Stand for San Jose sues City of San Jose

AP’s Janie McCauley has the news of a lawsuit filed by Giants astroturf group Stand for San Jose against the City of San Jose. The group alleges that City “abused their powers and ran roughshod over their legal duties, including their duties to protect the public’s right to vote and to comply with laws designed to protect the environment, prior to committing to sell public lands for a Ballpark Project.”

I snipped a piece of the City’s municipal code for occasions like this:

4.95.010 Prohibition of the use of tax dollars to build a sports facility 
The city of San José may participate in the building of a sports facility using tax dollars only after obtaining a majority vote of the voters of the city of San José approving such expenditure.

A “sports facility” for the purpose of this chapter is to be any structure designed to seat more than five thousand people at any one time for the purpose of viewing a sporting or recreational event.

“Tax dollars” for the purposes of this chapter include, without limitation, any commitment to fund wholly or in part said facility with general fund monies, redevelopment fund monies, bonds, loans, special assessments or any other indebtedness guaranteed by city property, taxing authority or revenues.

Nothing herein shall be construed to limit the city from allowing the construction of a sports facility funded by private investment.

If any provision of this chapter or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, then the remainder of this chapter and application to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby.

The phrase “participate in the building of a sports facility” has always been subject to interpretation. For some, it can mean the City bearing some of the direct construction cost of a stadium. It could mean contributing some or all of the land, especially if the land is sold or leased at below market rate. It seems that Stand for San Jose thinks that the City needed approval via a referendum before signing off on the land deal, even though it’s just an option at this point. The City has been consistent in that it will put the entire package – land deal and all – up for vote when all of the details are completed. By going in Stand for San Jose’s route, virtually every step of the process would have to approved by a public vote every time. The idea sounds like a recipe for gridlock, especially when you consider that the EIR process started in 2005, four years before Stand for San Jose was hatched by the San Jose Giants. All this time, a year after EIR certification, and that’s when you decide to file a lawsuit?

Of course, the Giants (both SF and SJ) could have chosen to stay quiet for years because they were lobbying the City for improvements to Municipal Stadium. Convenient then, that the timing of all of these political and legal actions would occur after the City provided redevelopment funds for Muni? Way to bite the hand that feeds you, Giants. Even more convenient, take a look at how a referendum is required for any venue with a capacity of 5,000 or more. Muni’s capacity? 4,200. Should Muni’s improvements have required a referendum too?

On the other hand, I think the A’s and City could reduce some of their exposure to these types of actions if the Diridon land deal was simply done at market value. Wolff Urban Development is buying the Hotel Sainte Claire at market value, why not the ballpark land? – is what people will argue. This 2005 SV/SJ Business Journal article hints at possible actions if City pushed for a discount. Then again, it’s likely that Stand for San Jose would simply sue based on the EIR, forget the land deal. Coincidentally, the positive budget deficit news reported yesterday (now down from $80 to $25 million) actually works against both Mayor Chuck Reed and Stand for San Jose, since resources won’t be so scarce in the near term.

I would’ve had more sympathy for the mini-Giants had their owners not chosen to sell out to the big paternal Giants to the north. Now it’s just one big corporate interest trying to push around another with the City in tow. We know that the Giants’ motive is to have the A’s leave the Bay Area altogether, or at least rot in the Coliseum for years to come. Thankfully, it appears that Bud Selig is getting off his duff and getting the Giants to the table. Then maybe, just maybe, all this B.S. posturing can stop. Or, as Christina Kahrl tweeted:

Two other observations – note how Stand for San Jose shared the news with the Associated Press instead of the local news outlets when they filed the lawsuit. Looks like someone else is figuring out how to work the national media as well. Also, I like how Stand for San Jose has no problem filing tons of paperwork with the City, yet can’t bother to post any of these filings or letters on their website. Come on astroturfers, if you’re gonna call for “transparency”, you should at least practice what you preach.

78 Responses to Stand for San Jose sues City of San Jose

  1. jeff-athletic says:

    Regardless of xootsuit’s motivations or true identity, he does ask a legitimate questions – Wolff’s motivations. Marine Layer already thoroughly addressed that – that Wolff has divested most downtown SJ holdings.

    But I’ll make another point, that in the end it doesn’t matter. Of course Wolff, or any other team owner, needs to be, and ultimately is, motivated by personal profit. Professional sports needs to exist as a self sustaining, profitable business, not as a charity (rich man’s trophy toy), nor as a government supported entity. So if part of Wolff’s motivations was to feed his existing holdings in SJ, well, fine. It’s a business. But he would not, and nobody would, build a stadium, move a team, and not expect it to pay for itself eventually, i.e. he wouldn’t want losses from the team to offset profits from other holdings. He would want it all to be profitable.

  2. David says:

    It looks like the taxpayers in the city of Santa Clara, may have to pay for the right to host the S.F 49ers. Already, the cost of building,has exceeded what the voters approved. Not to mention the larger burden (risk) the city has (recently) taken on. A community-based business should be able to make a profit. But raping cities is what most sports franchises are engaged in, IMO.

  3. pjk says:

    Santa Clara approving that deal ($100 mill plus possibly other costs) for a facility sitting empty 355 days a year was mind-boggling. The best solution would have been to send the A’s to San Jose, knock down the baseball half of the Coliseum, put up new football stands and put both the Raiders and 49ers there. There’s already half a football stadium that’s only 16 years old, with BART access and a big parking lot. Fill the needs of both the 49ers and Raiders for half the cost of one new stadium. I know some people don’t want the A’s leaving Oakland but since nobody can find a way to keep them there, absent Oakland paying for a new ballpark (which won’t happen), San Jose becomes the only remaining option for keeping them in the Bay Area.

  4. xootsuit says:

    My “true identity” is as I stated it in my original post on this site — I’ve been a Giants fan for 33 years, and I pay attention to the team’s minor league clubs, and I was unaware that the mlb franchise quietly had taken over 55% of the ownership interest in the SJ Giants, obviously as part of the battle going on with the A’s and mlb over territory rights. I came to this site for information. There’s a lot of it here. I certainly didn’t come to this site to get into spats with sfgate commenters.
    One question I have: the AP news story (probably based on a press release drafted by the Pillsbury law firm in SF) mentions a 30-day deadline to file the type of lawsuit the plaintiffs have filed. Anybody know in which court the plaintiffs filed (state or federal), the title of the lawsuit or have a copy of the complaint or petition filed?
    Finally, I don’t know how this plays into the mix. Perhaps a new ballpark — including the jobs and commerce that will be generated by the construction itself — will help the city. But it’s also easy enough to see the other side too:

    “If San Jose decides in coming weeks to declare a fiscal state of emergency, it will open itself up to certain litigation. Wrestling with an $80.5 million deficit in the coming year, the Bay Area city would be the latest public entity to turn to the controversial tactic to deal with spiraling personnel costs.” . . . The San jose Cit Council had been slated to vote Tuesday on a declaration of fiscal emergency, but lawmakers postponed the vote, saying officials still need to factor in the cost of savings from public employee cuts [etc.] . . . . Cities have rarely declared financial distress siince the Great Depression . . . . [etc.]” Declaring a “state of emergency” is a step cities have been taking when they want to cancel or modify expensive public employee contracts.

    The Recorder, 12/5/11, p.1.
    At a minimum, this circumstance brings the discussion back to Marine Layer’s original point that a deal at market value would’ve made a lot more sense.

  5. Marine Layer says:

    @xootsuit – Mayor Reed’s “fiscal emergency” is nothing more than a negotiating ploy and he has already backed off the declaration. New calculations have the projected budget deficit at only $25 million, and that gap can be dealt with in negotiations with the public employees unions.

    The lawsuit was filed in Santa Clara Superior Court, though the court’s website has not yet been updated to include case data for last Friday.

  6. xootsuit says:

    The court’s website has some basic information about the lawsuit now. Try this link:
    http://www.sccaseinfo.org/pa6.asp?full_case_number=1-11-CV-214196&crumbs=Civil

  7. David says:

    The Miami Marlins owner is under investigation for his stadium dealings:
    http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=jp-passan_marlins_sec_stadium_malfeasance_120211
    .
    and now, this niner-SC deal is looking worse by the hour.

  8. pjk says:

    re: perspective on Santa Clara deal. San Jose spent $135 mill on an arena used hundreds of days a year, bringing in hundreds of thousands of people to downtown San Jose. The anchor tenant is listed as “San Jose” in every newspaper’s and Web site’s sports section worldwide. Santa Clara, meanwhile. will spend at least $100 mill for a barely used facility housing San Francisco’s football team. What a deal…

  9. gojohn10 says:

    @David Make sure you mention that next time you inquire about the Victory Court EIR

  10. jeff-athletic says:

    @xootsuit

    Xootsuit – as a longtime, hardcore Giants fan, do you personally care whether or not the A’s build in San Jose?

    I’m just curious. I’d like to gauge the feelings of actual Giants fans.

    I brought this whole T-rights / stadium issue with my brother, who is a big Giants fan and doesn’t care about the A’s, and being that he doesn’t know much about the situation, he immediately reacted with “so what if the Giants don’t want someone moving down the street” (I explained that the A’s would actually be further away), and “the bay area can’t support two teams, etc.

    If I were more of a Giants fan, or simply didn’t care about the A’s, I would not care whether or not the A’s build in San Jose. I would know that the Giants are sitting pretty right now, and the future looks very bright for them, and whether or not the A’s are around, and whether they were actually competitive, wouldn’t affect that.

    But again, I want to see how Giants fans feel about it.

  11. Demo J says:

    @jeff-athletic

    As a Giants fan living in Santa Clara County, I would say the “I don’t care” view is close enough to my feelings of the A’s situation. Really the whole thing is fascinating to me as a neutral observer and sports fan.

    I grew up in San Jose, still live close by, but the Giants are my team. When I was younger I cheered for the A’s and G’s about equally. Then Inter-league play came along and I had to choose, I think at some level I was always more of a Giants fan anyways.

    If they build in San Jose, great. It’s good for the Silicon Valley community as a whole. But I’m not going to switch to the A’s just because they’re a few miles away. I’ll check out Cisco field to be sure, but I’ll continue to attend AT&T for most of my baseball outings.

    Besides, as a 49ers fan I’ll soon have one of my teams close by in a few years.

  12. KEEP THE A’S IN OAKLAND! Say NO to San Jose!

    Once again, time wasted on a site that is never going to pan out when old dumb dumb Lew should have focused on Oakland after Fremont fell through. Just like Fremont, this is going to blow up in his face.

    Just save us all from more wasted time and b.s. Wolff and start building at Victory Court already or sell to someone who will!

  13. jk-usa says:

    @A’s Fan Radio–better watch out for the pro-SJ guys on here. They’ll beat up on you like a step child for ripping old Lewie.

  14. Tony D. says:

    Anyhow..
    moving along; Jeff athletic, I have yet to meet one giants fan down here who is against the A’s moving to SJ. The closest is one coworker who thinks if the A’s move in the “lil” giants will move out. If the SJ giants are able to stay with the A’s downtown then he’s all for it. The majority of giants fans I know are also pretty pissed over the giants position re territorial rights.

  15. GoA's says:

    @Tony D- same experience here- tint fans that I talk to are supportive of the A’s moving to SJ for all the reasons Demo J cited- with inter league play they will also be able to see their team locaaly

  16. Jeffrey says:

    A;s Fan Radio… Victory Court? When is that EIR starting again… And, why is that site not gonna blow up again? Seriously?
    .
    jk-usa, reasonable folks (who are pro bay area) don’t let drivel pass without a comment.

  17. xootsuit says:

    @Jeff-Athletic: As a Giants fan, I don’t care where the A’s play. I think the Giants are set for a while. The new owners who saved the Giants from moving to Fla. in 92 invested deeply and wisely in the team while they still played at Candlestick, and got moving on the privately funded new park, too. As a result, the new park (which is, you have to admit, beautiful) was sold out the first year, and has been a success ever since. The 2010 season reinvigorated everything. The Giants seem to be in a strong position. That will remain true no matter where the A’s play.
    I’ve lived in the East Bay, however, for most of my 33 years as a Giants fan. And as an East Bay resident, I would hate to see the A’s leave Oakland. I think Oakland needs the A’s. (I’ve also always sort of liked the A’s.) And I don’t trust Wolff. I don’t see how a downtown San Jose park could possibly draw the way the Giants park does. I just don’t see San Jose as a unique solution to the revenue problem. Personally, I would like to see a beautiful new A’s ballpark in Oakland, near downtown (or uptown). So to that extent, I have a preference.

  18. pjk says:

    Keep the A’s in Oakland? At what site? How will it be paid for? Oakland won’t pay for it and a privately built stadium in Oakland would bankrupt the owners. I’ve seen these “Keep the A’s in Oakland” banners at the current stadium at A’s games, amidst thousands and thousand and thousands of empty seats. Does Oakland have some sort of birthright to keep the A’s without supporting them? Ranked dead-last in attendance this season….Sell to someone who will pay $1 billion to buy the team and donate a $500 mill ballpark? Anyone think that’s going to happen? If San Jose doesn’t happen, what most likely happens is MLB buys the team from Wolff, wastes a season trying to sell to someone willing to privately finance a ballpark in Oakland, and then opens up the bidding to ownership groups from other parts of the country and the A’s are gone.

  19. Tony D. says:

    @suit,
    Giants are in a strong position, and the A’s deserve to be in that position as well, and being in SJ puts them there. Wait! You don’t see how SJ solves the revenue problem? They don’t call the SJ metro $ilicon Valley for nothing! Like yourself, I think it would be awesome for an A’s ballpark in Oakland…in the early 2000′s!! Alas, we are where we are today because the city of Oakland hasn’t did crap for the team going on 17 years. Enough is enough for the A’s…its time for SJ!

  20. xootsuit says:

    Look, I’m here to learn about the ballpark issues, that’s it. This blog is quite clearly a great place to learn about those issues. My personal preferences are just my preferences. (If I had my way, Oakland would budge Fairyland over a ways and put a beautiful new park on the point that juts into Lake Merritt. Splash hits for all.) My interest in the A’s ballpark issues grew exponentially after last week’s lawsuit alerted me to certain aspects of the territorial-rights chess game that has been going on for several years now under the radar. I guarantee you I’m not going to throw my support to one side or the other in that particular business battle based on my baseball allegiance. So, please, continue to respond to whatever I post if you feel like it — but don’t assume I’m hostile to A’s fans, or, even to A’s fans who want the team to move to San Jose. I’m not.

  21. Stanley Stanson says:

    Uh oh. Trouble in Miami. This might occupy some of the Commissioner’s time. A’s to back burner again???

    http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052970204826704577077230342369436-lMyQjAxMTAxMDAwNTEwNDUyWj.html?mod=wsj_share_email

  22. Sid says:

    The A’s in San Jose would be able to draw fans from Santa Clara, San Benito, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties with ease.

    Right now people in those 4 counties (2.6M people roughly) have little choice on baseball with the A’s and Giants located where they are now.

    The Giants will still have a bigger grasp on the Bay Area still but the A’s in San Jose will allow them to get fans from areas that have been otherwise neglected by MLB to this point.

    Alameda and Contra Costa belong to the Giants, I hate to say it. The A’s will still get some fans from there since it is opposite commute to San Jose on weeknights.

    The Giants will continue to do well at ATT for years to come. The A’s in San Jose will do much better than they would with a new Oakland ballpark because the Giants got such a long head start on them with Pac Bell in 2000 in that general metro area.

    Baseball meetings are going on right now……One can theorize Selig is meeting the Giants right now in private discussing the compensation MLB is willing to offer.

    I hope they refuse and get voted off the island….that way they get what they deserve. Nothing!

  23. Dan says:

    Or not. Looks like the chips are falling in the A’s and San Jose’s favor.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/12/05/SPV71M8NE7.DTL&tsp=1

    Even Jerry Reinsdorf a two team market owner is voting for the A’s. And he’s got nothing good to say about Oakland either. “Certainly, (the Coliseum is) past its time. In my opinion, Oakland’s past its time, too. Oakland’s had plenty of opportunity to build a stadium and hasn’t gotten it done.”

  24. doctorK says:

    Stanley Stanson
    December 5, 2011 at 9:18 PM (Quote)

    Uh oh. Trouble in Miami. This might occupy some of the Commissioner’s time. A’s to back burner again???

    Actually, since the A’s are ready to move forward with a plan that minimizes the public risk, and would be put up to a public vote, I’d think Selig would want to push the A’s forward. Baseball will need some good PR after one of their obscenely rich owners (Loria) screwed over the taxpayers of Miami to build him a private play-palace.

    BTW, I think the A’s should pay market value for the land – the difference really isn’t all that much, and the PR value for the A’s would probably be worth more than the extra few millions.

  25. Rayburn's Son says:

    Someone should ask Reinsdorf about his conversation with Lying Larry Baer before he got his ownership approval. This stuff is gonna make a really good book someday.

  26. TW says:

    >>>=Even Jerry Reinsdorf a two team market owner is voting for the A’s. And he’s got nothing good to say about Oakland either. “Certainly, (the Coliseum is) past its time. In my opinion, Oakland’s past its time, too. Oakland’s had plenty of opportunity to build a stadium and hasn’t gotten it done.”<<<

    Two owners just openly said — reading between the lines — they will support the A's in the T rights fight (whether it is to vote to revoke it or the more likely use the vote to make the Giants come to a fair deal). That's a big deal. If any other owner speaks like this in an interview, well, 3's a crowd. There can be no doubt this thing is breaking the A's to San Jose way….as well as little doubt the owner's meeting will be the big meeting.

    That doesn't mean it's a done deal with the owners but the A's ship has good wind in their sails while the Giants tack seems to have them in a flat sail area.

  27. Mossback says:

    I think the gnats lawsuit sealed the deal for the A’s. It’s one thing to whine and drag your feet, but overt hostility is not the done thing in the gentlemen’s club.

  28. Bill Weeks says:

    the last thing this city needs is to incur the responsibility of supporting the “WORST TEAM IN BASEBALL”
    squandering millions on them while cutting your city services.
    I guess the mayor has given up on attracting big business (not A’s) and he now just wants to
    paint the city workers as the bad guy’s at any opportunity. seems to me we should say NO to the A’s
    as well as the mayor

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