San Francisco 49ers of Santa Clara?

Santa Clara might be just $51 million away from snatching the San Francisco 49ers away from San Francisco. The South Bay community’s City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to enter formal negotiations on building the football team an $854 million stadium. The York family insists they need $222 million from Santa Clara in order to move their team next door to Great America amusement park. But the city says it can only spare $136 million from redevelopment and utility funds plus a future $35 million from proposed hotel taxes.

Santa Clara officials hope to prepare a measure for necessary voter approval of a stadium financial package on the Nov. 4 presidential ballot. One accomplishment of the council’s negotiation go-ahead is that work can begin on the time-consuming environmental impact report required by the state. However, significant obstacles remain before Santa Clara can place a complete deal before the voters.

The 49ers owners still want the South Bay city to pay $42 million for a new parking garage at the stadium plus another $20 million to move an electric utility substation out of the way. Perhaps the biggest roadblock ahead will be the team’s direct negotiations with Great America. The amusement park’s management has been openly hostile about potential losses of their parking capacity. And ending the resistance will probably necessitate a substantial payout from the Yorks.

In addition, community opinion favoring a handout to the 49ers is hardly unanimous. Even the stadium move’s local backers cannot promise a huge revenue boost for the Santa Clara general fund or a plethora of high-paying new jobs. So because any 49ers departure from San Francisco is far from a done deal, it is vital for The City to continue moving forward with its plan to redevelop Candlestick Point and the Hunters Point Shipyard, with space for a potential stadium if the Santa Clara deal collapses.

The massive Hunters Point redevelopment project is already making progress. The City recently announced it secured $82 million in federal funding to clean up toxic land at the former naval shipyard. The environmental impact review for Hunters Point is already happening. And an ongoing signature campaign is likely to place a June ballot measure for giving public approval to the project — which includes up to 10,000 housing units and 350 acres of open space.

Team officials continue to insist that keeping the 49ers in San Francisco is merely a backup option, just in case Santa Clara negotiations break down. However, throughout alltalks on the team’s future, the Yorks have revealed themselves as more than willing to jump ship to go after what they consider the best alternative. And San Francisco might yet turn out to be the best alternative.

One thing’s for sure: The San Francisco 49ers belong in San Francisco and nobody truly believes otherwise.

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