Giants' flirtation with San Jose staggers 'Frisco

January 16, 1992|By Marc Sandalow | Marc Sandalow,San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The maybe no-longer San Francisco Giants' sudden decision caught City Hall completely by surprise, and some of the team's most loyal boosters said San Francisco's only hope to keep the team is for San Jose voters to reject the offer.

"At this point, I have no option but to accept what has happened here today," said Mayor Frank Jordan, who was informed of the Giants' decision after an 8 a.m. phone conversation between team owner Bob Lurie and the mayor's chief of staff, Hadley Roff.

Jordan, who campaigned on a pledge to save taxpayers' money by renovating Candlestick Park rather than building a new stadium, said he will meet with Lurie within a week.

But he acknowledged that he had no strategy to talk Lurie out of his deal with San Jose.

"I may not have that option," Jordan said at a hastily arranged news conference. "I will do everything I can . . . to keep the Giants in San Francisco. If it does not pass [in San Jose], I want to be right there in line."

Past mayors have dealt with similar threats by the Giants by initiating legal action to block any move.

During the first week of Mayor George Moscone's administration in 1976, city attorneys were able to use a multi-year lease at Candlestick to block the team's departure for Toronto. When Dianne Feinstein was mayor, she also threatened a suit to chase off a South Bay overture.

But in the first crisis of Jordan's week-old administration, he appears to have fewer options. The city's lease with the Giants has been modified so the team is free to leave after giving one year's notice when the agreement ends in 1994.

Twice in the past five years San Francisco voters have rejected new stadium measures that would have kept the team in town, and most political observers agree that there is a growing sentiment against spending public money on the privately owned team.

"The city is in a wait-and-see position," said city planning director Dean Macris. "I don't think that there is anything that can be done between now and June."

The strongest sign of optimism came from Supervisor Angela Alioto, who predicted defeat in San Jose and vowed to place a counter-measure on the San Francisco ballot by November.

"I'll go down there and walk precincts" to defeat the South Bay measure, Alioto said.

Alioto, who has organized an 11-member advisory panel to explore local stadium sites, said she is confident that an alternative superior to the San Jose site will emerge quickly. The committee has its first official meeting next week.

Alioto said that the group will explore a number of proposals for stadium sites, including ones at China Basin, the airport area, South of Market and the former site of Seals Stadium between Potrero Hill and the Mission District.

Alioto also chastised Lurie, a native San Franciscan, for jeopardizing the city's major-league future.

"It's a sad state of affairs that a San Franciscan makes the San Francisco Giants the San Jose Giants," she said.

While Jordan was telling reporters that he would consider contributing city funds to help the Giants build a new stadium, there was speculation that the Giants' decision was related to Jordan's Dec. 10 victory over former Mayor Art Agnos.

Agnos not only had a close working relationship with Giants executives, but also was working on a plan to build the Giants a 45,000-seat stadium, financed by private developers, across U.S. 101 from the San Francisco airport.

The only document that greeted Jordan when he entered the mayor's office on his first day on the job last week was a report on the airport site left behind by the former mayor, accompanied by a letter that urged Jordan to "act as quickly as possible."

Agnos was not available for comment, but just before he left office he said that keeping the Giants from leaving would be one of the first major tests of Jordan's administration.

"I think Bob Lurie would have given Art Agnos the benefit of the doubt had he won the election," said former Agnos aide Ed McGovern. "This would not have happened."

Jordan, who took office Jan. 8 and pledged to make the Giants one of his top priorities, has not yet met with Lurie.

Anxious not to be remembered as the mayor who lost the Giants, Jordan began his meeting with reporters yesterday by emphasizing that the latest developments were not his fault.

Jordan said that Lurie assured Roff that "in no way does [the decision] reflect any problems with the incoming administration.

"These negotiations have been going on for 12 months," he said.

The new mayor also expressed hope that the San Jose measure would lose and that San Francisco would be given yet another chance.

"This is not a done deal yet," he said.

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