Levi's Stadium Intel Gate entrance
Santa Clara has been locked in litigation with the San Francisco 49ers since 2019, and this proposal could end the last remaining piece. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

For the second time this week, Santa Clara politics are under scrutiny by the civil grand jury — but the report concludes the billion dollar Levi’s Stadium hasn’t strained taxpayers as some critics alleged.

A third report from the Santa Clara County Grand Jury published Thursday has honed in on the city’s 2010 Measure J, which approved the construction of Levi’s Stadium.

The new 84-page report contended that the original measure protected the city’s general fund, but alleged that contracts with San Francisco 49ers’ affiliates running the stadium limited revenue from events at the stadium. The grand jury has published two previous reports, including one yesterday chronicling dysfunction and infighting on the city council.

Two years ago, another contentious grand jury report accused the 49ers of having outsized influence on city officials, which the team refuted.

The report said Measure J has met its promise to protect to pay down stadium debt and funded reserves more quickly than originally planned. But, the report added, the promised revenues of 1% have “have been hard won” and there’s no consequences if non-NFL events do not make a profit.

The team last year released a report from a professor and consultant that found events at the stadium generated $2 billion in total economic impact for the region in the last decade.

“At the heart of the relationship between the 49ers and Stadium Authority, there is an imbalance of power,” the report reads. “The Stadium Authority and City negotiators bear great responsibility for this imbalance.”

Jurors said the NFL team benefited more from the complex agreements than the city’s Stadium Authority. The Stadium Authority is a board made up of councilmembers that oversee the stadium. A source with industry knowledge said the 49ers pay among the highest rent of any NFL team with publicly-owned stadiums.

The report recommended that the Stadium Authority hire experts on managing large sports stadiums, and fund its own economic impact report. It also said the authority should require the stadium’s management company to prioritize maximizing the city’s revenue.

The 49ers provided jurors with thousands of documents and more than a hundred of hours in testimony, according to 49ers spokesperson Ellie Caple.

“This report reaffirms the success of Levi’s Stadium, and that new leadership at the Stadium Authority has improved transparency and driven additional profit to the Authority and city. We will follow up with staff on next steps, and remain immensely proud of the contributions the 49ers have made to this community, which include delivering $1 billion for the Stadium Authority and $2 billion for the regional economy.”

Councilmember Raj Chahal said the report was less slanted than the one from earlier in the week, which he said “cherry picked” information. He said today’s report on the stadium affirmed that the original contracts with the 49ers and its affiliates were written to benefit the 49ers, but have been renegotiated over the years to bring more revenue into the city.

Chahal added that the jury’s three reports have historically been biased, pointing to how the report on the council’s dysfunction did not mention any instances of Mayor Lisa Gillmor or Councilmember Kathy Watanabe acting inappropriately.

“To me, the problem is that the powers of civil grand jury are being misused,” Chahal told San José Spotlight. “The grand jury should not be politicized.”

The grand jury report requested a response from the Stadium Authority on all 10 recommendations.

In 2010, Santa Clara voters approved Measure J, which brought the $1.3 billion Stadium to the city. Gillmor, the only politician on the council at the time, was a proponent of the measure — before becoming one of the team’s toughest critics.

After the 2022 report released, 49ers executives called the jury “stacked” with Gillmor’s political allies. The report was released shortly before the November 2022 election, where Becker and Gillmor faced off. Several councilmembers, including Becker, previously told San José Spotlight they weren’t interviewed for the report.

Multiple people allegedly leaked the 2022 report prior to its publication. Becker allegedly leaked the report to the 49ers and is locked in litigation over alleged perjury which he has pleaded not guilty. Supporters also suggested Gillmor may have leaked the report to the city’s police union, after talking points from the report were published early on a website overseen by the union.

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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