The San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara is just a year or so away from its July 2014 opening, but some Santa Clara residents are still fighting the stadium’s construction. Santa Clara Plays Fair, a committee opposed to the newly-named Levi’s Stadium, is organizing its members to appear at the Redevelopment Agency’s Oversight Board meeting Tuesday afternoon.
“The city of Santa Clara and the City Council appear to be looking out for the well-being of the 49ers, not citizens and taxpayers,” said Deborah Bess, a spokesperson for Santa Clara Plays Fair. Bess believes city leaders are pulling strings to help the team, to the detriment of Santa Clara’s citizens.
The Board is set to decide whether or not to allocate roughly $25 million of redevelopment agency funding to the 49ers for stadium construction. Stadium agreements between the 49ers and the Santa Clara Stadium Authority indicate that any stadium-related predevelopment costs incurred by the 49ers shall be treated as a loan by the team to the Stadium Authority. The 49ers recently petitioned to be repaid for their costs, which they estimate at $40 million.
In response to that petition, Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner ruled that the Redevelopment Agency’s Oversight Board must determine whether the 49ers have met the conditions of the stadium agreements. If they have met those conditions, the board must determine both how much to repay the 49ers and where that money should come from.
In a recent agenda report, Santa Clara City Manager Julio Fuentes recommended that the Oversight Board pay the 49ers more than $25 million. He found that the 49ers kept up their end of the agreements and are entitled to repayment from the Stadium Authority. Fuentes acknowledged that the agreements don’t outline a specific payment period, but he claims, “None of these amounts represent either a ‘windfall’ or an accelerated payment. They instead represent the amounts actually due under the Stadium Agreements.”
The only feasible source of those funds, according to Fuentes, is property tax revenue allocated for the redevelopment agency. And while Santa Clara Plays Fair can do little to halt the construction of the stadium itself, the group hopes to keep taxpayer money out of it.
“The 49ers are ripping off the citizens and taxpayers of Santa Clara,” said Bess, who accused Fuentes of misrepresenting the judge’s findings. She also claimed that the city of Santa Clara and a host of local media outlets are in the team’s pocket. “Who’s looking out for the interest of the taxpayers?”
There appears to be little to substantiate Bess’ claim of active misrepresentation on Fuentes’ part. His report, for one, seems in line with Judge Sumner’s directives.
Still, Santa Clara Plays Fair seems poised to keep fighting the stadium in the face of long odds. “We want fiscal responsibility in our city,” Bess said. “Somebody has to watch what’s going on.”