Sacramento attorney Patrick Soluri failed in his well-publicized attempt to block the public subsidy for the new $507 million Kings arena. Now he’s going after an even bigger sports deal: the $1 billion San Francisco arena planned by the Golden State Warriors.
Soluri and his law partner, Osha Meserve, have joined a legal team that has filed two separate lawsuits against the Warriors project, which would relocate the team from its current home in Oakland. The suits, one of which has been filed in Sacramento, say the arena would create a logistical nightmare for San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood and could even endanger the lives of patients rushing to the year-old UC San Francisco hospital complex near the arena site.
Soluri said Thursday his law firm brings “a deeper understanding of how these deals work, the different kinds of concessions these (municipalities) are able to provide.” Although the arena is being privately financed, Soluri said San Francisco would spend $8 million a year dealing with traffic issues caused by the arena.
The Warriors “are getting a free pass,” he said.
The litigation is being led by renowned New York attorney David Boies, who gained fame representing former Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 Florida election recount and by helping overturn Proposition 8, the voter-approved California initiative that banned gay marriage. More recently, he is representing DraftKings, one of the two big fantasy sports operations that are fighting with regulators in multiple states over their legal status.
Boies and Soluri’s firms represent the Mission Bay Alliance, a group of UC San Francisco donors and others opposed to the arena. The project would be built a block from UCSF’s year-old medical center in Mission Bay, not far from AT&T Park.
The first lawsuit, filed last month in Alameda Superior Court, seeks to overturn a “memorandum of understanding” signed by the chancellor of UCSF. In the agreement, the university agreed not to oppose the arena, and the city and the Warriors agreed to deal with traffic problems in the neighborhood. The lawsuit rips the agreement as an “unlawful gift of public property” by UCSF.
The second suit, filed earlier this month in Sacramento Superior Court, says the arena would violate the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, by fouling the air and creating terrible traffic jams around the medical complex, especially the emergency room of the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.
“Some people will die trying to get to the hospital if this stadium is built next to the emergency room,” the lawsuit says. Joining the Mission Bay Alliance as a plaintiff in the two lawsuits is Jennifer Wade, the mother of a 6-year-old boy who has a rare heart condition and needs emergency care at UCSF.
Soluri said the plaintiffs had no choice but to file the second suit in Sacramento, because of a wrinkle in AB 26, the 2011 law that eliminated local redevelopment agencies. The law says any lawsuit challenging the successor to a redevelopment agency “must be brought in Sacramento,” Soluri said. Among the defendants is the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, which approved the environmental impact report for the arena. The office is the successor to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency.
City officials and the Warriors have asked to have the environmental lawsuit transferred to San Francisco. Soluri’s clients are opposing the motion. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny, in a tentative ruling Thursday, granted the motion to transfer the case. A hearing on a final ruling is set for Friday in Sacramento Superior Court.
Warriors spokesman Nathan Ballard expressed confidence that the arena project will go forward, saying “our case is airtight.” He also said Soluri was “a miserable failure in his lawsuit related to the Kings arena. … All he succeeded in doing was costing the taxpayers millions of dollars.”
In the Kings case, Soluri and attorney Jeffrey Anderson represented three Sacramentans who argued the city was handing the team a “secret subsidy” for the new arena that far exceeded the official $255 million figure. A Superior Court judge dismissed the suit after a two-week trial last July that included testimony from Mayor Kevin Johnson and Kings Chairman Vivek Ranadive. In his ruling, Judge Timothy Frawley said the allegations “amount to nothing more than speculation.”
City officials had fumed about the lawsuit, saying it forced them to delay selling bonds to finance the city’s share of the arena. By the time the city was able to complete the bond sale last fall, interest rates had risen. The city’s debt service on the arena bonds will be $27 million more than it would have been if the bonds had been issued sooner, City Treasurer Russ Fehr told the City Council this week.
The Kings arena, known as Golden 1 Center, will open this fall. The Warriors announced this week their new arena in San Francisco will be called the Chase Center under a naming-rights deal with JPMorgan Chase. The arena is scheduled to open in 2019.