Hours before Sacramento officials made their case to the NBA to keep the Kings in town, a citizens' group filed a "notice of intent" to sue the city to block the proposed downtown arena.
The notice was filed in Sacramento County Superior Court by a group calling itself the Coalition for Responsible Arena Development. The coalition is represented by Sacramento attorneys Patrick Soluri and Jeffrey Anderson, who to this point haven't disclosed who is in the group. Soluri and Anderson previously vowed to take the city to court if an arena deal was made without going to a public vote.
The proposed lawsuit would challenge the City Council's approval last week of a term sheet spelling out the financing for a $448 million arena at Downtown Plaza. The deal includes $258 million in public subsidies.
Although the term sheet is non-binding, the proposed lawsuit said it violates California's Environmental Quality Act by "committing to construction and operation" of the arena without first completing environmental reviews.
City officials have said they won't commit to spending any city money until the reviews are done.
The proposed lawsuit also says the financing terms "constitute an unlawful gift of public funds to private parties," in violation of the state Constitution.
Sacramento City Attorney James Sanchez said the threat of the lawsuit was "a premature step." He said an environmental review would take place for months before the council makes a final vote on the arena's development agreement and financing model.
"It's not until the final decision (to finance the arena) is returned to the City Council that the CEQA requirement kicks in," he said.
Sanchez also disputed the claim that the arena term sheet grants a gift of public funds. He said the courts typically side with legislative bodies such as City Councils when those councils believe subsidies lead to job creation and the elimination of blight.
"We believe and the council believes that economic development is a public benefit worthy of this investment," Sanchez said.
The court filing was made on the eve of a pivotal meeting in New York, when separate delegations from Sacramento and Seattle will submit proposals to a committee of NBA owners.
Seattle investors have already struck a deal with the Maloof family to buy the team and move the Kings to Seattle. Sacramento's investors and Mayor Kevin Johnson are trying to sell the NBA on a counter-proposal to buy the Kings and have them play in the proposed Downtown Plaza facility.