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Measure J Didn’t “Direct” Santa Clara to Build a 49ers Stadium, Say Stadium Opponents

Last week Santa Clara Plays Fair filed its answer to the Santa Clara Stadium Authority’s and the 49ers Stadium LLC lawsuits. The opponents of a Santa Clara 49ers stadium are fighting Santa Clara’s assertion that the actions in question – the financing agreements for stadium construction – are administrative rather than legislative.

In their brief SCPF’s attorneys, Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger say that:

  • Measure J didn’t direct the City to build a stadium; further, it gave authority to the City Council, not the Stadium Authority
  • SCPF submitted its petitions late because the city clerk’s office provided incomplete or incorrect information
  • If the court upholds the city’s position there’s no need for an injunction because the city can just refuse to put the agreements on the ballot

“The terms of Measure J are simple and general,” says the brief. “It adopted a brief ordinance that provides ‘minimum requirements’ for a ground lease for a stadium, but it did not demand that the City Council or Authority approve a stadium merely because it complies with those minimum requirements.”

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Some may find this a somewhat surprising interpretation of Measure J, which passed in June 2010 with 58 percent of the vote. The ballot initiative clearly states the city’s intention of leasing city land for a stadium:

“Shall the City of Santa Clara adopt Ordinance 17.20 leasing City property for a professional football stadium and other events; no use of City General or Enterprise funds for construction; no new taxes for residents for stadium; Redevelopment Agency funds capped for construction; private party pays all construction cost overruns; no City/Agency obligation for stadium operating/maintenance; private party payment of projected fair market rent; and addition funds for senior/youth/library/recreation to City’s General Fund?”

And if that isn’t definite enough, the title of City Ordinance 17.20 is “Professional Football Stadium Ground Lease.” The 1,365 word ordinance refers to a “football stadium” six times and a “stadium authority” 12 times.

Some might ask why SCPF would care one way or another about an injunction against the referendum, if the court upholds the Stadium Authority’s position. That’s made clear in this footnote:

“Because the Authority has improperly refused to comply with its ministerial duty of placing the referenda on the ballot, SCPF intends to file its own cross-petition seeking a writ to compel the Authority to do so.”

In other words, stay tuned for more litigation.

Santa Clara’s case will be heard in County Superior Court on Monday, March 5, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. in Department 8. Judge Peter Kirwan, appointed to the court in 2006 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, will hear the case. Kirwan was in the news last year because he ruled against a dentist who sued the business rating website Yelp and two reviewers for a negative post.

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