Brown Declares Touchdown in Bid for New S.F. Stadium
The margin was slim and the final vote count still uncertain, but a jubilant Mayor Willie Brown declared victory Wednesday in the battle to build a $525-million stadium and mall complex for the San Francisco 49ers football team.
“I said it would pass by 50.1%,” Brown told reporters at a celebratory press conference. “I was wrong. It passed by 50.2%.”
The mayor, who campaigned relentlessly for twin ballot measures that would both fast-track the project through the planning process and help finance it by authorizing the city to sell up to $100 million in lease-revenue bonds, jokingly suggested that the new stadium be named after him.
“It is a new day for the city,” he declared.
The stadium-mall complex, to be built near where Candlestick Park now stands in Bayview-Hunter’s Point, will bring opportunity to that depressed neighborhood by adding 10,000 new private-sector jobs to San Francisco, Brown said. The team will play at Candlestick until the scheduled opening of the new stadium in 2000.
In addition to the stadium measures, San Franciscans also voted to rebuild the city’s aging zoo, passing a $48-million bond measure that will replace concrete-floored cages with natural habitats for hundreds of animals and provide a new children’s zoo.
The zoo bond, which needed a two-thirds majority, captured 66.9% of the vote. A private fund-raising campaign is supposed to raise another $25 million to complete renovation of the Depression-era facility.
Measures D and F, the stadium ballot items, passed by far narrower margins. In fact, the measures were losing until after midnight Tuesday, when the last precincts were reported. On Wednesday, with about 4,500 provisional ballots still to be counted, the twin measures were ahead by fewer than 700 votes out of 170,000 cast.
Provisional ballots are used by people whose names do not appear on voting lists at their local polling stations. The registrar of voters must check each ballot to ensure the voter was registered and did not vote twice. Normally, about 40% of such ballots are disqualified.
Registrar of Voters Germaine Wong said the vote may be finalized by Friday.
The 42% turnout on a rainy day was about 12% higher than predicted.
Some stadium opponents said they may demand a recount and complained that stadium supporters spent nearly $3 million on the campaign, making it the most expensive in the city’s history.
But Jim Ross, campaign director for the No on D and F campaign, said he was not counting on provisional votes to change the outcome.
“We lost. They won. It is a heartbreaking loss,” he said. “They spent a million dollars on their get-out-the-vote program alone.” Ross said the anti-stadium campaign, financed largely by political consultant Clinton Reilly, spent $100,000.
“I’m not embarrassed by what we spent; that is a respectable amount,” Ross said. “But they spent an obscene amount of money.”
Tuesday night at Longshoreman’s Hall, where hundreds of stadium supporters wearing 49ers caps and jackets gathered to munch on hot dogs and popcorn, listen to a blaring rock trio and await results, the mood flipped from despair to delight when news of the apparent come-from-behind victory broke after midnight.
Brown whooped, popped open a magnum of champagne and danced on a tabletop. The crowd, which ranged from 49er cheerleaders to precinct walkers, cheered wildly.
Across town, at Reilly’s elegant home in the posh Seacliff neighborhood, about 75 well-heeled stadium opponents quietly sipped white wine and snacked on plates of strawberries as they watched the gap narrow.
“There are two things that bother me: testosterone and commercialism,” said a disgusted Lani Silver, a women’s studies teacher. The new stadium mall complex, Silver said, promotes both.
“We shouldn’t alter the course of our future for the sake of 10 ballgames a year,” Silver said.
To win voter approval, the 49ers had to convince skeptical San Franciscans that building a $200-million, 1.5 million-square-foot mall in a depressed, crime-ridden neighborhood made financial sense.
And team President Carmen Policy made on-and-off threats to move the team to some other city--maybe even dreaded Los Angeles--if the ballot propositions failed.
The team also was embarrassed, just weeks before the election, when friends of Jack Davis, the manager of the pro-stadium campaign, threw him a birthday bash that featured sadomasochistic performances and a guest list including many of the city’s most prominent figures.
Lurid descriptions of the party dominated local headlines and national talk-radio shows for days.
“There’s an old Chinese proverb: One ugly victory is better than a thousand glorious defeats,” an exhausted but happy Policy told supporters early Wednesday.