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.