Categories: NFL Sports

S.F. says Niners duplicitous

While the faithful remain loyal to their hometown heroes, was their team unfaithful? That is the latest question in the ongoing wrangling over the possible move of the 49ers to Santa Clara.

E-mail correspondence between officials for the 49ers and Santa Clara prove that The City’s football team was not negotiating in good faith to build a new stadium in San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office charged Wednesday.

Pitting document against document, a 49ers spokesperson produced other e-mail exchanges as evidence that San Francisco was not misled.</p>

Three weeks after Newsom claims he was caught off guard by a phone call from 49ers owner John York announcing that the team was moving to Silicon Valley, the public argument over whether the team made a sincere effort to remain in San Francisco continues.

The announcement by York not only shocked city officials, it killed The City’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, of which the stadium was seen as a cornerstone. It also uprooted a number of housing and redevelopment plans that were slated to coincide with the building of the new stadium.

The e-mails and other documents exchanged between Santa Clara and the 49ers — obtained from The City through a public records request — suggest that the team was in serious negotiations with Santa Clara at the same time it was telling San Francisco that it was determined to stay in The City, said Jennifer Petrucione, spokeswoman for Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office.

“The documents clearly indicate that the 49ers were pursuing Santa Clara to a degreenot entirely consistent with the good-faith negotiations we were engaged in,” she said.

The Candlestick Point project plan, in its current form, does not meet the team’s needs in terms of space, parking and public transportation options, among other concerns, according to 49ers officials.

An e-mail from Ronald Garratt, Santa Clara’s assistant general manager, sent on July 19, indicates that one of the City Council members, Kevin Moore, “has been in conversations with the Niners for a number of months about the possibility of locating their new stadium in Santa Clara,” and that meetings with additional city officials began earlier that summer month. The e-mail also acknowledged, however, that the team was only interested in the Silicon Valley location if a new stadium in San Francisco was not feasible.

By September, Santa Clara officials were conducting soil tests for the team, according to e-mails.

The team has said it will only stay in San Francisco if The City proposes alternate sites for a stadium; the former Hunters Point shipyard is one of the possibilities now being further explored.

Nonetheless, on Wednesday, the team met with Santa Clara’s city manager to move those negotiations forward, 49ers spokeswoman Lisa Lang said. The 49ers plan to present some “early principles” of their stadium plan to the Santa Clara City Council in early 2007, she said.

“Based on that meeting, if the City Council wants to pursue this project, they would assign the staff to work with the 49ers on a feasibility study,” Lang said.

The 49ers have been very upfront about the Santa Clara backup plan with Newsom and his staff — who met with the team and its developer for nearly a year working on the Candlestick Point proposal, Lang said.

Lang forwarded a copy of an e-mail that Larry MacNeil, the team’s chief financial officer, sent on July 13 to Erin McGrath, the deputy finance director in Newsom’s Budget Office. It stated the team’s intention to use Santa Clara as a backup site.

“It will be clear this is a backup site, and our focus is strictly on S.F.,” MacNeil wrote.

However, York wrote to Newsom two months later to warn him not to hinge The City’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games on the stadium.

The City subsequently pulled out of the running for the prestigious international sporting event, claiming the abruptness of the 49ers’ decision — the night before The City was to meet with U.S. Olympic officials — left it without a site to hold Olympic ceremonies.

beslinger@examiner.com

SF Examiner
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