The Grid

* The city's Redevelopment Agency will sell $15 million in bonds to build sewers, sidewalks, and other infrastructure around the stadium. The borrowed money will be paid off with increases in taxes related to the stadium site.

The people who support the stadium contend that this arrangement, called tax increment financing, won't cost the taxpayers anything. In the narrowest sense, this assertion is correct.

But here's something for you to consider:
These improvements, which include a snazzy waterfront promenade, will make it easier for customers to enjoy attending the sporting and entertainment events envisioned for the park. Most entrepreneurs who are truly sincere about "privately financing" their projects usually build their own damn sidewalks. And if the Giants did have to pay for the infrastructure costs of the stadium, increased taxes from the stadium would flow into the city's General Fund and help pay for things like Muni buses that run on time.

If you still think the stadium bonds are a good idea, we have a proposal: We'd like you to give us a tax increment district of our own. We'll build a new office for The Grid Inc. We will borrow money for the office (at very low interest under the government's credit rating) and pay it back over a very long time with taxes we would have paid to the government anyway.

Sign us up, yesterday.
* As part of the complex structure of the stadium deal, the Port of San Francisco will borrow $12 million. (It has to buy some land from the state and relocate a port maintenance facility.) Those with fair-to-middling memories will remember that the Giants were originally supposed to front this money to the port. Instead, the port will borrow it from a Canadian bank that (take a deep breath and try to follow this complicated and ugly scenario) is partly owned by a Hong Kong billionaire who reportedly has the inside track with Willie Brown to get the concession to build a resort on Treasure Island.

* The city has spent $1.5 million on planning costs.
* The city will pay $250,000 in legal and staff costs associated with drawing up the lease and other legal documents. (The Giants paid these costs initially, but the draft lease allows them to recover the costs, with 8.5 percent interest attached, through rent breaks in the first two years of the lease.)

* The port will lose about $300,000 a year in rent paid by the businesses that now occupy the stadium site. (So when the Giants talk about the $1.2 million in annual rent they will provide to the General Fund, do some subtraction and think properly about the direct financial benefit to the city: It's really $900,000 a year.)

And those are just the costs somebody has decided to calculate.

The taxpayer costs of Pacific Bell Park that nobody in the government has felt a need to publicize may be even higher. They could be exorbitant. Astronomical, even. Pick your adjective -- we really can't tell, because no one in the government seems very excited about counting all of these costs up.

Let's just call them the Incredibly Vague Costs.
The Environmental Impact Report for the stadium gives perhaps the best idea of how vague these IVCs are. The report describes a series of "mitigation measures" that should be undertaken to lessen the traffic and pedestrian congestion that will engulf SOMA before and after Giants home games at China Basin.

Get a load of this bureaucratese:
"None of the [mitigation] measures is currently programmed in the formal capital and operating plans for Caltrans, the San Francisco Municipal Railway, the San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic, the Department of Public Works, the Port of San Francisco or any of the other involved public agencies. The source of funding for each measure is not necessarily known at this time ...."

English translation: Whatever all of this will cost, it's not in the budget yet.

Some of the larger IVCs may be incurred by Muni. After all, if we don't want cars circling SOMA for the three-hour length of every Giants home game, we'll need to have lots of transit to Pac Bell Park. No one, it seems, has put a precise pencil to the extra costs for increased rail and bus service to the new ballpark. But it's pretty clear that there're going to be more buses running, with more drivers driving them, and more trains. It also seems likely there will have to be a new loading platform in front of the park for a new Muni rail line there.

There's been a lot of talk about ferry service to the ballpark. How much do ferry landings cost? The draft lease for the ballpark site makes it clear ferry service won't be the Giants' sole responsibility.

Traffic and parking are the potential stadium problems that have gotten the most ink. Imagine the IVCs of controlling traffic South of Market when you start dumping a stadium's worth of cars down there 81 times a year. Department of Parking and Traffic Director Bill Maher says the 25 or so parking-control folks used at Candlestick will be enough to handle traffic at China Basin. Maybe -- but isn't there just a little more traffic and development and business activity South of Market than there is around Candlestick?

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