The San Francisco Giants aren’t just about building World Series teams — they are also about becoming one of the biggest waterfront real estate empires the city has seen.
And that has them keeping a close eye on the scoreboard in the upcoming election.
In the coming months, the Giants will be putting forward a revised plan to transform the parking lots adjacent to ATT Park into a new neighborhood of offices, shops and condos — the final piece in the multibillion-dollar transformation of China Basin that began when the Giants moved to the area in 2000. While no date has been set to break ground, the project eventually would fill in the gap between the South Beach area and Mission Bay.
“We have the chance to do something compelling for our city, our neighborhood and our fans and to also expand our business to help make sure our team remains competitive on the field,” said Jack Bair, the Giants’ senior vice president and general counsel.
In fact, money is a big reason for the giant leap from baseball into real estate.
The planned development gives the Giants — just valued at a whopping $1billion by Forbes — a chance to turn the neighborhood into a money-making attraction based on the tens of thousands of fans who visit the ballpark during the year.
By bolstering profits, team insiders tell us, they also hope to ensure that they can keep paying rising player contracts — some of which currently top $18million to $25million a year.
And unlike baseball’s revenue sharing — which requires teams to toss a percentage of their earnings into the league piggy bank — the Giants get to keep all the development profits for themselves.
The Giants are also playing a bit of defense. It’s the Port of San Francisco that actually owns the team’s parking lot — and when it decided to take bids to develop the property, the Giants needed to act to keep control of the site.
The new development is also a reason the team was not happy about the Golden State Warriors’ plan to move into a new arena up the street at Piers 30-32. Not only did it threaten to steal some of their thunder, the Giants also worried it would further hobble traffic along the Embarcadero and into China Basin.
Add in the fact that a number of the team’s owners — among them shopping mall owner Allan Byer and his son Alex, Westlake International Group investment boss William Chang, investment banker John Sculley, New York developer Jed Walentas and Nibbi Bros. construction exec Larry Nibbi — are themselves in the development business, and the Giants believe they are as capable as anybody of pulling it off.
They’ve even hired an in-house development team led Jon Knorpp, the man who helped launch Mission Bay, and Fran Weld, a former Red Sox development honcho.
The jump into San Francisco’s real estate boom is the reason team bosses have their eye on Proposition F, the Nov. 4 measure asking city voters to approve a huge development on the southern waterfront.
It’s the first test of Proposition B, the ballot measure pushed by “No Wall on the Waterfront” activists and approved by the voters in June. That measure requires voters’ OK for any waterfront development that exceeds current height limits — something the Giants will need as well.
Word is that the Giants have already scrapped plans for 30-story housing towers and have even consulted with former Mayor Art Agnos — a leader in the “No Wall on the Waterfront” movement — about what they might be able to build on the current site of ATT’s parking lots. But they are still trying to figure out how to make the plan pencil out — particularly because they are under pressure from City Hall to provide a substantial amount of affordable housing.
The bet among City Hall insiders is that the Giants will probably wait until the 2016 general election to ask for voter approval of whatever they decide to build. By waiting, they would bypass what’s likely to be a contentious mayoral contest next year focused on the city’s rapid development — and chances are they will have a higher and more development-friendly voter turnout.
The bloom is off: “I couldn’t even pick up the phone to call him — I’m that dumbfounded,” Chinatown activist Rose Pak said after hearing that Mayor Ed Lee had endorsed Supervisor David Chiu in the upcoming 17th District Assembly seat.
It’s no secret that Pak, who helped bring Lee into City Hall some 20 years ago — and whose “Run Ed Run” campaign helped put him in the mayor’s seat — has no love lost for Chiu. He ran against Lee in the last mayoral race, and now she’s supporting Chiu’s rival, David Campos, in their Assembly race.
Up until now, however, she and the mayor have kept their respective support in the shadows.
Truth be told, Pak and Lee have been drifting apart for months, in part over the mayor’s ties to tech investor Ron Conway.
“He just listens to the two baldies,” Pak said of mayoral chief of staff Steve Kawa and chief aide Tony Winnicker.
Does this mean Pak won’t be supporting Lee when he runs again?
“I don’t even know if he is running,” Pak said. “I mean, we had to talk him into it the first time.”
San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call (415) 777-8815, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @matierandross