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.