News

49ers turn to Migden to speed up plan for new stadium

More than eight years after San Francisco voters narrowly approved two
measures to help the San Francisco 49ers build a new stadium-mall complex at
Candlestick Point, the project has yet to get off the ground. Now, the city
of San Francisco has turned to state Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, to
carry legislation to help expedite the planning process for a new mixed-used
development at the ‘Stick.

Since winning voter approval in 1997, the 49ers stadium-mall development has
stalled as the project’s price tag has continued to rise and fears have
grown about the economic viability of a mall anchored to a stadium that
hosts football games less than a dozen days a year.

Late last year, the 49ers turned their attention to the possibility of
creating a new mixed-used development, complete with a stadium, mall and
residential-housing units. In December, the team hired Lennar Corp., a
development company, to study the possibilities for such a mixed-use
development.

“We remain committed to building a new world-class stadium for our fans and
we are excited to work with Lennar to evaluate a mixed-use development plan
that works well for the team and the community,” said 49ers spokeswoman Lisa
Lang in a statement.

But Proposition F, the 1997 measure that created the Candlestick Point
Special Use District, made no reference to new residential development at
Candlestick Point.

“It shall be the policy of the people that a new professional football
stadium, retail shopping and entertainment center, and related open space
and parking be constructed,” read the opening of the ballot proposition.

The measure does allow for many “conditional uses” upon approval by the
planning commission and the city’s board of supervisors. But any development
project also would have to get approval from a judge, ruling that it meets
the requirements of the original 1997 voter-approved measure. Such a
judicial review historically has come at the end of an estimated three-year
planning process that likely would cost millions of dollars and would
include drawing up project plans, completing environmental-impact reviews
and settling various zoning issues.

Migden’s SB 1842 would allow the city to seek judicial validation of the
project at the beginning of the planning process, saving both time and
money, say the bill’s proponents.

“We think from a good-government perspective to try to seek the validation
measure prior to the end of the process is a good idea,” said Michael Cohen,
of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office of economic and workforce development.
The San Francisco state legislation committee, which includes

representatives from the mayor’s office, two supervisor’s offices, and the
city attorney and treasurer, among others, voted to support the bill in a
March 6 meeting.

Cohen describes the measure as “a fairly modest act.” He adds that the San
Francisco city attorney has preliminarily advised the mayor’s office that a
mixed-use development could be consistent with Proposition F, depending on
the particulars of the project.
The 49ers hope that judicial validation of a mixed-use development project
early in the planning process could help jump-start the stalled stadium-mall
by making the project more attractive to potential investors and developers.
“We definitely support the passage of SB 1842,” said 49ers spokeswoman Lisa
Lang. “From our perspective it promotes government efficiency. This project
will involve financing from private lenders and this legislation will help
give them the confidence that the project is sound.”

That is a sentiment echoed in the investment community.

“This should allow them to at least get the legal issues out of the way at
the front end,” said Tom Lockard, an investment banker at Stone and
Youngberg, a San Francisco-based firm that focuses on municipal bonds. “You
might not have the investors, if you don’t do that.”

Still, San Francisco football fans’ dream of replacing the 47-year-old
Monster Park, which is the oldest operating stadium in the National Football
League, remains years away. The mixed-development study by Lennar is
expected later this spring, and the team recently has renewed discussions
with potential stadium architects and general contractors.

“We don’t know if there is a feasible project because the 49ers haven’t
crafted a project,” said Cohen. “Once they have, and we have had a chance to
flesh that out, then we would like to validate that before we get to the end
of the planning process.”

The bill is set for its first hearing next Wednesday, April 5, in the Senate
local-government committee.


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