 14,000 signatures from pissed-off sports fans and Mission Bay residents to the Department of Elections.
The concept behind the June ballot measure, now called Proposition I, is to show that the court of public opinion is against the Warriors’ impending move to Mission Bay — and against the city swooping up other sports teams in the future. As a result of this measure, Jones believes that San Francisco, the NBA, and Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber will be shamed into stopping construction of the $1 billion Chase Center.
“I’m not trying to — well, I guess I’m trying to shame San Francisco [City Hall],” says Jones, who continuously blends impassioned outcry with placid delivery. “You’re not going to sell out a Black community for pennies and then steal from another Black community — not without me saying something about it.”
After the San Francisco 49ers’ move from Candlestick Point to Santa Clara took out an economic engine from Bayview-Hunters Point, the 61-year-old Jones decided he needed to stand up for Oakland.
“San Francisco has so much — what are we doing taking from Oakland?” Jones says. “I’m a person that believes that apathy is the greatest sin committed against democracy.”
So the Mission-raised resident used $200 of his Social Security check — his only source of income — to pay the filing fee to the Department of Elections in April. Though it was rejected for having legal errors in its initial attempt as a charter amendment, Director John Arntz allowed him to fix the application without paying the fee again.
Physically, Jones was not able to gather the 9,485 valid signatures needed to place Proposition I on the ballot. But a lifelong Oakland resident also decided to take a stand.
James Erickson — an insurance salesman who also runs a nonprofit called Direct Help to support low-income children — was worried more about East Oakland’s loss of jobs, money, and identity rather than about commuting farther to see the Warriors. So he spent an estimated $50,000 to get the signatures together.
“I don’t like the idea that they bought something nice in a struggling community and moved it to a not-struggling community to make a bunch of money,” Erickson says. “I believe San Francisco is a progressive city like they say they are, and they’ll vote correctly on this.”
Of course, the measure is only a declaration of policy, and can’t ensure the Warriors will stay in Oakland. But it tells City Hall to abide by a “Thou Shall Not Covet” policy to prevent causing other cities pain and lost economic opportunity.
“We the people of the City and County of San Francisco will not invite, entice, encourage, cajole, or condone the relocation of any sports team that has previously established itself in another municipality,” the measure’s legal text states. “Instead of looking for an opportunity to take from our neighbors, we wish to fully support each other and the entire Bay Area.”
Oakland has no input on the measure, but Erickson feels the city and San Francisco are going through similar changes and could stand to team up — like he and Jones did. Jones even launched a political group called Good Neighbor Coalition to support the measure.
“We’re in this together in a lot of ways,” Erickson says. “You don’t have to take it sitting down.”
Erickson is doubtful that Oracle Arena workers will commute farther to a congested area to continue earning low wages. What he and Jones don’t doubt is that they must fight until the end.
“I would rather have all of San Francisco hate me for speaking up than having me hate myself for staying silent,” Jones says.
Ida Mojadad is a staff writer at SF Weekly.
Imojadad@sfweekly.com | @idamoj
This article has been updated.