Brown: Setting the facts straight on Republic Urban
A rendering of the proposed project by Republic Urban near Evergreen Valley College. Photo courtesy of San Jose.

    In its recent article, “Lawsuit against San Jose college district moves forward,” San José Spotlight left out important information and details regarding the lawsuit that Republic Urban Properties, LLC, has filed against San Jose – Evergreen Community College District.

    For example, omitted from the article is the fact that on Feb. 21 the district secured its first success in the litigation when the court granted the district’s Motion to Expunge a Lis Pendens and ordered Republic to record a Notice of Release. In issuing this ruling, the court expressly held that Republic Urban failed to meet its burden of proof as to the Specific Performance cause of action.

    It is clear that when Michael Van Every, president and managing partner of Republic, sent a communication to the SJECCD trustees indicating that  the lis pendens was to “cloud” district land, that the communication had the sole purpose of intimidating the elected leaders and officers of a public educational institution that has served the community for nearly 100 years.

    Furthermore, the community should be aware of and concerned that the developer filed the lis pendens over the Evergreen Valley College property — perhaps we’ll have to assume this was a mistake made in “good faith.” These tactics will not change the fact that a contract between the district and the developer ended by its own term.

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    In its most recent ruling, the Santa Clara Superior Court sustained multiple elements of SJECCD’s Demurrer to the Complaint filed by Republic Urban Properties. In particular, the court granted the demurrer without leave to amend as to the breach of fiduciary duty and specific performance claims set forth in the complaint. This means Republic cannot assert a claim that the district owed a fiduciary duty to Republic and breached it. Nor can Republic demand that the Exclusive Negotiation Agreement that terminated by its terms on June 30, 2019, be extended or that the district perform under that agreement.

    The court also sustained the district’s demurrer as to the promissory estoppel and fraud causes of action in the complaint.

    The remaining few aspects of the district’s demurrer were overruled. This only means that Republic has alleged sufficient facts to proceed with its claims as alleged (not an evidentiary perspective) in order to be able to move forward with the next steps of the process. The ruling does not, as indicated in the article, stand for the proposition that the district can be held legally liable for the claims asserted by Republic Urban.

    The article should have clearly informed readers that allegations are not factual until a jury or a judge analyzes the evidence and makes a decision. Republic’s counsel in the lawsuit, Steve Ellenberg, is quoted in the July 31 article as saying “Essentially, (the judge) said if you can prove everything that you say, then legally you’re going to get a verdict in your favor.” As the saying goes, that’s a very big “if.” Republic has not proven anything at this point.

    Republic Urban Properties can try to use the media to spin this as a legal victory, but make no mistake: SJECCD was very pleased by the court’s order and we remain confident that we will ultimately prevail. We look forward to the day that we can move forward from this distraction and focus all of our efforts on educating the community and helping to lead Silicon Valley’s recovery from the COVID pandemic.

    Ryan Brown is the public information officer for the San Jose–Evergreen Community College District.

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