Gavin Newsom has big goals for final weeks in S.F.
San Francisco Chronicle November 25, 2010
John Coté, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has been criticized for many things, but aiming too low usually isn’t one of them.
With less than six weeks left before he is sworn in as lieutenant governor, Newsom has compiled an aggressive to-do list that includes completing an agreement to host the next America’s Cup in 2013, negotiating a lease extension with the 49ers at Candlestick Park and unveiling a plan to fully restore Muni service cut because of chronic budget shortfalls.
He even plans to announce the goal of having the city completely powered by emissions-free energy in 10 years, according to records from the mayor’s office.
"I’ve never heard of something quite so ambitious and bold out of a mayor’s office in the last weeks of his administration," said Corey Cook, a political science professor at the University of San Francisco.
Days after defeating GOP incumbent Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, Newsom crafted a checklist with 46 points - not including sub-items, some handwritten on the document - ranging from closing the Mirant Corp.-run Potrero Hill power plant to finding a home for his signature program for the homeless, according to records from the mayor’s office and interviews with staff.
Perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise from a mayor who created a 247-page "accountability matrix" of promises made and kept while in office.
Putting on the polish
This is Newsom’s final chance to burnish his legacy - and not leave projects a successor could claim credit for - before taking a job pundits call the "lite guv."
Whether the mayor will complete his list remains to be seen. Newsom is fond of advocating big ideas that sometimes go nowhere, like a fee on sugary sodas or harnessing wave power, although "ocean power study" has resurfaced on his final list.
"The reality is almost everything that the mayor or supervisors embark upon requires many different entities coming together," said lobbyist and political analyst Alex Clemens. "A betting man would be wise to bet against all of the items on this ambitious list being signed, sealed and delivered by Jan. 3."
Complicating matters is the lame-duck status of the mayor and arguably the current Board of Supervisors, with four termed-out members. That same board, whose solid left majority often clashes with the mayor, is also in a position to name a successor to serve the remaining year of Newsom’s term.
"You’re initially dubious that any of these folks have a lot of incentive to work together," Cook said.
One item long on Newsom’s wish list is finding a permanent home for Project Homeless Connect, the periodic one-stop shop to provide the homeless access to haircuts, housing, health care and other services. Newsom’s staff is closing in on a site where board approval is not needed, city officials said.
Some items have recently been handled and crossed off the list, like building bocce courts at the south end of Justin Herman Plaza and vetoing a ban on Happy Meal toys, although the Board of Supervisors overrode that veto Tuesday.
Other tasks are more difficult to tackle or simply out of the mayor’s hands. The decision on where the next America’s Cup regatta is held, for example, rests with billionaire Oracle CEO Larry Ellison.
Pulling the power plug
The one item on Newsom’s list that is underlined, has a box around it and three stars next to it is shuttering the Potrero Hill power plant. That decision lies with the California Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s electrical grid.
"At the end of this year, we will have no polluting power plants in this city," Newsom declared in January after that state agency said the plant could be closed once transmission projects were completed to ensure the city had power in a disaster, including a new transbay cable and improvements to Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s network.
At the time, Newsom hoped the plant would close by November. Instead, complications with the transbay cable, which came online fully this week, contributed to delays.
Now, the earliest the California Independent System Operator will issue a notice to terminate the plant’s power contract is Jan. 1, said Steven Greenlee, a spokesman for the agency. If that happens, the plant would be shut down on Feb. 28, he said.
Ready for a touchdown
Newsom is also making a final push to extend the 49ers’ lease at Candlestick Park and persuade the team to build a stadium at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard rather than pursue one in Santa Clara. He sent a letter to team President Jed York last week highlighting the city’s work.
The 49ers are concentrating on trying to build a stadium in Santa Clara by 2015, but a team spokeswoman said they have had "productive discussions with the city" on a lease extension, even after filing a claim alleging the city failed to maintain the stadium as required. The team’s lease runs through the 2012 football season, and it has the option for a five-year extension.
The Niners would need a home for at least two seasons before a new stadium is ready, but the team is reluctant to sign a five-year extension when they hope to use it for less, Newsom said.
"The focus of our current discussions with the city is on the long list of Candlestick repairs and maintenance that needs to be addressed," said Lisa Lang, a 49ers vice president. "The timing will depend on how much progress we continue to make."
For items like a renewable-energy city, the plan appears to be creating momentum.
"Can he get a team together to work on the report? Probably," Cook said. "Can you actually achieve the outcome? No."