Stadium delays could put S.F. back in 49ers’ playbook

Doubt lingers about whether the city of Santa Clara will be able to build a 68,500-seat football stadium to take the 49ers away from San Francisco by the team’s stated 2012 deadline, but the team officials don’t seem to be too concerned by the delays.

The environmental review process, which is required by state law before construction of the $916 million stadium project can begin, is scheduled to be launched by Santa Clara officials Tuesday. The process usually takes 12 to 18 months, Santa Clara Planning Director Kevin Riley said.

One opponent to the project, Byron Fleck, a former planning commissioner, said he plans to remind council members of the safety concerns related to building around nearby silicon-chip manufacturers.

Concerns raised about those same risks caused a four-year delay to a planned school in Santa Clara during the 1990s because emergency plans had to be created to conceivably protect students from possible explosive releases from the chip manufacturers.

Carol McCarthy, Santa Clara’s deputy city manager, expressed skepticism that such concerns would delay the project, since the stadium would only be used for a handful of days each year. McCarthy said that the city is still confident the stadium could be built in four years.

There also is a ballot measure on the project that could go before Santa Clara voters next summer, if negotiations on the project finish in February as expected.

San Francisco, which offered to build a stadium for the team at Candlestick Point — a plan that was rejected — is still just a backup for the team if the Santa Clara deal fails, 49ers Vice President of Communications Lisa Lang said. San Francisco has since pitched building a new stadium at Hunters Point for the NFL franchise. If a stadium is not built by 2012, the team has a contracted option to extend its lease at Candlestick Park.

“Our backup plan is to continue playing at Candlestick until we have a viable alternative,” Lang said. “We’ve been working on this project at Hunters Point to see if it can be a backup plan to the Santa Clara project.”

jupton@sfexaminer.com

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