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Monday, November 20, 2006

Rumor: San Francisco 49ers Considering Hunters Point - SF Chronicle / Matier and Ross

This also reports that the 49ers would rather deal with Forest City than Lennar. Why?

Hunters Point could be in play for the Niners
Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross
Monday, November 20, 2006

With the 49ers' plan for a new stadium at Candlestick Point sunk in the mud, insiders at San Francisco City Hall are revisiting the idea of building at Hunters Point -- in an area that could be paved over with lots of parking.

Here's why.

Cut through all the double talk, and the 49ers' problems come down to two key points.

One: All the Niners are really interested in is a new stadium and a parking lot. Despite all the smiles and public pronouncements over the years, they are not comfortable with the mega housing and retail development deal they cut with the city and Lennar Corp. to pay for the stadium. And they don't want the multilevel parking garage at Candlestick that was going to go along with it.

And two: Their relations with Mayor Gavin Newsom haven't been great and aren't getting a lot better.

Team spokeswoman Lisa Lang said Friday that "our goal is to build a stadium -- not a small city." Trying to get the malls and 6,500 units of housing done along with a 68,000-seat stadium, all while playing in the existing Monster Park, put the team's envisioned 2012 finish date in jeopardy, she said.

Hence the Niners' decision to turn their attention to Santa Clara, where co-owner John York and his family thought building would be easy.

"They sort of have this Midwestern, suburban 1970s view of how things can get done,'' said one San Francisco official who talked with the Yorks in recent days.

"They want a new stadium," said the official, who didn't want his name used because of the ongoing talks. "They want a smooth transition from the current one to the new one. And they don't want all of this other stuff that they just don't understand.''

Unfortunately for the Yorks, the idea of leaving San Francisco also set off an avalanche of threatened lawsuits, legislative roadblocks and bad publicity. And, of course, it did nothing to endear the Niners to Newsom.

Which brings us back to Point Two.

The mayor's absence from talks with the team, and his decision to have underlings handle the negotiations, is said to have rankled the Niners' owners. Then, for some reason, York expected the mayor to turn down the temperature once the team shifted plans, according to sources who spoke with the co-owner after his meeting with Newsom last week.

Instead, the opposite happened. Newsom made it clear he would use every weapon he had -- from lawsuits to Congress -- to keep the team here.

Newsom also told York he wanted the team to spell out the specific problems with the Candlestick Point deal, be they lousy access roads, inadequate public transit or whatever else York felt was a deal-breaker.

In other words, Newsom wanted a checklist that, if dealt with, would mean the team stayed.

Since speaking with Newsom, York and his son Jed have had several meetings and phone conversations with both city officials and others close to the deal.

Recipients of the Yorks' calls, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the talks, said the Niners' concerns appear to be far greater than the fear John York expressed publicly that the stadium proposal wouldn't provide for a good "fan experience.''

Among other things, it has started to surface that if the team is to build anything at Candlestick, it would much rather do so with Forest City Enterprises -- builders of the recently opened Westfield San Francisco Centre downtown -- than with Lennar.

At the same time, city officials are looking for another way to make the general area work for the team. So, if not Candlestick, where?

One idea starting to simmer: Build the stadium across the way on the old Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, an idea that was looked at earlier and rejected.

The shipyard site would require a new four-lane road. But the Niners could get all the parking they want, plus they could keep playing at Candlestick while the project was built.

At this point it's just an idea, and the mayor remains committed to seeing if the Candlestick deal can be saved. At the same time, York appears just as firmly committed to pursuing Santa Clara.

But until the whole deal sinks -- if it does -- word is going out for everyone with the city to calm down.

State Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, even had a pack of the mayor's most vocal critics -- Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin and Supervisors Chris Daly, Jake McGoldrick and Ross Mirkarimi -- in her office Friday. Later, she got Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval by phone.

The message: Hold off on the potshots at the 49ers or Newsom, at least for the time being.

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