Sacramento judge kills Kings arena petition drive dead, finally, no backsies

The nearly two-year-old petition drive to hold a public vote on the proposed Sacramento Kings arena plan finally met its maker yesterday, as Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley ruled that the Sacramento city clerk was correct in having given it the boot:

In his written decision, Frawley said the proposed ordinance should be excluded from the ballot because it conflicts with the city’s charter and is “beyond the power of the voters to adopt.”

He added that the court found the “volume and magnitude of the proponents’ procedural errors undermined the integrity of the electoral process.”

The procedural errors bit is unsurprising and something that’s been covered in great detail; I’m a bit more surprised that Frawley went along with the city’s argument that voters can’t overrule city spending decisions without a charter revision vote first, but if STOP can’t be trusted to proofread their own petitions, I guess it’s possible they couldn’t read California law before launching this whole quest either.
Anyway, STOP has issued a brief press statement about the ruling, in which the group calls it “deplorable that our city’s leaders have put special interests ahead of the voters who elected them” and that they “make a mockery of democracy,” and calls on “Sacramento’s disenfranchised voters to express their outrage to their City Council and hold their representatives accountable” — but doesn’t threaten an appeal or anything, so it looks like this is indeed the end. Though of course there’s still the STOP lawsuit arguing that the city illegally hid the amount of subsidies it’s giving the Kings owners, which unless I missed something is still trundling along. But it sure sounds like it’s full speed ahead to see a groundbreaking soon — not that the city has figured out how it’s going to pay for this yet any better than its crazy-ass “divert parking revenues and make up for them with parking revenues” plan, but actually paying for it is the kind of thing you can figure out later, right?

52 comments on “Sacramento judge kills Kings arena petition drive dead, finally, no backsies

  1. Really no way to tell without knowing how much money the Kings and KJ would have thrown into the campaign vs. the opponents. And how inept the two sides would have been at getting their messages across.

  2. To answer Kei’s question, I know that the arena plan has a lot of big time backers on the city and state level so I know that there would’ve been a lot of money spent on their end.

    OTOH, this is California that we’re talking about so there would still be a chance that it would’ve been voted down.

  3. Trueblood – I think you are wrong. The arena has a lot of support in the region and at the state level, but I don’t think it exists as much at the city level. Most of those attending rallies, cramming the city council chambers, and supporting the4000 are not city residents. In fact, as others have pointed out, two-thirds of the leadership and 100% of those financing the4000 are not city residents.

  4. RA – Most of us are city residents. Nice try though.

    Watch this video clip for an example of us being called out and notice the silence from the guy who called us out as he never followed up:

    There were others from our group who attended that meeting and are city residents that were not seen on screen.

    To anyone else reading this…I have said since day one in 2011 that the Kings would not move to Anaheim, Virginia Beach or Seattle. I said the arena will be built and STOP is irrelevant. You’re welcome. :-)

  5. Mike. Interesting video. Note, of those shown, less than half raised their hands as being city residents. I have also seen video of a reporter walking through the white-shirt-wearing crowd waiting to go into the city council chambers and asking each one where they lived. Not one was a city resident. Also, when an organization purporting to represent the interests city residents cannot find leaders and spokesmen who live in the city, that says a lot about the membership.

  6. RA – Not everyone from our group can attend everything but most of us are city residents.

    I have never seen or heard of the news footage that you referred to.

    Who exactly from our opposition has stepped up? McCarty? Anyone else? All we see are Cathcart and Camacho for the most part. Isaac disappeared with his money. STOP has very little support and is a very small group that got the majority of their funding for paid petitioners from Chris Hansen. What does tell you?

    Bottom line is in 2012 STOP collected several thousand signatures with a 10 person BBQ.

    In 2013, STOP collected 30,000 plus signatures with 23,000 as valid but that’s because of Hansen’s secret funding and the lies told by so many petitioners.

    So the difference in the two years they tried was Hansen and lies. Justice was served. :-)

  7. Which bag of cash are you saying Isaac ran off with? If you are going to accuse someone like that, keep talking. I think you’re wrong on that point.

  8. Mike: The 68% validity rate of the petitions submitted by proponents of the petition is pretty good. Most petition efforts average about 60% valid. For the signatures collected by the4000: 15,000 submitted, less than 9,000 were county residents (they did not check city residency in the first pass), less than 1,500 valid withdrawals. That tells me a lot about the group and how much they care about city finances.

  9. Mike, on another note. You and others consistently point to lies told by those gathering signatures. If anyone signed the petition because of a lie, they had ample opportunity to withdraw that signature. Withdrawal forms were posted on-line and well-publicized in the area. With all that, of the 23,733 signatures of registered voters (both in and out of the district), only 1,469 (1,425 in district, 23 out of district) selected to withdraw their signature. Maybe people knew what they were signing, regardless of what the petitioner stated.

  10. I witnessed many people not wanting to sign anything after a while because they were either tired of the situation or thought the petition withdrawals were really STOP. The 1,400 plus withdrawals also smashed the old record of 80.

    Even with 23,000 plus valid signatures it’s still a small number as Sacramento has a population of approximately 470,000.

    We can agree to disagree all the way but the bottom line is the arena is going to be built. Thanks for the civil discussion. Much appreciated. :-)

  11. Yes, Mike, I saw that. He made basically a non-living wage. Why don’t you post a link to that post? I know why you won’t. It would prove how preposterous your claim is.

  12. MikeM: $15,000 is a lot of money and us grassroots folks were never paid. We volunteered our time and spent our own money (yes, we did raise some money too) fighting the good fight.

    Isaac claimed to be a community activist (basically grassroots) and got paid. He lost his credibility as a community activist (along with the kids drowning in the river comment and slapping a microphone at City Hall). You should never go into this for money. You do this because you believe in your cause.

    You can attack me all you want. Please say hello to your friends Alex Berg, localconscious, flowerpetals, etc. I will miss your rants. Have a nice day. :-)

  13. Mike, while Sacramento may have 470K residents, it has only 230K registered voters. Petitions only require a percentage of the number of registered voters to qualify. For a state-wide petition, that number is only 807K and those 807K represent the 38 million residents when putting a measure on the ballot.

    As for the record number of withdrawals, I doubt many people knew that it was even possible to withdraw a signature. I had used this option in the past when I found out that the summary on a petition I signed left out a few poison pills contained in the full text, so I was well aware of the option. How many do you think would have withdrawn their signature without the media blitz and people handing out withdrawal forms at games?

    As for the arena, unfortunately I think it will be built, and it will lead to a slide into bankruptcy for the city. The numbers being touted by city hall do not make sense and much more is being given away than is being publicly acknowledged.

  14. $15,000 is darned little for the number of hours he’s worked on this. He could have made as much by picking up a babysitting job. But it sure sounds like you’ve convinced yourself.

    By the way, do you own season tickets? Expensive ones would mean you’re hardly grassroots, either. Pot, meet kettle.

    I agree with RA, this arena will be built… And its fiscal future is as solid as Paul Brown Stadium’s. I expect the debacle here will approximate the size of the debacle there. Roughly speaking.

  15. First, most of the arena supporters are not from the City of Sacramento. Even the ostensible leader of the pro-arena movement is named Carmichael Dave and is from Carmichael (obviously), not Sacramento.

    Second, STOP should be appealing the ruling, why wouldn’t you appeal? You can literally just copy and paste the arguments you made in the original suit into your appeal. It’s hard for me to understand why you wouldn’t at least try to appeal. Judge Frawley’s ruling was almost certainly wrong under the existing law. The one major case on this issue involved a ballot measure that was circulated with the completely wrong summary attached, and in that case the measure was allowed on the ballot. Here the problems were far more minor. I don’t think the attorney for STOP did a great job getting that point across in his arguments, I would have taken a different approach.

  16. One thing I find interesting is that the judge here is also involved in the other lawsuit, which he seems to be allowing to continue. This is case 80001489, where basically the same group of people is questioning other aspects of the deal.

    They have a few depositions under their belts already.

  17. MikeM, I was looking at the other case (#80001489) today. It looks like it was just recently (in the past few weeks) transfered to Judge Frawley. The depositions they have under their belt are from a previous judge.

  18. I still think someone will eventually sue based on one part of our City Charter, which states:

    ” The money required to be deposited in parking meters and pay-by-space/pay-and-display machines as provided in this title is hereby levied and assessed as fees to provide for the proper regulation and control of traffic upon the public streets, to provide for public vehicular off-street parking facilities and to cover the cost of the supervision, inspection, installation, maintenance, control and use of the parking spaces and regulating parking of vehicles in the parking meter zones. (Ord. 2000-028 § 2(c)(xii); Ord. 2000-007 § 13; prior code § 25.08.142)”

    I don’t know how they can use parking meter or machine revenues to pay for things other than parking.

    I’ve been told that parking meter revenues will not go towards bond payments, but if you look at the term sheets, it sure seems like they are.

    Look at document

    sacramento dot granicus dot com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=22&clip_id=3375&meta_id=408521

    The top of page 8 refers to parking meter revenues; Page 14 continues to refer to them.

    How can we conclude that they do not plan to use parking meter revenues?

  19. MikeM, I’m with you regarding the issue of parking revenues. Though, if I remember right some of that money already goes to the general fund, I’m not sure how that works. Maybe because the code section only refers to parking meter revenue not parking garage revenue. Of course if it comes down to it I suppose they can just change the city charter.

    Also, we need to remember that a CEQA lawsuit is almost surely going to happen and that will take some time to resolve even with the help of Steinberg’s CEQA bill.

  20. For ease of reference, all information cited will be from the document linked by MikeM.

    The city has acknowledged that they cannot use revenue from the parking meters. It is included in this report on page 4, “The City will continue to conduct on-street operations (meters and parking enforcement), and the cost of these operations will continue to be paid with on-street revenues.”

    If you look at the chart on page 8, you will see the total parking revenue for FY 11/12 is about $31 million. Of this, the red in the graph, about $5 million is from the meters leaving about $26 million available that is not restricted by the city charter. Yes, meter revenue is included here, but not in the rest of the document. All other references to meters is in regard to the upgrade of said equipment. The rising cost of operating the meter and enforcement programs will be (supposedly) by the increase in meter rates.

    It is that $26 million figure that concerns me. That number is the total from all city off-street parking, 7,200 spaces, and parking enforcement. With the construction of the arena at downtown plaza, 3,700 spaces will either be destroyed (estimated 1,000) or will be given to the kings (estimated 2,700) leaving only 3,500 spaces to generate the revenue needed.

    Within the report, it states that the study was done assuming no increases in revenue from the off-street parking or enforcement on page 5: “There will be no increase in the number of parking meters or parking spaces in lots and garages. Nor will the area where parking controls are enforced and parking tickets issued expand,” and “The stress-test evaluation did not include ESC event revenue.”

    Now look at the chart on page 15. They are assuming parking revenue of $26 million for servicing the bond. Looking back at page 8, the off-street parking accounts for $19 million of that revenue or 73%. If you remove more than half of the spaces from the equation, you reduce that number by at least half. So now we are left with $9.5 million plus the approximate $7 million from enforcement or $16.5 million. Yet, they are using $26 million for all the projections. From where will the other $10 million per year materialize?

  21. Are the 7,200 spaces currently underused, maybe? If they go from, say, 33% usage of 7,500 spaces to 100% usage of 3,500 spaces, that would be an increase of revenue.

    (Not saying that this is likely or anything, just suggesting one possible explanation for their reasoning.)

  22. Kevin,

    The city’s general fund gets approximately $9 million from the parking revenue each year. That is what is left over from the off-street parking and enforcement that is not needed for operations. The term sheet specifies revenue that would be used to backfill that money – most of which are pie-in-the-sky estimates. The document linked by MikeM has a troubling comment on page 6. They list four expenditure requirements: Operations and Maintenance, Current Debt, New Debt, and General Fund Backfill. It goes on to state, “The first three categories must be fully funded on an annual basis. … The backfill is of different nature, providing budget protection to the General Fund but not involving the integrity of debt obligations or future ability to issue debt.”

  23. Regarding the probability of a CEQA lawsuit: It will not matter. SB 743, pushed through by Steinberg, allows the city to start construction of a project even if the EIR is protested in court. The court has been directed to a very tight schedule that it is not obligated to follow due to the separation of powers – a point that was made by the courts prior to passage.

    In other words, the project can be started and completed before the EIR makes it through the courts. At that point, any mitigation ordered is essentially moot: “But it’s already built, we can’t change the design now.”

  24. Neil,

    Very good question. I had to reread the report to find the numbers. The old term sheet with the parking reports (presented on December 13, 2011 at the Council meeting) list the following occupancies, the number of spaces for each, and the number of enforcement tickets for 2011:

    (1) Tower Bridge Garage (451 spaces)
    High: 40% (Saturday)
    Low: 23% (Monday)
    Enforcement: 220,163
    (2) Downtown Plaza West (1320 spaces)
    High: 38% (Friday)
    Low: 23% (Monday)
    Enforcement (combined with Central): 662,407
    (3) Downtown Plaza Central (460 spaces)
    High: 38% (Friday)
    Low: 23% (Monday)
    Enforcement: See above
    (4) Downtown Plaza East (1920 spaces)
    High: 55% (Thursday)
    Low: 45% (Monday)
    Enforcement: 1,295,332
    (5) City Hall Garage (1035 spaces)
    High: 83% (Thursday)
    Low: 55% (Monday)
    Enforcement: 95,322
    (6) Capitol Garage (988 spaces)
    High: 89% (Thursday)
    Low: 65% (Monday)
    Enforcement: 236,247
    (7) Memorial Garage (1060 spaces)
    High: 64% (Thursday)
    Low: 41% (Monday)
    Enforcement: 153,612

    They don’t have any revenue by facility information. Most of the enforcement revenue is generated by the three Plaza garages – 73% for 2011. That money will also disappear when the parking is destroyed or in private hands.

    Making some a very inaccurate assumption, that everyone parking pays the same amount (occupancy * number of spaces * amount paid), and using their high and low occupancy rates, there is a drop of about 40% in revenue based on the high occupancy rates and about 42% based on low rates. Combined with the 73% drop in enforcement revenue, I can’t see how they can justify those numbers. It is a question I have asked and been told by the mayor’s office: “Trust us, we know what we are doing.”

  25. I forgot to include distances from the garages that will remain to the proposed entrance the the arena at 5th and K Streets. Blocks in downtown are approximately one-tenth of a mile in length.

    Tower Bridge Garage: 6 blocks
    City Hall Garage: 7 blocks
    Capitol Garage: 6 blocks
    Memorial Garage: 12 blocks

  26. This entire conversation about the parking revenue mistake seems like it’s something that needs to be brought before a judge. This is either an error that needs to be corrected, or it’s fraud. Hard to see a third option.

    By the way, I don’t think that part of the Charter would be easy to fix. I think this plugged a Prop 13 loophole, and this exact language is in the Charter of all cities in California. It’s been a while since voters passed Prop 13, but I have a vague recollection of this being the case.

  27. RA,
    Funny enough I actually wrote an article (thinksmartsacramento dot blogspot dot com/2012_03_09_archive.html) back in 2012 about how speculative the general fund backfill sources are, adding in your parking numbers to the analysis the whole thing is even more shaky.

    Regarding SB 743, I don’t read (h)(1)(A) in the same way:

    “(h) (1) (A) In granting relief in an action or proceeding brought pursuant to this section, the court shall not stay or enjoin the construction or operation of the downtown arena”

    I take that to mean that once the EIR is actually approved and all lawsuits have made it through court, construction cannot be enjoined (projects are often stopped right in the middle for environmental reasons). There are two reasons for this:

    1. Why have the 270-day time limit for resolution of lawsuits if you can’t enjoin the project? It wouldn’t matter how long lawsuits took to be resolved if you can’t ever stop the project from being built.

    2. That reading would make CEQA meaningless, if you can’t stop a project for violation of CEQA, then just throw up some nonsensical EIR, ignore all comments and start building today. The project can’t be stopped so it doesn’t matter if the EIR is correct.

    Regarding CEQA lawsuits I think there are a number of preliminary issues that may make SB 743 not even apply in the first place.

    1. The law may be an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers, re: the 270-day court deadline.
    2. SB 743 may not even apply because all of the requirements for it to apply have not been met, most specifically, as pointed out in a number of DEIR comments, the total vehicle miles traveled will not be reduced as much as claimed in the DEIR.

    Even if it does apply there are serious problems with the DEIR and these can all be brought up in court and will take time to resolve. Even if they did finish the lawsuits in 270-days, that is a long delay. Given the number of substantive comments I doubt we are anywhere close to seeing the final EIR, and then the City Council has to rubberstamp it and then the public has 30-days from then to file a lawsuit challenging the adoption of the NOD. Taken all together we are probably looking at construction not starting until sometime in 2015. Then don’t forget we still have the eminent domain lawsuit and the fraudulent value suit that need to be resolved.

  28. Does anyone know if John Danberg was deposed? I saw on the court website his depo was supposed to occur on February 25th.

  29. Kevin,

    I hope you are right about SB 743, but I have read several articles whose authors interpret it differently. The city is planning to certify the EIR during either the last city council meeting of March or the first one in April and then start demolition in June. That is less time than the 270 day limit for challenges. I agree that there are too many issues that wee brought to light in the comments. But, I have a feeling the city is going to use “significant and unavoidable” to justify not mitigating issues. That phrase appears too many times in the DEIR for my taste.

  30. One of the letters in response to the DEIR includes the objections of the California Judicial Council towards SB743. You’d kinda think someone there would declare it unconstitutional (separation of powers issue), and the entire point regarding speeding up EIRs would be moot.

    It also kind of occurred to me that since the Kings would own 2700 parking spots, what would stop them from competing with the City and undercutting their prices when there are no events? Why would they let 2700 spots sit idle when they could sell them for $10/day on non-event days (200 days a year or so)? That way, they could screw the city once (by getting that lot for free) and then a second time (by selling time at below-market rates).

    I don’t think anything in the term sheets would stop them. If it’s not spelled out that they cannot, I’d wager that they absolutely will do it.

  31. RA,
    I have heard that is the city’s proposed timeline regarding the EIR and knowing a bit about CEQA that kind of timeline just doesn’t seem possible. We are still waiting to get a copy of final EIR which must contain a substantive response to every single comment received. This takes a long time. Like I said previously once the FEIR is released the city council must approve it and then everybody who made a comment has 30-days to file a lawsuit (normal practice is to wait until the 30th day to file suit). Based on my reading from there the court is supposed to resolve those suits within 270-days. That would put you back to January 26, 2015 if everything is done as fast as possible.

    Here is the other interesting issue, if a lawsuit is filed claiming that SB 743 doesn’t apply at all because the requirements haven’t been met, how can the City then use that same law to claim you can’t stop our project because SB 743 applies, even though, pending the lawsuit, it is not clear if SB 743 applies. Hurts your head to think about.

  32. I didn’t comment on the DEIR, but I should have pointed out the flawed logic in their traffic studies.

    They used May data in their study. What they should have done is averaged all the months from October-April, when all schools are in session, when the weather is at its worst, and when the daylight hours are the shortest. Why sample traffic data for a month that the Kings never play (May)? It sounds a lot like a taunt, but it’s been over 10 years since there was May NBA ball in Sacramento.

    Those are also the months when ski season is on, and traffic gets terrible on Fridays and Sundays in Sacramento because of it. It’s not just noticeable, it’s horrendous. May is a shoulder season for Tahoe; February and July aren’t.

  33. Kevin,

    You seem to know your stuff. Are there requirements for an EIR beyond the notifications requirements for a public meeting?

  34. Kevin, I was referring to requirements that the document be available to the public for a certain amount of time before action being taken. I think that for most attachments to an agenda, it must be available for 3 days. Since there is a holiday weekend coming up, I have a feeling that the city will use that to prevent many questions, posting the EIR on Saturday, March 29, for a vote on Tuesday, April 1. I was hoping that either CEQA or other laws required more time before action.

  35. RA, I don’t think CEQA has any requirements regarding the amount of time a FEIR must be circulated before it is approved by the authorizing body (City Council). The 3-day requirement is an “open meetings” issue and the law does not actually require the attachments be made available, only that an agenda is provided 3-days prior and it describes what issues will be discussed. I think your scenario definitely could occur. IIRC the city waited until the last possible minute to provide a copy of the term sheet when it was approved.

    But, as a sidenote it doesn’t really matter how much time is given to review the FEIR since there is nothing that can occur once it is released. The process once the FEIR is released goes like this:

    Adoption by city council.
    5-days to provide the notice of determination to the county/state clearinghouse.
    30-days from filing of NOD to file a lawsuit.

  36. Since the only legal timeframe is 30 days, it is more likely that they will push the approval of the FEIR to March 25 if they possibly can. That would put two holidays into the mix and cut the amount of time available for filing a protest – especially since one of those holidays is Easter or Passover and many government offices have reduced hours for observances.

  37. As for the release of the term sheet, they did indeed wait until the last possible moment. They had scheduled three town hall meetings to discuss the document and answer questions. The term sheet was released hours after the last town hall meeting dispersed.

  38. Kevin, There is an article today about the gift of funds lawsuit and mentions that Danberg was disposed as scheduled:

  39. RA, thanks, interesting article. I would love to read the depo transcript of Danberg.

    Also wanted to point out another good article by Cosmo Garvin:

    Based on this and from what I have heard “around the internet” it looks like a bond referendum is going to happen.

    “Election code explicitly allows for citizens to hold a referendum on the issuance of government bonds. In fact, in the case of bonds, the law allows 60 days to collect signatures, and the overall signature requirement is lower. About 12,000 signatures would be required to put Sacramento’s arena bonds to a public vote.”

  40. KevinS, I read that article too, as well as comments at gameto100, and it seems like some pretty strong hints about a bond petition are out there. I think that’s what they’re aiming for.

    I personally think they will have zero problem gathering 12,000 signatures. All they have to do, really, is contact the 23,000 valid signatures and ask them to sign this new petition; assuming STOP carefully assembles this next petition, and doesn’t hire middle-school students to write it, I think they’d essentially have 12,000 signatures in just a couple days.

    Good legal advice is 100% essential here. They must not hire their next lawyer from SCUSD’s pool of available 8th graders.

  41. I’m seriously laughing out loud at this bond referendum idea. The city must know this is going to happen, I cant wait! I’m surprised I haven’t heard about this before. I just really hope that STOP is not involved.

  42. Some documents have been posted in the “gift of public funds” lawsuit that include portions of Danberg’s deposition and a peek into the documents the city submitted. The city transmitted the documents as TIF files with each page of a document in a separate file. The names such as Image1.TIF, Image2.TIF, etc. for thousands of pages. Gee, I wonder what the city is trying to hide. To see everything, start at and search for case number 2013-80001489. Look for the documents entered on March 4.

  43. Kevin,

    It turns out the 10-day notification was a part of the city’s Sunshine Rule. I just got a notification from Eye on Sacramento that is objecting to the city’s plan to repeal this rule at today’s Council meeting. ( I think Craig Powell is right, this is being done solely to hide the arena contracts from the public and those in the media who care to actually investigate the arena issue (as opposed to most who just parrot the city’s statements). I bet this passes with a 7-2 vote with McCarty and Fong being the dissenters.

  44. The city council, in a moment of pure hilarious dishonesty, claimed that “Uh, well, we didn’t really want to remove the 10 day ‘sunshine’ period. We were just reallllly concerned that it was confusing people. So well, never mind until we figure out a way to slip it past you all next time.”

    A good chunk of the end of the meeting was dedicated to finding ways to potentially censure those few (2) council members who oppose this grotesque public arena subsidy.

  45. RA,
    Interesting stuff. TIFF files? What year is this?

    The explanation for why the change was being made and why it was pulled didn’t make any sense, I do think that they hoped to just sneak it through without anyone noticing.

    I enjoyed the portion of the meeting where Hansen and Ashby made thinly veiled threats to censure McCarty for his assistance to the anti-subsidy groups. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

    Oh, and they concluded by moving general public comment to the end of the meetings, this is the portion of the meeting where a lot of anti-subsidy people have been speaking, I guess they don’t want the public hearing what they have to say.

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