SAN JOSE -- A residents group suing San Jose over plans to build a new downtown ballpark for the Oakland A's has filed a new complaint accusing the city of illegally maintaining a land-purchase agreement with the team.
The lawsuit, filed this week in Santa Clara County Superior Court on behalf of Stand for San Jose, challenges a city transfer of ballpark land in June back to a redevelopment "successor agency." The transfer was made "subject to the terms and provisions of the option agreement" with the Athletics ownership for below-market purchase of the property, which Stand for San Jose argues is an unlawful "encumbrance."
"The city took additional actions with the transfer of land, which we maintain are still illegal," said Ronald Van Buskirk, Stand for San Jose's lawyer.
Assistant City Attorney Nora Frimann said the city hasn't seen the new complaint but said that it "appears to be a rehashing of the original complaint, which we don't think has any merit."
Stand for San Jose filed its original complaint in late 2011, challenging both the city's environmental approval of the conceptual ballpark and the granting of the option agreement. Under that deal, the A's would pay up to $75,000 over three years for the right to buy almost 5 acres of downtown city land for $6.9 million. The city's redevelopment agency had paid $25 million for the land in the area targeted for the ballpark.
City consultants in 2010 said the property would fetch $13.9 million if sold for retail and office space, but only $6.9 million if restricted for ballpark use. Two other privately owned parcels totaling about 5.5 acres would also need to be acquired to complete the proposed 13.4-acre ballpark site.
Gov. Jerry Brown's move eliminating redevelopment agencies statewide to divert their funds to schools and local government services threw a wrench in San Jose's ballpark plan. In an effort to keep the state's claws off the ballpark property, San Jose transferred it to a city "Diridon Development Authority" and signed the purchase option with the A's.
But the state controller's office earlier this year ruled that transfer illegal and ordered the land returned to a redevelopment "successor agency," made up of city and other local officials, which oversees the sale of former redevelopment property.
The new lawsuit argues that by encumbering the land with the option agreement, it is devaluing the property by $22 million, noting that the controller had said it is now worth $29 million.
The original Stand for San Jose lawsuit is scheduled for a hearing in November. Van Buskirk said the new complaint likely will be combined with it but was filed separately because it involves a new city action.
Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.