Despite an appeal by the Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, a judge has ruled that the $6 million assessment of the San Francisco 49ers’ property tax at Levi’s Stadium will stand. In a ruling issued in late November, Superior Court Judge Helen Williams rejected Stone’s challenge to the 2019 Assessment Appeals Board (AAB) valuation.
Stone isn’t happy with the ruling, but he wants to make it clear that he did not sue the 49ers, and he’s not upset about the team’s initial appeal.
“I think it’s important because there has been some confusion about the route that this whole issue took, but I want to make it clear that I did not sue the 49ers,” said Stone. “I sued the Assessment Appeals Board because of the decision that they rendered.
“I completely understand. The 49ers have every right, legal right, to contest a value that we put on their property, just like any homeowner does or corporation,” said Stone.
At issue is a 2019 ruling by the AAB, which says that the 49ers only owe $6 million in property taxes annually, half of the $12 million assessed value of Levi’s Stadium. In its ruling, the AAB said it’s because the team only uses the stadium for approximately six months of the year.
Stone believes that simplifies a very complex issue involving the value the 49ers receive from Levi’s Stadium.
“The City doesn’t decide that Taylor Swift’s going to come there and sing. The 49ers do, and there’s revenue generated from those concerts and meetings,” said Stone. “So that revenue, as I said, creates value and what I think, as the assessor, is that the Assessment Appeals Board incorrectly reduced the assessment in half because football is only played six months a year. It ignores all of the other value that occurs within that stadium, and it’s controlled by the 49ers.”
Stone says cutting the value in half like that was so out of the ordinary that he could not let the AAB’s ruling stand and had to take the issue to a higher court.
“Over the 29 years I’ve been the assessor, we have consistently, year in and year out, retained about 90% of the contested value for assessment appeals that are in dispute,” said Stone. “90% of all of the assessment appeals that ended up in the hearing, we retain 90% of the contested value… So, a 50% reduction for a single appeal is completely out of the ordinary. I have never seen anything close to that.”
He says the AAB gave no real explanation for the reduction and it did not feel right.
“Even the assessment appeals board comes back with a value that’s different than what the assessor has it on the roll for; they give you a reason,” said Stone. “I’ve never experienced anything where somebody just said, ‘We’re just going to cut it in half.’ Well, it’s unusual and out of the ordinary.”
The AAB is a three-person panel independent of the Assessor and trained by the State Board of Equalization. The panel is made up of property tax professionals, CPAs, attorneys and appraisers who are appointed by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
The ruling means that the 49ers will pay $180 million in property taxes over the next 30 years of the team’s lease.