His playing days are over, but Joe Montana still knows how to win in the clutch.
On Tuesday night, the San Francisco 49ers legend convinced the Santa Clara City Council to give his investment group an exclusive negotiating agreement for land near the team's proposed new stadium, even though such an agreement could mean less money for the city.
Montana made a personal appearance to advocate for the agreement. Addressing the council, he said he was interested in developing a project that was compatible with what the city envisioned for the area -- namely, entertainment. Doing so, he said, would take time.
"We want to sit down and be able to go through and study each piece of the puzzle," he said.
The council chambers were packed with Montana fans, many of whom spoke in support of the development and clapped when others did the same.
After listening to Montana and his supporters, the council voted 5-1 to give the Montana Group 18 months to negotiate a lease with Santa Clara to develop a commercial project, which could include a luxury hotel, a sports bar, and an entertainment venue on the seven acres of city-owned land.
Mayor Jamie Matthews said he was "extremely excited" about working with Montana. "What we have is a group that is wanting to invest in this city in a way we could never dream of," he said.
Matthews brushed aside criticism of the agreement by comparing Montana to another Silicon Valley superstar. "When Steve Jobs came to Cupertino, they didn't wait to see if Bill Gates would make a better offer," Matthews said.
Councilmember Jamie McLeod cast the sole dissenting vote, arguing that the city could make more money from the land by making the process more competitive.
Santa Clara often issues a request for proposals when leasing land, inviting competitive bids, which can drive the final price of a lease higher. Revenues earned from leasing land go into the city's general fund. This year, for the first time in its history, Santa Clara had to lay off workers.
Prior to the meeting, City Manager Jennifer Sparacino had recommended against giving Montana and his investors exclusive negotiating rights.
After the council's vote, Sparacino said she will work to draft the exclusive negotiating agreement. "It's ultimately a policy decision of council," she said. "We heard from them tonight telling us to make it a really great agreement, and we'll try do to so."
The agreement did pass with an amendment, as requested by Vice Mayor Patricia Mahan. The amendment requires a "holding payment" from the Montana Group in exchange for the group's exclusive agreement.
Robert Mezzetti, a lawyer representing Montana, said in an interview after the council vote that the group is willing to discuss such a payment when they look at the details of the contract.
For now, he said, the group was "very pleased."