49ers stadium has poll lead; Great America seeks rent cut

The first major polls are out in the runup to the June 8 vote in Santa Clara on a San Francisco 49ers stadium, and so far, the ayes have it: The stadium referendum leads 52% to 36%, with 11% undecided. (Or as San Jose Mercury News reporter Howard Mintz puts it, the Niners have “a substantial fourth-quarter political lead” — journalists just can’t resist a cheap sports metaphor.)

Likely voters are less inclined to support the plan than occasional voters, however, and 63% of respondents said they are at least “somewhat worried” about the cost to taxpayers. Roughly equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans support the stadium proposal, if you care about such things.

Stadium opponents note that neither the ballot question (which is apparently what was read by pollsters) nor 49ers campaign materials mention the public costs of the project; Santa Clara Plays Fair activist Chris Koltermann told KGO-TV: “I went through all the 49er campaign materials and came up with a list of 15 fictional statements including ‘no impact on general fund.’ That’s not true and ‘no costs to residents,’ that’s not true.”

Meanwhile, Cedar Fair, owners of the Great America amusement park that would lose a parking lot to the 49ers stadium, added to its lawsuit against the project a new demand that the city eliminate its $5.3 million guaranteed rent if a stadium is built:

“We believe it is essential that any proposed resolution include a realignment of the economic interests of the city and Cedar Fair,” Geoffrey Etnire, an attorney for the company, wrote in a letter to City Manager Jennifer Sparacino. “The city must be prepared to accept some of the risk that the revenues and profitability of Great America will be reduced.”

Reading between the lines, it sounds like Cedar Fair would accept a rent that fluctuated with its revenues. That could still represent a multi-million-dollar hit to the Santa Clara city budget, though.

As for what Cedar Fair will do if its pleas for a rent break are ignored, that’s unclear. Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan, asked on Friday whether she’d consider lowering the amusement park’s rent, replied: “No. We have a contract. A contract is a contract.”


5 comments on “49ers stadium has poll lead; Great America seeks rent cut

  1. Thanks Neil!
    Readers will find many other articles on the Santa Clara Plays Fair website of interest, including:
    Why the ballot measure doesn’t disclose costs, which details the manipulation of our election process, and how at the municipal level, voters are not protected by any laws requiring financial disclosure on ballot measures (we are protected at the state level which requires financial disclosure for state propositions).

    Unfortunately for voters, there are no truth in advertising rules for campaign materials, so the 49ers campaign can say whatever they wish (no new taxes, no negative impact to the general fund, no cost to voters..).

    However, our city council majority is saying the same things in the 49ers campaign materials (they are campaigning to the Nth degree for this). Is there a requirement for elected officials to not lie in campaign materials? Our elected officials were presented with city staff reports that show that the stadium causes a $67 million loss to our general fund, that $114 million in public funds will be committed to the stadium, and that the city’s agency the Stadium Authority has to raise another $330 million from high risk sources (personal seat licenses and naming rights). That’s a total of $444 million from Santa Clara, and our city council majority is helping the 49ers hide the costs, the debt, and the general fund loss from the public.

    Our two local newspapers, the SJ Mercury News and the SC Weekly, want the stadium, so their coverage is very biased in favor of the stadium. Neither publication will write about what’s really happening with the election and the stadium costs. Case in point, the SJ Merc interviewed Santa Clara Plays Fair, but didn’t bother to quote us because we talk about the costs and how the ballot question doesn’t disclose the costs (that’s on purpose, courtesy of our pro-stadium city council majority).

    www.santaclaraplaysfair.org

  2. These latest poll numbers don’t bode well for stadium opponents. While poll numbers are always suspect to a point they are also helpful in determining overall trends and in the Niners stadium case it appears that momentum has shifted back to the team.

  3. Santa Clara has never been considered a prestigious valley address. It’s a solidly middle class city and on the plus side has good city services and a low serious crime rate.

    But on the negative side, it has many low performing schools (its Achilles’ from the real estate POV) and and anemic and tacky retail on it’s main strip, El Camino Real (it’s the place to come for a tattoo or adult bookstore), and no downtown to speak of.

    It does have a good sized Jesuit University, SCU, but in essential ways the footprint of the institution on the o/s community isn’t large (my wife & I go to Stanford or even Berkeley for cultural events).

    I believe with the run up in housing costs in the late ’90s many people who wouldn’t have considered living there before decided to take the chance. But the quality of the city councils was clearly not high and people didn’t hold them to a high standard.

    I think a certain reputation or pathology for a city is difficult to overcome. I don’t think being known as a stadium city is going to help.

    I see the city becoming a less desirable place to live.

    It’s not over yet, and I know the Mercury has shamelessly promoted the deal, but yes, this is disappointing to say the least.

  4. The SJ Merc/KGO who are financially tied together are the ones who came up with the idea of using the ballot question and not disclosing any costs. The Merc has endorsed the stadium and wants it to pass, hence the lack of cost disclosure in the survey to drive up the number of ‘yes’ voters.

    I spoke with the asst. prof who conducted the survey. They surveyed ‘likely’ voters – some combination of past voter primary and general election history – but also included all 770 newly registered voters since Jan 1, 2010. So in the last 3 1/2 months, our voting population has increased by 1.6%. Is that normal? I don’t know, it seems high to me, since our total voter pool has been declining, not increasing, since the 1990s. Santa Clara has 46,000 voters. The 49ers have been recruiting Santa Clara University students to switch to voting in Santa Clara and hiring them as campaign workers. How many of those 770 new voters thrown into the survey pool were recruited by the 49ers? Why not include all new homeowners since 2008 who’ve registered?

    Throwing in those 770 new voters when the 49ers are actively recruiting young people with no skin in the game (non-property owners) to become voters biases the population of voters the survey was drawn from.

    The results do not match what we find when we’re precinct walking.

  5. Interesting and not very surprising. It’s disturbing nonetheless that college students who really have nothing to do with the town may be a deciding element in the election–which we all expect to be closer than the poll results suggest.

    I think the Mercury wants people to think resistance is futile. But now I’m really upset.

    When I walk neighborhoods,I think some of the undecided people are trying to give the impression of “fairness” and it’s frustrating for me, I want to say “wake up! your town is being stolen,” I wonder if they’re going to like hearing that SCU students who could give a damn about them will have votes that count just as much as theirs.