Community Letter about Stadium Management
Dear Santa Clara Community,
The City of Santa Clara has a duty to provide the public with accurate information about the Santa Clara Stadium Authority which was established to provide for the development and operation of Levi’s® Stadium. Increasingly, the publisher of the Santa Clara Weekly has written columns that contain serious factual errors and misrepresentations about the Stadium Authority’s oversight of the 49ers’ management of the stadium.
This letter addresses Miles Barber’s latest column, published 4/4/19 in the Santa Clara Weekly, that falsely portrays the Stadium Authority with somehow violating the 49ers proprietary or intellectual property interests. This is completely not true. The City acknowledges that the 49ers NFL professional football related work is their private business. The City also knows that the 49ers work to promote non-NFL events at the Stadium is directly performed through an agreement with the Santa Clara Stadium Authority, a public agency. When the 49ers executed the Management Agreement to book non-NFL events at the Stadium and to act as the Stadium Authority’s purchasing agent, the 49ers attested to their expertise in managing public facilities for a public agency.
Below are additional corrections to false statements in Mr. Barber’s opinion piece:
FALSE STATEMENT #1: When it comes to the 49ers, our Council doesn’t respect its business secrets.
The Santa Clara Stadium Authority is a public agency subject to the California Public Records Act. The Act requires full disclosure of the public’s business, and there are very narrow exceptions to withhold records. As the property manager for the public facility, the 49ers have been creating records on behalf of the public. The records that belong to the public, and not to the 49ers owners, fall broadly into two categories: (1) Records relating to events that the 49ers book for the “non-NFL season” and (2) Records relating to the Stadium Authority’s operations, management and purchasing that the 49ers perform as the Authority’s property manager. Neither category of records belong to the 49ers at all: these records are not secret, they are not the 49ers’ intellectual property, or the 49ers’ proprietary information. They are, however, the records of the Stadium Authority, a public agency, and the 49ers cannot have “business secrets” from the public agency for which it works.
FALSE STATEMENT #2: The Council wants the 49ers proprietary information in their hands – where it could be made public.
Mr. Barber fails to disclose that it was the Santa Clara Weekly who made the first ever public records request for Stadium Authority records on the exact topic that Mr. Barber now argues should not have ever been disclosed. Mr. Barber is criticizing the Stadium Authority’s release of the documents about the Taylor Swift concerts that his newspaper directly requested and, by law, the Stadium Authority must provide. Had the public records request not been issued by the Santa Clara Weekly, they might never have been publicly released. It is important for the community to know that Mr. Barber is criticizing the release of Stadium Authority information that was requested by the Santa Clara Weekly to be made public and the records “fell into the hands” of the City were the result of a public records request by the Santa Clara Weekly. The City believes it is important for the community to also know about Mr. Barber’s significant omission.
FALSE STATEMENT #3: Documents at the stadium are protected by confidentiality agreements.
The California Supreme Court has made it clear that the physical location of records does not determine whether they are protected from disclosure. Mr. Barber’s assertion that keeping the Stadium Authority’s records at the Stadium rather than at City Hall somehow protects those records from disclosure is simply wrong. Over the last year and a half, the Stadium Authority Board has been calling for more accountability and financial transparency that would benefit overall stadium management. These reasonable and responsible requests aren’t about the 49ers’ NFL business, or its proprietary business matters, but rather it’s about fiscal information that the Stadium Authority should have access to in order to understand how the 49ers are managing the Stadium in the non-NFL season. Mr. Barber’s reference that we should uphold the confidentiality agreements that the 49ers use to book non-NFL events, and the 49ers continued use of them in their agreements with promoters to book non-NFL events, should be re-evaluated against the confidentiality requirements of a public agency.
FALSE STATEMENT #4: This Council wants the 49ers to fail.
The City Council, acting as the Stadium Authority Board, wants the Stadium Authority to be financially successful. Two of the 49ers duties under the Management Agreement are to minimize expenses and maximize the Stadium Authority’s revenue. These are two of the measures of the 49ers’ success in performing their duties. The 49ers have quite publicly raised the issue of the profitability of non-NFL events numerous times over the last year by asserting that weekday concerts past 10 p.m. will increase Stadium Authority revenue to the tune of hundreds of the thousands of dollars to the General Fund. The 49ers cannot take the position that it is okay to only talk publicly about events that make money and how weekday concerts past 10 p.m. would further maximize revenue, but that it is not okay to publicly discuss how the 49ers book money-losing events (that lose about $3.5 million each year) that should be kept from public. The 49ers have never given the public any actual documentation of how the ‘curfew’ is affecting their ability to book events: it is important to note that the “curfew” was included as a condition of their Development Permit which they agreed to in 2010 and, with that condition, they attested to their expertise to managing public facilities of this type and that they could minimize expenses and maximize revenue.
Last, the Stadium Authority is rightfully concerned with financial performance and how the 49ers are managing non-NFL events. The 49ers’ recent announcement to the media about reduction of projected revenue from approximately $5 million to $750,000 for fiscal year 2018/19, and their proposal to estimate revenue for fiscal year 2019/20 at $175,000 from approximately a $5 million annual trend, is of significant concern to the Stadium Authority and the 49ers have not produced documentation to support their claims. The community should be concerned by these actions and revenue projections. The Stadium Authority Board is well within its authority to seek documents and answers to these significant and rapidly changing revenue projections and to discuss the details of the 49ers’ assertions in public.
FALSE STATEMENT #5: The City owes the 49ers millions for parking.
Mr. Barber omits the fact that it is the 49ers that sued the City regarding the rent owed to the City for use of the golf course for parking. The City disputes the amount claimed by the 49ers and has counterclaimed for money that the 49ers still owe. The City has a duty to the taxpayers not to pay the 49ers taxpayer revenue when their demand is not valid. It is unfortunate that Mr. Barber is so cavalier with the taxpayers’ money and facts.
It is equally important for the community to know that lawsuits between the Stadium Authority/City and the 49ers have resulted from the 49ers taking action to sue: the Stadium Authority/City has never initiated litigation against the 49ers. Of course, when the Stadium Authority or City are sued, we have to spend money to protect the public’s interest and respond to legal action against the Stadium Authority or City.
Mr. Barber references economic suicide about the Stadium Authority seeking records from the 49ers. For the Stadium Authority, it comes down to working together with the 49ers to run a successful stadium operation in our community for years to come.
For questions about the Stadium Authority, contact the City Manager’s Office at 408-615-2210 or email@example.com.