Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: Money is at the center of Sacramento’s new arena court fight

Marcos Breton
Marcos Breton

Despite a recent court victory preventing a public vote on a downtown arena, Sacramento’s biggest development project is still held up in court.

This time, the issue is not about how the City Council is spending taxpayer money in a representative democracy. It’s all about money, though the strategy to use the legal system to trip up the project is the same.

Opponents of the city and the Kings are tossing legal motions like marbles in front of a parade procession.

The point is clearly to muck up a well-publicized desire to break ground on the Downtown Plaza site this year so a new arena can open for the NBA season in the fall of 2016.

When you follow the money in this case, which goes before a Sacramento Superior Court judge again on Monday, the details and parties involved open a window into the mercenary trade of land development in downtown Sacramento.

Some wonder why the Sacramento core has been dilapidated for years. One reason is that landlords know the city wants to convert blight into new development. So they ask a fortune to sell their properties and step aside. It’s happened many times before.

In this case, the city and the Kings need to acquire the old Macy’s men’s store in the Downtown Plaza for arena construction to move forward.

But for the arena, who would care about this property? With the arena, the operative symbol is: $

The Kings bought Downtown Plaza for $36 million, though the deal didn’t include the Macy’s store.

The Kings owners also paid more than $500 million for the basketball franchise and have pledged to spend as much in the area around the arena.

Given all the money in the air, heaven knows how much is being asked for an otherwise worthless Macy’s store.

What about the laws passed by the state Legislature last year to prevent such projects from being delayed through nuisance lawsuits? The city and Kings can’t avail themselves of such protections until they possess the land they want to develop. CalPERS owns the Macy’s property along with a group of interests led by U.S. Bank.

Representing these parties in property negotiations is C-III Capital Partners, a firm well known on the East Coast for aggressive business tactics and making tons of money for their partners.

CalPERS is a bedrock Sacramento institution. U.S. Bank is a big Kings sponsor, and its banners are all over Sleep Train Arena. The U.S. Bank building on Capitol Mall is one of the tallest in Sacramento.

But clearly those community ties mean nothing when there is money to be squeezed by any means necessary.

C-III will be in court Monday asking that this dispute be moved to another county, a classic delay tactic in a property dispute.

They know the clock is ticking and clearly want the Kings owners to pay a massive price to get control of the property.

It may be the American way, but it’s also why it’s so hard to get anything done in downtown Sacramento.