Saturday, November 11, 2006

Santa Clara Politicians Wreck Bay Area Olympic Bid For 49ers Dream

When I was a City Planning graduate student at Cal Berkeley, I was first introduced to the concept of "regionalism" where one city's economic development policies are shaped to benefit not just its municipal jurisdiction, but the region it's within.

It came as no surprise to me that this concept was discussed in the backdrop of the San Francisco Bay Area of which UC Berkeley is a major part. There are nine closely linked counties here and cities that are at times in the same county and find themselves competing for the same resources.

Like sports teams.

Sports teams are more than just economic impacts, they're an expression of the culture of a city. Game day is a great time to see friends, relatives, and your doctor, and all at the stadium. When sports teams leave, a part of the city goes with them. This would be true for the 49ers. But it's also true when a region's cities work together to draw a sports team or event. This is what has happened with the San Francisco Bay Area Olympic Bid. Over the last decade, this effort has been a model of regional coorperation. A kind of unwritten contract. A contract that's about to be broken by Santa Clara's elected officials, led by Mayor Pat Mahan (pictured).

In one fell swoop, Santa Clara's not only threatened to damage San Francisco's culture, but trash the Bay Area's chances to land the Olympics. In the case of the Olympics, Santa Clara and Santa Clara County would have enjoyed overflow use of their hotels, so they would be an economic gainer -- but so would San Francisco and Oakland.

In the case of the 49ers, Santa Clara also gains if they move there, but it's at the expense of the Bay Area. That's not a good tradeoff, and it's for that reason Santa Clara should teminate its pursuit of the 49ers.

Santa Clara's argument is that it's the best choice for the team to build a new stadium in. But with an organization that has as much history and social impact as the 49ers, that's not true from a holistic standpoint. Indeed, look at the bad feelings that have already been generated. That's not going to go away and can effect everything from State politics to the direction of Federal dollars to the needs of Santa Clara. So when you add it all up -- politics and negative economic impact on San Francisco, as well as the loss of the good international will generated by the very act of bidding for the Olympics, let alone getting the Olympics -- Santa Clara's being a real selfish meany of a municipality.

The best solution is for Santa Clara to be a uniter and not a divider. The best action is for Santa Clara's Mayor to say to 49ers Owner John York "You know. You should really sit and work things out with San Francisco and that Olympics Bid and if things aren't workable, then have Mayor Newsom call us and say so. This way, we'll have a clear go-ahead."

That's a great example of regionalism. Santa Clara, be a Bay Area team player.

Senator Diane Feinstein Brings SF 49ers Owner John York In To Talk With Mayor Newsom - SF Gate

Thank God for Senator Feinstein! Now you're about to see how sports and politics intersect. 49ers Owner John York's about to learn the basic rule of corporate institutions: when you inherit control of a business institution, you share it with the community impacted by it.

John -- in his "I'll take my marbles and run" actions -- forgot this. He's about to learn a lesson. Plus, he's threatened to wreck an Olympics Bid that San Francisco and the Bay Area region has worked on for almost ten years, and was the front runner amoung US cities. John's move was a terrible development, and it's matched only by Santa Clara County's unwillingness to be a team player.

More on that in another post.

49ers agree to talk to S.F. on stadium
Feinstein, Pelosi pressure team's owner to reopen decision on Santa Clara move

Cecilia M. Vega, John Coté, Chronicle Staff Writers
Saturday, November 11, 2006

Negotiations to keep the 49ers in San Francisco will officially resume next week after two of California's most powerful politicians intervened, officials on both sides of the talks told The Chronicle.

Two days after the team abruptly announced its plans to move to Santa Clara, Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Friday gathered Mayor Gavin Newsom, his chief of staff and 49ers co-owner John York and his son, Jed, in her San Francisco office for a morning meeting.

House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi also phoned John York and left him a message expressing her disappointment and telling him it is "unacceptable for the 49ers to leave San Francisco," according to an aide.

Though the team agreed to resume talks with San Francisco, it also will continue negotiating with Santa Clara to build a new stadium there.

The new development, however, left Newsom feeling like "nothing's changed."

"No new expectations have been raised," he said after the meeting in Feinstein's office.

While on Thursday the mayor angrily denounced the team's decision to move to the South Bay and vowed that the city would explore legal options to keep the Niners from leaving, on Friday he referred to the meeting as "great," "nice" and "not supposed to be made public."

"It was good to get together right away before letting a month go by and then more animus is created," Newsom said. "That was the spirit of the meeting, to say, 'Let's just get together and let's try and tone it down,' but at the same time to be resolved that we don't want the team to leave, but it's not an at-all-costs strategy."

Lisa Lang, spokeswoman for the 49ers, confirmed that the team would be pursuing dual discussions with the two cities.

"The doors definitely are not closed in San Francisco, and we are continuing to talk to the city to see what we can work out," she said.

City leaders in San Francisco and Santa Clara had expressed shock at the team's plans to trade in Candlestick Point for the South Bay.

But the potential move also worried San Francisco's representatives in Washington, as well as in Sacramento. Assemblyman Mark Leno on Friday announced a plan to introduce legislation that would ban any professional sports franchise that is not headquartered or does not play games in San Francisco from using the city's name, unless the Board of Supervisors and mayor specifically authorizes it.

"It's his proposition. It's his team. He gets to do with it as he chooses," Leno said of John York. "But he can't take our name."

The team informed San Francisco officials late Wednesday that they intended to drop plans for a stadium and retail housing complex at Candlestick Point and instead move the proposed development to a parking lot near Great America amusement park in Santa Clara. The 49ers have been trying to rebuild the stadium at Candlestick Point for nearly 10 years.

Infrastructure was the 49ers' largest concern, York said during a news conference announcing the move. York cited the high cost of building a huge parking garage and of bringing public transit to Candlestick Point, saying it would have doubled the $600 million to $800 million stadium price tag. He also expressed concern that a parking garage would have killed the tradition of tailgating before football games.

As San Francisco officials shuddered at the thought of losing a coveted NFL franchise -- one founded in the city 60 years ago -- officials in Santa Clara welcomed the possibility of gaining one, and on Friday remained convinced that their city was the team's first choice for building a new stadium.

"They're moving ahead with Santa Clara, but I think they're going to listen to San Francisco," Santa Clara Vice Mayor Kevin Moore said after learning from a 49ers team official about the meeting in Feinstein's office. "I think we're in the top spot now."

Moore said he was even more confident Friday than he was earlier in the week about the team calling Santa Clara home.

He pointed to the $765 million in transportation and parking infrastructure costs projected for the proposed development at Candlestick Point and to the logistical hassles of building on a peninsula with an existing stadium in place.

"I've had great moments at Candlestick Park, but it doesn't make sense anymore," said Moore, an avid 49ers fan. "I know that Candlestick Point is not the best place for fan entertainment, and the numbers are crazy, just crazy."

Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan was diplomatic about the possible move.

"Anything the two of our cities can do to keep the 49ers in the Bay Area is great," Mahan said. "That's the most important thing to me, to make sure the 49ers have an appropriate home in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, so that there will always be a San Francisco 49ers."

She maintained, though, that the Santa Clara site wouldn't have parking or traffic-congestion problems and would be a better fit for fans than the Candlestick Point proposal.

"The 49ers are going to make their decision on what's best for the fans and what's best for the team," Mahan said Friday. "As long as they're staying in the Bay Area, that's what's most important to me."

York told reporters a day earlier that, "it would be foolish to just slam the door," if San Francisco officials approached the team for further talks, but he said the focus was on Santa Clara.

With that in mind, Newsom said he was heading cautiously into the resumed talks with the team.

"We're not going to be in the middle of being played against each other," he told reporters Friday. "That will not happen."

The San Francisco project's potential demise also dealt a blow to the city's hope to land the 2016 Olympic Games. The United States Olympic Committee is scheduled to make a decision on whether it will recommend a U.S. city -- either San Francisco, Los Angeles or Chicago -- by the end of the year. Whether the city has a stadium that can accommodate the Games' Opening and Closing ceremonies is central to the committee's decision.

Scott Givens, managing director of the bid group San Francisco 2016, hailed Feinstein's involvement in the negotiations as a positive step, but hinted that the damage to the city's Olympic bid may not be reversible.

"That dug a big hole for us to get out of. The Niners dealt a big blow by the manner they did this," Givens said.

Givens said San Francisco 2016 will decide by Monday whether to continue or pull the plug on the Olympic bid.

"We can't let this linger for too long," he said. "If we can come up with a viable option the USOC deems appropriate, we should proceed with great haste.''

Still, exactly what future discussions between San Francisco officials and the 49ers will entail and whether city leaders can succeed in keeping the team at the bargaining table remain to be seen.

"I'm as resolved as everyone else to try to keep the team here," Newsom said. "But not at all costs. We're not going to sell our soul ... this city is not going to mortgage its future for billionaires. We don't do that."