While San Jose's hopes for bringing the A's baseball team to a downtown ballpark remain in limbo, the city is toughening its stance toward opponents of the move from Oakland.
The San Francisco Giants have openly opposed an A's move into the lucrative Silicon Valley market they claim as their territory. But San Jose officials have argued the Giants also are chief actors behind local efforts to block an A's downtown ballpark, and are moving more aggressively to expose the team's role.
Last week the city filed for a court order allowing it to examine the organizational structure -- and any Giants ties -- of Stand For San Jose, a community group whose lawsuit over the proposed ballpark has raised questions about the San Jose plan's viability.
And in June, city officials threatened to seek higher payment from the Giants' minor-league affiliate for use of San Jose's Municipal Stadium if the team doesn't disclose its role in the litigation.
"I think we have a right to know who's behind Stand for San Jose," said City Attorney Rick Doyle. "The perception all along is that it's the Giants who are behind this."
Stand for San Jose's spokesman did not respond to requests for comment. Giants spokeswoman Staci Slaughter said the team is honoring Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's request that the teams not comment on the matter.
Though Slaughter last year had said the Giants were among Stand For San Jose's supporters, a source indicated
In court responses, Stand for San Jose has argued that the city's request to learn more about the group and its members are irrelevant and a violation of their free-speech and privacy rights, calling them "harassing, burdensome and intended to chill" their "public participation."
San Jose has been seeking to become the Oakland A's new home for more than three years since the team abandoned plans for a new Fremont ballpark. The A's have argued the Giants' were granted territorial rights to Santa Clara County only in the context of failed efforts to build ballparks there in the early 1990s.
Major League Baseball must resolve the territorial dispute before the A's could consider a San Jose move. But a committee Selig convened more than three years ago continues to study the matter -- including visits over the summer to San Jose and Oakland -- with no timetable for a resolution, though many sense a decision is nearing.
Stand for San Jose's Dec. 2 lawsuit alleged San Jose's environmental and traffic studies of the proposed ballpark were flawed and that the city should have let voters decide whether to allow the A's to buy some city-owned land for the project at less than its potential value. City law requires a public vote before the stadium could be built with any public money.
The suit identified Stand for San Jose as an "unincorporated coalition of entities and individuals," including "residents and taxpayers" in San Jose and Santa Clara County, and the San Jose Giants, the San Francisco ball club's Class-A advanced affiliate. It said the group was "formed and dedicated to addressing the risks to the environment and financial issues posed by the ballpark project."
The suit named a half-dozen people as plaintiffs: Eileen Hannan, Michelle Brenot, Robert Shields and Fred and Karen Shirey, all of San Jose, and Robert Brown, a Los Gatos resident who works in San Jose.
The city's latest motion asked the court to compel Stand for San Jose to demonstrate that it has legal "standing" to sue the city over the ballpark. The city argued the plaintiffs must be city taxpayers or to have objected to the ballpark proposal on environmental grounds.
"Improper motives -- such as a desire to place hurdles before a business competitor -- may defeat standing," the city argued in court.
In bolstering its argument, the city quotes from a Mercury News article in which Hannan told a reporter she didn't know her name would be on the lawsuit and didn't want to discuss it, and the other plaintiffs did not respond or could not be located for comment.
But the group argued in court papers rejecting the city's requests that it already has demonstrated its members' standing to sue, that the threshold is low and that the city wants to engage in a "fishing expedition."
Michael Mulcahy, who co-chairs the booster group Baseball San Jose, was heartened to see the city getting tough with the San Francisco Giants.
"I think it's important to know who they're dealing with," Mulcahy said. "And if it's the Giants, they should stand up and say so and not get innocent San Jose people who happen to be Giants fans to fight their battle for them."
Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.