Stadium opponents collect enough signatures

January 17, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
While the 49ers and their fans are focused on Sunday's game to get into the Super Bowl, there is news involving the team. Opponents of building a new stadium in Santa Clara say they have the signatures needed to keep the project from going forward.

The stadium opposition group Santa Clara Plays Fair says it has enough signatures right now for a referendum to stop the stadium deal, but supporters say the stadium is just what the community needs.

At a last minute, late-night petition drive push volunteers gathered and dropped off signatures at Agnew Park.

"We need 4,500 valid signatures and our goal was to get a percentage over that and I believe we've exceeded that today," said Deborah Bress from Santa Clara Plays Fair.

Santa Clara Plays Fair will hand the signatures over to the city clerk on Wednesday. The group wants to repeal the funding deal, approved by the city's stadium authority last month. Instead, it wants voters to decide in a special ballot measure whether the plan is a good one.

"I love professional sports, I love the 49ers, but I don't want a bad deal and I don't want to pay for it," said Santa Clara resident Kathleen Reding.

The majority of the $1 billion stadium would be paid for by an $850 million loan to the stadium authority. The 49ers have agreed to back that loan. While opponents gathered signatures, stadium supporters passed out flyers to stop people from signing the petitions.

"I don't feel there is any reason for them to come out here and say, 'Hey, we want a new ballot' and everything else for that matter," said Santa Clara resident Robert Mercado.

Now Santa Clara City Attorney Richard E. Nosky, Jr., says a new ballot measure can't happen for legal reasons. In a letter, sent to a Santa Clara Plays Fair spokesperson, he says, "The city intends to assert that the referenda presently being circulated are not in compliance with California law."

"What they're trying to do is not referendable [sic] in other words, what they're doing is not an action that can be done," said Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews.

Voters already approved the stadium when they passed Measure J in 2010 and the signatures can't over turn that.

"I'm not worried at all. I think we're moving forward on the right track. We feel very firm in our legal opinion from our city attorney," said Matthews.

"What we're doing is legal, we have the right to do it," said Bress.

Stadium supporters vow to fight this. They say they will challenge the referendum and try to block its validity in superior court.