SAN FRANCISCO — The Santa Clara City Council yesterday approved an environmental impact report for a new $937 million football stadium for the San Francisco 49ers, clearing the way for a ballot measure on the partially bond-financed project.
The council voted early Wednesday morning to take the initial steps in the process of putting the plan before voters in the June 8, 2010, primary election, instructing city staff to begin drafting a ballot measure.
Santa Clara and the National Football League franchise in June agreed to a term sheet that includes $114 million in public support for the project. Under the deal, the Silicon Valley city would build a 68,500-seat stadium to open in 2014. The 49ers would get to move to the heart of one of the richest and most economically dynamic regions in the country and would commit to stay for 40 years.
“We’ve done our due diligence, and I think it’s time to move forward,” said Councilman Jamie Matthews, a stadium backer.
Santa Clara is a city of 109,400. It borders San Jose, and it is home to corporate headquarters for technology companies such as Agilent Technologies, Applied Materials, Intel, and National Semiconductor.
The city has been working for three years on a proposal to build a football stadium next to its Great America theme park to lure the 49ers franchise 40 miles south from San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.
The theme park’s owner, the Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. of Sandusky, Ohio, filed suit Monday in Santa Clara County Superior Court to block the project. The park’s owners are concerned about loss of business due to traffic and parking woes on game days and argued in the lawsuit that the City Council should not have agreed to terms with the 49ers before approving an environmental impact report.
Santa Clara city manager Jennifer Sparacino said the council had not made any binding agreements before approving the EIR and that the final decision on the project would be left to voters.
She said the city continues to negotiate with the theme park operator to garner its support for the project.
“They made it clear to us that, although they felt they needed to file this writ of mandate and preserve their legal rights, they hope to put it on the back burner to continue to work with our staff and consultants to resolve their concerns,” Sparacino said. “With that, they would then be in a position to dismiss the lawsuit.”
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October signed a bill that allows Santa Clara to award a design-build public contract to construct the proposed stadium, easing public contracting requirements for the project.
The public contribution to the project would include three parts, two financed with bonds. The city has agreed to raise $42 million for the project through bonds issued by its redevelopment agency and $35 million through debt issued by a community facilities district supported by new taxes on hotel rooms near the planned stadium.
The stadium would be built on public land, and the city would also contribute about $37 million in parking and infrastructure improvements necessary for the stadium.