San Francisco Wins Big With 49ers Stadium Victory

by Randy Shaw on June 10, 2010

The best election result for San Francisco this week involved a measure not even on the local ballot. Santa Clara’s Prop J passed with 60% of the vote, paving the way for San Francisco to avoid having to spend more time and money on a new 49ers stadium. While San Francisco officials claim that a 49ers move to Santa Clara is far from a done deal, the team would not have spent $4 million to pass Prop J if this were not the case. In a post-victory interview, Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan said that the stadium would not cost the city any money, since $42 million will come from the Redevelopment Agency. How wonderful that San Francisco has avoided the fiction that tax dollars spent by Redevelopment are not “public funds,” and let’s credit our local politicians for not caving in to the team’s exorbitant demands.

A Great Victory for San Francisco

Santa Clara’s Prop J campaign got scant coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle even on election night, a sign that editors were either angry at the result or wanted to appear unconcerned at the imminent move of the 49ers to Santa Clara.

But this was a great victory for San Francisco. A victory that could easily be worth $100 million, the figure that the public once committed to contribute to building a new stadium’s for the 49er’s billionaire owners.

Candlestick Point was the wrong location for a baseball stadium for the Giants, and was a suitable home for the 49ers only because it was used for less than 15 games a year. The combination of wind, cold and lack of public transportation made it untenable, realities that a new stadium on the site would not have changed.

And let’s not forget that the vast majority of 49er attendees are not San Francisco residents. And that 49er games had shown no positive economic impact on nearby businesses, unlike the Giants home in Mission Bay.

Plans for a 49ers stadium in San Francisco brought out the worst of the city. The notorious 1997 stadium/mall campaign that ended with ballots floating in the Bay was the low point of Willie Brown’s mayoralty.

The prospect of a new 49ers stadium in San Francisco has hampered planning for Candlestick Point. I understand that politically the stadium must remain on local plans, but once ground is broken in Santa Clara by 2012, this fiction will end.

Politicians Deserve Credit

To their credit, San Francisco politicians stood firm against the 49ers exorbitant demands for a new local stadium. Both sides knew that the 49ers did not want a new stadium in SF but had to go through motions, so made offers the team knew politicians would refuse.
But recall how the local media battered then-Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris when he rejected an offer by the Los Angeles Raiders to return to Oakland on terms bordering on extortion. Under the gun, Harris and his colleagues then approved almost as bad a deal, which eventually cost Alameda County taxpayers $17 million annually for years (due to having to purchase seats the Raiders could not sell).

Our politicians stood firm, yet are more likely to be blamed for the 49ers leaving than praised for siding with local taxpayers and public services against a popular sports team.

In fact, when it comes down to it, the one quality that distinguishes San Francisco from every other major city in the United States is its refusal to subsidize stadiums for wealthy sports team owners. San Franciscans should take great pride in not allowing themselves to be snookered by the Carmen Policy’s of the world, providing yet another reason why the city is so envied by others.

The 49ers expect to be playing in Santa Clara in time for the 2014 season.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron

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