Mayor Kevin Johnson's top two staffers are leaving to head the mayor's Think Big arena task force.
Chief of Staff Kunal Merchant and Special Assistant R.E. Graswich are leaving to focus on the mayor's "Plan B" for an arena. That plan is exploring whether the city could build a downtown arena without the involvement of the Sacramento Kings.
It seems unlikely an arena would be built without the Kings, given that a $67 million loan the team has with the city would apparently be forgiven if the city built an NBA-quality facility that competes with Power Balance Pavilion.
That leaves Think Big to look at other ventures, including projects that might take advantage of a proposal to generate revenue out of downtown parking operations. Possibilities include other large civic projects, such as a baseball stadium.
Merchant will serve as Think Big's executive director, replacing outgoing director Chris Lehane. Graswich will be the task force's director of public affairs.
Johnson is hiring former assistant city managers Cassandra Jennings and Patti Bisharat as his senior advisers, effective June 18.
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