Stand for San Jose launches second lawsuit against City of San Jose

Earlier this week I added a section to the sidebar called Lawsuits so that people could easily find references to the ongoing legal battles among the City of San Jose, MLB, and the Giants. Little did I know at the time that the section would have to be expanded. Yet here we are with now a third lawsuit to keep track of. This time it’s between the same Giants-lawyered astroturf group that filed the first lawsuit, Stand for San Jose, and the City of San Jose.

Santa Clara Superior Court Case 1-13-CV-250372, filed Wednesday, seeks to challenge the transfer of the Diridon ballpark site [thanks John Woolfolk of the Merc] to the Successor Agency (SARA), whose oversight board is composed of San Jose and Santa Clara County representatives. In March, the State Controller ruled that the transfer of the Diridon parcels to the separate Diridon Development Authority was not allowed, which forced the City to hand over the properties to SARA. At the time, SARA had its own objections to the ruling, namely that it felt it had a deal with A’s ownership by virtue of the option inked in November 2011. The Controller ruled that the November deal came after the cutoff date proscribed by AB 1X26, whereas the City said that the date was meaningless. Naturally, the Controller stuck with its original ruling, which led to the June transfer of the land to SARA.

Keep in mind that the land wasn’t transferred or sold to the A’s. It was only moved from one governmental body to another as defined by the new law. The option was signed by the A’s, with the only obligation within the first five years being that the A’s pay a nominal annual fee.

S4SJ’s argument is that the option isn’t valid at all because of the ruling. It’s a strange set of circumstances because in the other lawsuit, S4SJ is challenging the entirety of the ballpark deal on three issues:

  • The EIR was “incomplete” (despite having been certified for two different-sized stadia and with updated traffic studies)
  • The deal would take funds away from schools and city services (hard to argue because per the terms of the AB 1X26, city/county/schools have to be made whole)
  • The deal was done without a public vote (City was dissuaded from holding a referendum by Bud Selig).

Now S4SJ is going after the SARA transfer, but what they’re really after is the option. The option is a basic tenet of San Jose’s lawsuit against MLB, and if S4SJ can disarm that threat the antitrust suit would take a big hit. The argument is that there’s no option because the Controller ruled against the transfer to DDA. But that’s as far as the Controller’s power goes. Once the land ends up in SARA’s hands, it can dispose of it as it sees fit, including to the “late” A’s. The Controller and SARA went back and forth after the final ruling. From the Controller’s final ruling:

The City feels that this finding is “simply form over substance and wastes valuable time, energy and resources to arrive at the same result;” however, the legislation is clear that the oversight board shall have the authority to dispose of all assets and properties of the former redevelopment agency (Health and Safety Code Section 34181 (a)). Any attempt to deny the oversight board its rights would be thwarting the intent of the legislation.

SARA’s argument is that the deal with the A’s was going to happen with either DDA (transfer upheld) or SARA (transfer rejected). Which is exactly what happened. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed telegraphed the strategy at the time. Did the deal not count because the Controller ruled it was late? Is it a deal because of the technicality the City is trying to argue? Or is it a deal regardless?

The real question is, How quickly can S4SJ get a ruling on this? I have no idea how this lawsuit would proceed through the system, especially because it has a related case just starting its trial phase in the fall. S4SJ attorney Ronald Van Buskirk indicates that the two S4SJ lawsuits will be combined, likely creating further delay. Importantly, the new suit names SARA as a party. SARA didn’t exist when the original lawsuit was filed.

Woolfolk notes that the San Jose Giants aren’t a plaintiff/petitioner, which would presumably protect the lawsuit from the discovery actions taken by the City last summer. Still, it’s clear that the SF Giants are behind the whole thing since this move was timed a few weeks after the antitrust lawsuit – just as the S4SJ lawsuit was filed a month after the A’s option deal was struck. At this point, all of the players must have a good idea what moves can and will be played by their counterparts.

Armchair legal experts, have at it.


P.S. – I have a request or two. Please try to stay on topic, and also try to stay away from the usual “XXXX Sucks” type of discourse. If all you’re going to do is vent, I’ll probably delete it. Bite a towel or something.

54 thoughts on “Stand for San Jose launches second lawsuit against City of San Jose

  1. It has been almost a year since I dealt with the dissolution of RDA statutes, but I do remember this: The successor agency cannot simply dispose of former RDA assets as it sees fit. Here, the facts are opaque. Is the successor agency is a JPA or the City? The Oversight Board is supposed to vet the successor agency’s decisions, not make decisions for it.

    You could make a case, I suppose, that holding onto downtown property in the hope that the A’s might buy it some day is not a proper way to liquidate the property to maximize revenue. If the former RDA, however, owned the property before AB1x26 was enacted and entered into the option agreement with the A’s before then, I’m puzzled by the claim that the successor agency can’t own the property. The issue would seem to be whether the option with the A’s is still alive.

    Do you have a copy of the petition/complaint?

  2. RM,
    I think you nailed it with the ” that’s as far as the controller’s powers go” line re the option with the “late” A’s. If SARA wants to honor the A’s land option born under RDA and than transferred to DDA, that’s their right and there’s nothing S4SF can do about it. S4SF might personally not like the arrangement, but it doesn’t mean it’s illegal. BTW, if the “big” Giants are really behind S4SF’s lawsuit and they’re going after the “option,” sounds like SJ’s lawsuit vs MLB has some real teeth to it.
    As for the original S4SF lawsuit…(biting towel very hard!)

  3. Reading xoot’s post (and if true), I think the worst that would happen is that the courts would make the A’s (Wolff) pay full market value for the land to “maximize revenue” for the state. Other than that, nothing else suggests the current option is illegal. BTW, is there a time frame/limit by which the land needs to be sold by the successor agency? Don’t see why the successor agency (anywhere in the state actually) can’t hold onto a piece of land/property indefinitely (especially if there are no buyers).

  4. So reading your thread from March RM I can draw this conclusion: the A’s land option did not prevent the Diridon plots from being transferred to the successor agency, BUT nothing suggests the option itself is voided or that SARA can’t abide by it. Reed suggested that state law supports SARA abiding by the option.

  5. Last bit of arm chairing from me this morning: don’t believe the successor agency or the controllers office can dictate land use for any California city. Meaning: if former RDA land was set aside for (say) parklands, the aforementioned can’t now say “NO! you can no longer build a park there; the land must be sold off to someone who will build an office tower in order to maximize revenues for the state/counties.”

  6. Didn’t the Giants tell Jean Quan they would tie up a San Jose ballpark in court for 10 years? Well, here we are. Coward-in-Chief Selig remains hiding under his desk, too terrified to do anything.

    • @pjk – This is what I’m talking about. See end of post.

      @xoot – No I don’t, haven’t had the chance to head down there to take a look.

  7. Using the number character 4 in the Stand For San Jose is a really slimey (and lame) way to get around being SFSJ. SFSJ looks like something you’d see on a t-shirt of a teenaged boy with really bad taste in music.

    • @Briggs – I coined “S4SJ”, not the group. You’re free to use S4SJ and SFSJ interchangeably. The group hasn’t put out any public information in 2 years.

  8. The giants managment must be really perterbed by SJ’s lawsuit against MLB. The Giants have stepped up their propoganda efforts (that also could be to compensate for the A’s first place standing, and the giants last in the NL West)- now another lawsuit by their false SFSJ group. All these efforts by the giants mgt. may be proof that they are losing the battle.

  9. Many docket documents are available on-line from other superior court websites. Why Santa Clara Superior Court refuses to make its documents available electronically I can’t understand. High tech capital of the world?

  10. What I think the S4SJ lawsuit is hoping for is for the delay to be long enough to eventually force the sale of the land to be used for anything other than for a ballpark.

  11. @llpec–the only problem with that strategy is the city of SJ gets to control what is built on that land. Someone else can buy it as long as they are willing to build a stadium on it.

  12. llpec – there is the eminent domain factor. Besides – the giants owners’ (SFSJ)lawsuits likely won’t carry much weight if San Jose beats MLB in court.

  13. llpec, strange goal since someone has to buy it and Wolff and/or a front for Wolff could just as easily purchase it from whoever. That’s sort of the rub of this agreement and the successor issue, pretty much any agency who’s taking this land over, likely honors the agreement.

  14. haven’t look at the plantiff’s and compared them to the previous lawsuit..anyone else added or dropped off? As I recall there were a few folks on that who weren’t happy that their names had been made public.

  15. one thing that does bother me about the media reaction is no where are there headlines that say SF Giants continue to wage war against city of SJ… Most articles don’t even bother to mention that the group is fronted by the gints—where is the TK article lambasting the gints for meddling in the affairs of SJ….ok–I probably crossed ML’s line but just had to get that off my chest 🙂

  16. @GoA’s you are right on the money, I dont think any news outlet in the Bay Area is even scraching the surface on this SF Giants crap. I realize that people that read, and post on this blog have a special intrest in this issue and its vary nich, but given the information that we know, it really makes me look at the meida (all typs ) in a bad way

  17. @ML
    By the time we get a new ballpark, in San Jose, Oakland, Fremont, or the moon, what’s the over/under on say 10 lawsuits, when we get to the end of this. I think the lawyers well be happier ($$$) then all of us.

  18. These moves are likely a signal that the giants managment’s case is in trouble – the giants owners group appears to getting desperate.

  19. @duffer
    I guess all we can do is read the tea leaves, which we usually do in a way that’s most favorable to the outcome we would like to see. The same could be said of the A’s via the San Jose vs. MLB lawsuit, either one could be interrupted as a Hail Mary.

  20. True, even in the MLB circles though, the A’s likely have a majority of the owners favoring their move. Also the SCOTUS (the buck stops there) view concerning the MLB ATE and TR is clear (not favoring the giants and MLB)

  21. @duffer
    Good points, I previously stated in another post, a part of me would like to see the A’s get San Jose, if for no other reason than the Giants suffering, for all they have done to our team.

  22. @duffer – That’s what I warned against. Deleted.

  23. @ML
    Sorry, it’s a LOL seeing how the giants spin-doctors are dealing with the last place giants and 1st place A’s though!

  24. @ML – thanks for connecting the dots on ties of S4SF (Wont say SJ) and the MLB lawsuit. As others have said, if only the local media would pick up on this “reaction” by the Gints….sigh. It truly is now the Giants vs. San Jose (and not the A’s)!

  25. Agree with anon; will always be S4SF, not “SJ.” They in no way represent me or the many that want MLB in the heart of the nations 10th largest city (haven’t said that in awhile; I was due). I once sent them an email expressing my disgust with their actions; alas, never got a reply (probably to be busy running around SF).
    I again offer my proposal to rid us of all this lawsuit/legal bullshit: make SCCO a shared territory of the Giants/ A’s, allow the A’s to move to SJ, guarantee the Giants franchise value and have the A’s pay the Giants a little scratch annually (TV revenues) until AT&T Park is paid off. As I’ve stated for the past 4 years; continues to be a win, win all around…no need for lawsuits or legal actions. Enough already!!

  26. S$SJ used to have a picture of a happy family on its home page (I wont go to that hoome page).Somebody wrote that the family presumably was happy over San Jose’s lack of a Major League Baseball stadium.

  27. @ Tony D. Perhaps you or ML can correct me if I’am wrong, but I think the Bay Area is the only two team market in MLB that is not a shared tarritory? BTW “a win, win all around” ? not for Oakland and many in the east bay, sorry my fried just had to put that in there (-:

  28. @lakeshore,
    Correct; Bay Area only two-team market that doesn’t enjoy shared territory status. And I stand corrected: a win, win for most (A’s, Giants, MLB and city of San Jose). Those who want to see the A’s stay in Oakland would naturally be disappointed with my “win, win” scenario. Again, I just want SJ to be free to get a crack at the A’s. If we fail and fall flat on our faces, then we never deserved MLB in the first place; I would then be all in on The O! 😉

  29. @Tony D. Yeah, its not like my home town of Oakland has not been falling flat on its face, for the last 15-20 years, when it comes to the A’s, hay man its a win if we can keep them in the Bay Area win, win, win.

  30. Silicon Valley was prune and apricot orchards when the A’s moved to Oakland in 1968. Fairchild was just starting to produce semiconductors (and to pollute the air and water of the valley with the acids it used in the “fabs.”) Neither the A’s nor the Giants cared about Santa Clara County. In 1990, things were different, but not dramatically. Things finally changed in the South Bay when software ascended along with the internet.

    So the Bay Area two-team market was unlike the other two-team markets in the country until recently. Now shared territory is the only sensible resolution. But to make the transition, some money has to flow to the Giants. How much? Personally I don’t think it needs to be much, especially paid over time. The delay in letting the A’s move has been valuable in itself. But the A’s also have to take on the responsibility of being in a big two-team market. They have to pay revenue sharing money, etc. I don’t think the A’s owners are willing to do that.

  31. @ Lakeshore – my apologies for anything I may have written about you or to you in the past. You are definitely pro-Oakland, but not Oakland-only, and I am rooting that somehow Oakland can pull it off, because I just want a new home for our beloved A’s, period!

  32. @Anon Thanks at some point, it’s not about San Jose, Oakland, or Fremont, it’s about whats best for our A’s and them (we as fans), geting a new long turm home (in the Bay Area), I think we are well past that point.

  33. This lawsuit will get thrown out for a few reasons.

    1. The land in dispute by “itself” is worth more than what San Jose is selling to the A’s for but the economic impact of the ballpark will boost the value of the land by “itself” to much higher levels.

    2. The lawsuit argues the land can be sold for more for office/retail space. It is easy to argue there is a ton of open office space all over Downtown and North San Jose and with Santana Row/Valley Fair so near by to sell the land for those reasons would not be “economically wise”.

    3. The tax revenue from a ballpark that is privately financed would be far greater to the city than office/retail space that may never get built because of so much competition nearby. While a ballpark would only have competition 50 miles away in ATT Park.

    4. A vote is going to occur at some point but as ML pointed out above, Selig shot it down. When the anti-trust lawsuit gets heard (which it will), San Jose should put this to a vote and use eminent domain on ATT to finalize the site.

    In conclusion, this lawsuit is a total Giants ploy to delay the inevitable, their arguments are flawed in every way as I pointed out above.

    The Anti-Trust lawsuit has the Giants “shitting themselves” big time. This is the proof in the here and now.

  34. The fact that both the A’s and Giants share the same market, but do not share the same territory is unprecedented. Excluding this ridiculous exception, none of the four major sports leagues with teams that share the same market have been subdivided into separate exclusive territories for each team. As a result, any team playing in either their own or a shard market is free to move or build their privately funded stadium/arena anywhere within that market, and on the site of their own choosing. Of Course, provided that a particular facility site is in compliance with building code regulations, environmental compliance, and voter approval, if applicable.

    I support the A’s move to San Jose, since it appears to be the team’s most economically viable site within the Bay Area market. The move to San Jose will also benefit MLB, since the team would no longer be the recipient of revenue sharing handouts. As for the Giants, they would either prefer the A’s to eventually move from the Bay Area, or at worst to coexist with a perpetually weakened A’s franchise playing in a less than desirable ballpark site within the East Bay. Also, the Giants are too selfish to admit that an A’s move to San Jose would have no negative impact on the future viability of their franchise. In actuality, two strong MLB franchise in the Bay Area will most certainly benefit both Bay Area teams.

  35. re: The lawsuit argues the land can be sold for more for office/retail space

    …Downtown San Jose as of May had an office vacancy rate of nearly 20 percent. So we’re supposed to add some more empty office buildings?…As far as retail, just point to the utter-failure San Jose Retail Pavilion, which I think is used by an Internet service provider now. I bought my first-ever Sharks shirt there. But the whole retail complex went under. And yes, who is going to build retail in congested, parking-challenged downtown San Jose now when Valley Fair and Santana Row are 5 minutes away? Either way, it’s none of the Giants business what San Jose does with its downtown land.

  36. I don’t think we can point to Oakland’s crime problem as a reason for the A’s to leave. Other cities (Saint Louis, Detroit, etc) have crime problems and baseball does just fine in these places. Does anyone here fear for their personal safety at A’s games? Didn’t think so. The issue is, Oakland has no viable ballpark site, no $$ and there’s no corporate $$ there to get a new ballpark done. That and the A’s long tradition of putting out fine teams but still finishing in the bottom tier of attendance in Oakland.

  37. Being a Giants fan who lives and works in Oakland, I really enjoy reading these fantasies from time to time. Knock yourselves out.

    @ML–I saw your tweet about the law firm representing the Giants (and the S4SJ front group). That firm has A/T experience going back to its representation of Standard Oil of Calif. a hundred years ago (aka Chevron, more recently). In fact, for many decades the law firm and SOil/Chevron shared the same building at the corner of Sansome and Bush. The CEO and other execs occuppied offices on the 18th floor; the major partners of the law firm were on the 19th. I think the execs rapped broom handles against the ceiling when they needed a litigator fast. I’m sure it’s possible to incorporate a caricature of the law firm itself into a dark-side, SFGiants-are-the-devil narrative.

  38. @x00t it’s nice to have a Giants fans point of view, what would you like to see happen in this situation?, I recall back in the 90’s, when the Giants where trying to build in SJ I was hoping they would get it done, I would have rather them be in SJ then TB even though they are not my team, what are yiur thiughts?

  39. OT: you heard it here first! The 2013 World Series: the Oakland Athletics vs the LA Dodgers. A rematch of 1988; can’t wait!

  40. @Tony D. – Nice call, but I’m hoping for a Pirates vs A’s World Series!

  41. @ Tony D. and AG Pirates vs. A’s, Oakland in 7. lowest TV raitings ever, good that is what MLB gets, for always pushing their big market teams on us. Wait! ESPN says that even though it’s the best WS ever, they must show us a reairing of old timers game, Boston vs NY. They will have the highlights of A’s and Pirates at 57 after the Hr., if it’s ok with the SF. Giants.

  42. @lakeshore–I’m sure those zeroes in my screen name aren’t signifying, so . . . .;) I want the A’s to stay in the Bay Area; I’d prefer Oakland; I think Wolff/Fisher are holding out now for better terms from mlb (with respect to revenue sharing when the new park is built) and from the Giants (the ultimate payments to SF should decline the longer this delay drags on). So I blame both franchises, mlb and the union for the current imbroglio.

    But I really think the root problem is the strange nature of the “major market” here in the Bay Area finally maturing. Growing pains? Labor pains? Just work it out and head into the future with two successful franchises in town.

  43. Nice posts. Back ON TOPIC R.M.; reading today’s Merc Internal Affairs, it appears (on the surface) that the SJ Giants are no longer involved with S4SF and their frivolous lawsuits. So out of fairness the question must be asked: are the Giants (both SF and SJ) really involved with this S4SF legal nonsense?

  44. @xoot Sorry (00) my bad, thanks for your feed back.

  45. You must be asking a rhetorical question Tony D.

  46. @Tony: I don’t know what’s going on with the SJ Giants, but I think you can be sure the SF Giants are paying the legal fees for S4SJ.

  47. “But I really think the root problem is the strange nature of the “major market” here in the Bay Area finally maturing. Growing pains? Labor pains? Just work it out and head into the future with two successful franchises in town.”

    For certain it is partly due to growing pains. The Bay Area was SF and Oakland for many years. I’m guessing its rare for an established two metro area/team market to have a third metro area pop up, SCC, and have it become the economic Titan that it is.
    The Bay Area is not a two team market…at least not as I see how MLB defines it. MLB decided to make it two separate markets that are geographically abutted. I don’t see labor pains as any cause, I see it as the Bay Area being a victim of circumstance (for lack of a a better phrase). Now the question is will they decide it is, once again, a two team market or will they keep it two abutted markets? IMHO they would be foolish to change the status quo unless they change it into an actual two team market (else risk another headache down the line).

    This is all that matters not the S4SF foolishness. I can’t imagine LW or SJ are too concerned about the original or new lawsuit from S4SF. My only concern with S4SJ is a media one. There is an entertaining story to tell about them and about the seemly underside of the business of pro sports. Instead just about every media outlet continues to describe S4SF as a group of concerned citizens. Journalism as its finest!

  48. The media in general, simply don’t do their homework, it doesn’t really matter what the story is they supply show up take a few notes and report, only from a superficial point of view. The fact is ML has put in more investigative research, and man hours in to this A’s, Giants, MLB, Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco, Fremont, soap opera, then anyone in the traditional Bay Area media, and they actually get paid to do it. I mentioned earlier that this was a niche subject, many baseball fans, casual and non-casual, don’t care where the A’s play, or if they get a new park, they simply want to show up watch a game, and go about their lives, but this has been drug out for so long, that you would think someone, anyone, in the media would at least look at some of the moving parts, but that’s not happening.

  49. What impact, if any, will the extension of BART to Santa Clara County have on furthering the consolidation of the Bay Area market? One hundred years ago, San Francisco and Oakland were considered two distinct separate areas, since the only direct link between the two cities was via ferry. Also, when the A’s first moved to Oakland back in 1968, BART was not yet in operation. Those who still view the San Francisco peninsula and the East Bay as two distinct separate markets are living in the past. The infusion of the automobile, plus the building of modern freeways, bridges, tunnels, and the expansion of a fast modern rail system has helped to consolidate once distinct and separate areas into one large entity. The transformation of the Bay Area, especially over the last few decades, is a prime example.

  50. You forgot the #1 thing that has shrunk the divide in the Bay Area in the last 20 years: the Internet.

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