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March 20, 2006

S.F.’S GRAND PLAN FOR 49ERS – STADIUM PROPOSAL: Thousands of homes plus shops and parks on the city’s southeast shore, San Francisco Chronicle

The neglected areas of San Francisco’s southeast shore would be remade into a destination spot with a new football stadium, hundreds of acres of open space and thousands of new homes under an ambitious city proposal that rivals plans for Treasure Island and Mission Bay. Mayor Gavin Newsom says his plan for the 790-acre site would not require public funding for a stadium at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, a toxic site that the Navy is cleaning up. The plan also calls for a new look for Candlestick Point, where the 49ers’ current stadium would be bulldozed to make way for high-rise homes, retail shops and parks.

The plan, unveiled Monday night, makes other far-reaching promises, such as plentiful parking for tailgate parties, no seizures of privately owned homes, possible rebuilding of a troubled housing project and, ultimately, the chance for city voters to bless the final vision. “We have a plan that we can finance — no surprises,” Newsom said in an interview. “I want to put pressure on the 49ers. I want to make it very difficult for them to leave our city,” Newsom said. The team is working on a plan to build a stadium in Santa Clara and is trying to raise public support for partial public financing. A detailed financing plan for that project is expected next month. But Newsom is betting that the 49ers will not get what they are seeking in the South Bay. He said he plans to ask the Board of Supervisors to endorse his plan in May, and environmental reviews could start in June. Construction could begin in June 2009, and the stadium could be ready by the 2012 season, he said. City officials insist that the transformation of the troubled neighborhoods will happen regardless of whether the team builds its new home in San Francisco.

The city’s plan embraces financing tactics that have worked in San Francisco before. Its partner Anthony Flanagan, President of Northern California Urban of the Lennar Corporation, a Fortune 500 company that is leading redevelopment efforts at former military bases on Treasure Island and Mare Island in Vallejo. As it did for the San Francisco Giants’ waterfront ballpark, the city would contribute the land. Lennar says it would contribute $100 million in cash and help finance the stadium’s infrastructure, including parking, roads, electrical lines, sewer pipes and water service.  The 49ers apparently don’t have anything like that in Santa Clara, and the team says the city will have to make some sort of “up-front public investment,” possibly in the form of land or access to the city’s utility funds. One source involved with the deal said the team wants between $150 million and $200 million.  Team spokeswoman Lisa Lang said San Francisco’s latest proposal represents progress but doesn’t address all the team’s concerns. That includes the cleanup of the Hunters Point Superfund site, designated as one of the country’s most polluted areas. “We are still in the midst of working through the issues associated with the cleanup time frame of the Superfund site, the public transportation plan, the infrastructure issues and the traffic plans, and these are not yet resolved,” she said. “But we are making progress and working through these issues with the city and Lennar.”

In November, 49ers owners John York and Denise DeBartolo York announced that Santa Clara had become their favored stadium site, abandoning a Candlestick proposal that city officials hoped could also support the 2016 Olympic Games. San Francisco’s plan, the Yorks said, would feel cramped with the high-rise housing development, and a proposed multilevel parking garage would ruin the fans’ tailgate traditions.  They also questioned whether Lennar Corp. would construct needed infrastructure improvements in a timely manner.  John York said late Monday that he was glad that San Francisco was still pursuing its plan.  “At no point did we say that we were going to quit looking. So we’re very pleased that they’ve gone forward with this because I think that it’s going to be good for the city, and I think it’s going to be good for the people of the Bayview-Hunters Point,” York said in Phoenix, where NFL team owners are gathered for an annual meeting.  “Obviously, this is something that is going to be a long process, and it will be a long process down in Santa Clara as well. So whether it is Santa Clara, San Francisco or another site in the Bay Area, it’ll be a long process,” he said.

Newsom and Lennar’s new plan provides open-air parking for 19,500 cars immediately around the stadium. The parking surface would be made of “dual use turf” — natural grass held together with a synthetic mesh in the root system, allowing the space to be used for recreation year-round.  The plan also includes at least 8,500 housing units, 2 million square feet of office space, an 8,000- to 12,000-seat arena and 700,000 square feet for retail and entertainment uses, including a large grocery store near Highway 101 at Candlestick and a smaller one at Hunters Point.  There would more than 350 acres of parks and open space, including the stadium parking and a waterfront trail.  Newsom said the plan would need the support of Bayview-Hunters Point residents, most of whom seemed pleased with the vision at a Monday evening meeting of citizens involved with the long-discussed redevelopment of both Hunters Point and Candlestick Point. To that end, Lennar’s plans call for replacement housing for artists who have been living at the former shipyard.  There would also be an International African Marketplace, replacement housing for residents of the city’s 45-year-old Alice Griffith Housing Development and even a cable-guided tram that would climb the steep hill that dominates Bayview Park, one of the city’s least-used parks.   Lennar representatives said their project will be financed with private money, funds borrowed against future property taxes and assessments and fees typical of new development. They expect the project to be finished by 2021.

The 49ers are skeptical that the cleanup of the 500-acre former shipyard can be done expeditiously.   But Navy and Environmental Protection Agency officials say that much of the hardest work has already been done, and top Navy brass committed this month to trying to meet the city’s schedule for a phased transfer of the shipyard, with the 27-acre parcel for the stadium conveyed first, by the summer of 2009, to allow for stadium construction. The key issue is whether Congress will maintain the same level of annual funding for the cleanup of Hunters Point — about $70 million. The answer to that question will not come until this fall, but the city has U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on its side.  The 49ers also have questioned whether fans will be able to get to and from a Hunters Point stadium quickly. Santa Clara boasts that it has four- to eight-lane roads serving the potential stadium site, between Great America amusement park and the city’s convention center near the nexus of Highways 101 and 237 and Interstate 880.  Lennar’s traffic engineers believe the “dump time” for getting cars out of a Hunters Point site would be less than what fans currently experience at Monster Park and would be comparable to what fans would experience in Santa Clara. They reason that traffic would travel on several routes. Northbound traffic, for example, would go through industrial neighborhoods. The company has not provided any traffic studies. The city’s plan also calls for mass transit, including buses and possibly water taxis or ferries.

The 49ers have not made a formal proposal to Santa Clara yet. Last week, however, 49ers officials were openly coordinating with former Santa Clara city staff members and elected officials who publicly called on the city to study using some of city-owned Silicon Valley Power’s money for a stadium project.  One advocate for studying that approach was former city manager and councilman Don Von Raesfeld, for whom the city recently named its new power plant. Team officials told him they need a public investment of somewhere between $150 million and $200 million, he said. John Roukema, assistant director of Silicon Valley Power, said that drawing down the utility’s reserve funds could lead to an increase in electricity rates, which are among the lowest in the state. Roukema said that as of January, the utility’s cash and investments totaled $387 million. And of that, nearly $169 million is committed to specific projects or needed to pay down bonds. The remaining $241 million, he said, is needed for capital improvements and insurance against electricity market volatility.  “The fact is that this money is still used to allow us to provide competitively priced electricity,” Roukema said. “It’s certainly not a windfall here.”   Von Raesfeld said he did not think a citywide vote would be required if the city chose to invest utility funds directly into the stadium.  Santa Clara’s city attorney in 2001, however, opined that voters would have to change the city charter to tap utility funds to help fund a baseball stadium for the Oakland Athletics. That effort, led by local citizens including Von Raesfeld, withered away without a vote after years of work. In 1990, the San Francisco Giants also went to voters in Santa Clara, San Jose, Sunnyvale and Milpitas seeking approval of a 1 percent electricity tax to pay for a stadium. The measure was soundly rejected.

In San Francisco

Lennar Corp. would build at least 8,500 homes, many in slim towers and surrounded by townhomes

700,000 square feet of retail shops and entertainment, as well as two grocery stores.\

A possible 8,000- to 12,000-seat arena.

350 acres of parks, open space and a waterfront trail.

2 million square feet of commercial office space.

Replacement rental housing for artists’ colony.

Replacement housing for Alice Griffith Housing Development residents.

Stadium site would include parking for 19,500 cars on natural grass held together with a root-mesh that would also allow the space to be used for sports fields.

Lennar would pay $100 million in cash and tens of millions of dollars for stadium infrastructure