State rolls back San Jose ballpark land transfer
Update 7:30 PM – Added link to Controller’s report.
Yesterday we got word that the 49ers and Santa Clara prevailed in its lawsuit to reclaim $40 million in redevelopment funds. Today comes the news that the State of California has ruled that land transfers from the City of San Jose to the Diridon Development Authority were ruled illegal.
The Controller’s ruling on the ballpark land seems to hinge entirely on the fact that the City/RDA didn’t enter into a sale agreement with A’s ownership until November 2011, after the June 28, 2011 cutoff when AB 1X 26 took effect.
The RDA made unallowable asset transfers of $29,137,727 to the San Jose Diridon Development Authority (Authority), a joint powers authority made up of the City and the RDA. All of the property transfers occurred during the period of January 1, 2011, through January 31, 2012 and the assets were not contractually committed to a third party prior to June 28, 2011.
The graf above comes from the 12-page report released today, a draft of which was sent to the City on November 15, 2012 to allow for a response. The City argued that “there is no statutory or legal support” for the 6/28/11 cutoff to no avail. The Controller disregarded this argument and directed the land be turned over to County-appointed Successor Agency, whose oversight board will make the final determination of what to do with the land. City has cutely shortened “Successor Agency” to SARA and for good reason. What does SARA stand for?
Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Jose
If the Diridon Development Authority is the “son” of revelopment, SARA is the daughter. What does SARA make of this mess?
Ordering the City to return the assets to the Successor Agency only to have the Oversight Board direct that they be returned to the City is simply form over substance and wastes valuable time, energy and resources to arrive at the same result.
Regardless of what happened with the Controller’s decision (which was expected) the City still feels that the land will end up with the A’s. If they had inked the sale agreement in March 2011 instead of November, the transfers would’ve been in the clear. Now they could sue the State the same way the 49ers did, but since that would be even more costly and the City and County are already working on a proper land disposition agreement, that seems like a terrible idea.
What will happen next? My guess is that the land won’t actually be sold. Instead, the parties will work on a lease agreement that would allow the A’s to build on the public portion of the ballpark site while the A’s buy the rest over time. The alternative is to sell the land for “market value”, with a yield large enough to be approved by the Controller. The purpose of this is two-fold: get a sale so that funds can be sent to the state, and ensure that the land is assessed at a value high enough to get adequate proceeds to the state, county, and schools. Mayor Chuck Reed, who is on the SARA oversight board, released a statement in response to the ruling just a few minutes ago.
I am disappointed in the findings made by the State Controller regarding certain properties transferred from the San Jose Redevelopment Agency to the City of San Jose, San Jose Diridon Development Authority, and City Housing Agency.
The properties transferred to the City include assets that serve a civic or government function, and likely will fall under the government use provisions of the new redevelopment dissolution law and my expectation is that the Oversight Board will make the same findings.
With respect to the Diridon Development Authority properties, the State Controller failed to recognize an Option Agreement validly entered into between the JPA and the Athletics Investment Group. Any transfer of these properties to the Successor Agency would be subject to the contractual rights of the Athletics Investment Group as required under state law.
The City Council and County Supervisors have both made their desire to have a ballpark built on the site known through formal resolutions in the past. My expectation is that we will continue to work together to bring the Athletics to San Jose regardless of the ultimate ownership of the JPA properties.
Coincidentally, an oversight board meeting is scheduled for tomorrow morning at City Hall. While this news came too late to make the meeting agenda, I would expect the matter to be discussed. I’ll attend and report back.