Archive for Sacramento Kings Arena

As Predicted! Unions Target Sacramento Kings Arena Ancillary Development Using California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

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Here’s an email I sent to the City of Sacramento Planning and Design Commission about the Sacramento Central Labor Council’s interference in the proposed approval of the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the Entertainment and Sports Center (the new Sacramento Kings basketball arena). The Planning and Design Commission will consider recommending city council approval of the EIR at its April 10, 2014 meeting. (See meeting agenda for more information.)

From: Kevin Dayton
Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2014 10:54 PM
To: City of Sacramento Planning and Design Commission
Cc: City of Sacramento planning staff
Subject: Planning & Design Commission: Speak Out at 4/10 Meeting Against “Greenmail” – Unions Exploiting CEQA for Economic Objectives on ESC – Kings Arena

Dear Members of the City of Sacramento Planning and Design Commission:

According to an article on the Sacramento Business Journal web site today (Union Group Makes Noise Over Development Around Arena – April 9, 2014), the Sacramento Central Labor Council is demanding that the Planning Commission extract the ancillary development from your proposed approval of the Environmental Impact Report under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for the Entertainment and Sports Center Special Planning District (SPD).

Unions threatening to use CEQA as a tool to extract economic benefits such as labor agreements is no surprise to anyone who has followed proposed developments in the Sacramento region over the past 15 years. Look at the history of environmental review for these projects:

  • Sacramento Railyards
  • Sutter Medical Center Expansion
  • Promenade at Natomas
  • Greenbriar
  • Delta Shores
  • Township 9
  • Metropolitan Hotel
  • West Roseville Specific Plan
  • Roseville Galleria Expansion
  • Rio del Oro in Rancho Cordova
  • Placer Vineyards
  • Regional University Specific Plan
  • Roseville Energy Center
  • Cosumnes Power Plant

This new threat from the Sacramento Central Labor Council was expected. I wrote a comprehensive article published in on March 11, 2014 predicting how the Entertainment and Sports Center Final Environmental Impact Report would be targeted with union CEQA objections as a strategy to get a union Community Benefit Agreement/Project Labor Agreement on ancillary development. (See text below.)

Most of the development partners targeted in this union CEQA greenmail attempt will lay low and wring their hands hoping this costly CEQA exploitation can be settled somehow without raising costs to the point that it jeopardizes the entire project. But as members of the Planning and Design Commission, you have the authority and the responsibility of service to the public to investigate the objectives of these CEQA complaints.

At the April 10, 2014 Planning and Design Commission meeting, please ask the union representatives and their lawyers the following questions:

  1. What does the City of Sacramento and Sacramento Basketball Holdings (SBH) need to do to resolve your concerns about the environmental impact of the ancillary development around the new Entertainment and Sports Center (aka Sacramento Kings Arena)?
  2. Does a Community Benefit Agreement or Project Labor Agreement have to be part of any settlement to relieve your environmental concerns?
  3. Do you believe backroom deals such as this one to end union CEQA objections against the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion are an appropriate way to resolve environmental concerns? (Link to email outlining the deal between the Mayor of San Diego and the head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO)
  4. Who will you designate to negotiate any settlements with the City of Sacramento and Sacramento Basketball Holdings (SBH)?

For a project of such importance for the Sacramento region, the ulterior motives of groups that identify shortcomings under CEQA need to be examined and aired for the public good. Thank you for the courage to investigate and expose this scheme. See you at the meeting.

Kevin Dayton
President and CEO
Labor Issues Solutions, LLC


How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento: Part 3


This is Part Three, explaining how unions may attempt to win control of the construction and permanent jobs at the ancillary development around the arena. Part One explained the background of how construction trade unions have already obtained a monopoly on the construction workforce for the arena itself. Part Two explained the union plot to monopolize the service jobs at the arena.

Factions in the Construction Industry: Trusting Pragmatism Versus Principled Cynicism

Leaders of the Sacramento regional construction industry were on the sidelines as the new ownership of the Sacramento Kings basketball team privately negotiated a Project Labor Agreement with trade unions for construction of the new downtown arena. Yet construction business associations such as Associated General Contractors (AGC) and Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) still supported the city’s plan for the arena.

In a pragmatic decision, these construction associations took the risk to trust that private developers for buildings near the arena will not require their contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements. This development will supposedly include 475,000 square feet of office, 350,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, up to 550 new residential units, and up to 250 hotel rooms, for a grand total of as much as 1.5 million square feet. Up to 11,000 jobs would result.

In exchange for acquiescing to the Project Labor Agreement on the arena, these associations expect fair and open competition for adjacent projects within the city’s Entertainment and Sports District. TheSacramento Bee reported this perspective expressed at a January 27, 2014 rally of contractors and union leaders in support of the arena:

John Cooper of Associated General Contractors said his group, which represents both union and nonunion builders, supports the arena project. “We see an opportunity for huge leaps and bounds when it comes…to job creation,” said Cooper, the AGC’s regional manager.

But Cooper said he’d “pull my support” if the ancillary development – a hotel, retail and more – isn’t open to all bidders. He said “I’ve been assured” there won’t be a project labor agreement covering this ancillary development, like there is for the arena itself.

Political consultant Chris Lehane, who is part of The4000′s leadership, said it’s “premature to ask those questions” about how the ancillary development would be built.

“Our focus right now is to make sure we get those 11,000 jobs,” Lehane said.

A handful of electrical contractors objected vehemently to this arrangement. They felt that allowing unions to have a monopoly on construction of the basketball arena would set a precedent for other major projects in the region. In addition, they did not trust union leaders or the politicians backed by union leaders to resist such a lucrative target once it was definite.

Dissenting from the major trade associations, these contractors individually provided enough campaign funding to revitalize a floundering signature-gathering campaign on petitions for a ballot measure for voters to establish a city charter provision requiring voter approval of a public subsidy for an entertainment or sports facility. Arena supporters feared – and arena opponents expected – that Sacramento voters would approve this check and balance against the proposed $258 million public subsidy for the basketball arena.

Enough signatures were collected to qualify the petition for the June 2014 ballot, but the city clerk disqualified the petitions because of numerous technical errors. The campaign then sued to overturn the city clerk’s decision, but a Sacramento County Superior Court judge agreed with the city clerk’s judgment and also ruled that the city charter could not be amended in this manner.

Can Unions Resist Grabbing More Work Through CEQA Greenmail?

Which of these two positions among bickering groups of contractors will be proven right? One possible indication of the future is an ultra-last-minute attempt by unions to amend a last-minute bill in the California State Legislature providing certain breaks to the arena and surrounding development from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the primary tool of unions to extort concessions from private developers. (This practice is known as “greenmail.”)

Late in the 2013 session, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) amended Senate Bill 743 to make some minor modifications to the California Environmental Quality Act and “expedite judicial review of the entertainment and sports center project” for the Sacramento Kings basketball team. Despite some griping from Left and Right, SB 743 passed 56-15-7 in the Assembly and 32-5-2 in the Senate. This occurred early in the evening of the last day of the 2013 session.

As the midnight deadline for legislative action approached, Assembly Bill 852 mysteriously appeared on the Assembly floor, courtesy of Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento). This bill supposedly made technical corrections to SB 743, passed earlier in the evening.

Reportedly a specific individual senior staffer for the Assembly Republican Caucus became suspicious of the bill and investigated it. This staffer realized that it was some sort of union scheme to remove the CEQA breaks for development around the downtown Sacramento arena.

The Sacramento Bee described what happened next:

In a final flare of end-of-session drama, Assembly Republicans led the defeat of a last-minute labor-inspired cleanup bill related to legislation passed earlier in the evening to hasten the building of a new arena in downtown Sacramento.

Assembly Bill 852 surfaced late on Thursday evening, after both houses had passed Sen. Darrell Steinberg’s SB 743 to streamline the construction of a new arena for the Sacramento Kings. AB 852 was cast as a minor cleanup bill, making just a small change to the arena bill by further restricting which projects could be exempted from some environmental review.

It was requested by labor unions, Steinberg said, who feared that other businesses would get in on the streamlined environmental review procedures intended for the arena.”The concern from labor was that Wal Mart and the big box stores could potentially take advantage of that part of (SB) 743 to get an exemption,” he said.

The 2013 legislative session wrapped up in anger and partisan rancor as the Assembly Republican leadership refused to support AB 852 and accused the Democrats of trickiness. The bill only received 28 votes in the Assembly, and the legislature adjourned for the year with SB 743 intact.

Of course, there was no plan for a Wal-Mart next to the Kings arena. But the distaste of the Left for Wal-Mart provided a politically-potent rationale to “fix” SB 743. An article in Salon provided a perspective on SB 743 otherwise neglected by the news media:

Along with special exceptions for a new stadium for Sacramento’s basketball team, the new law restricts some grounds for CEQA lawsuits. “It’s going to give much more leeway to big companies to just come in and ram these projects through,” said James Araby, who directs the Western States Council of the United Food & Commercial Workers union…

The UFCW and Wal-Mart – and allies on both sides – faced off with particular fury not long before the final SB 743 vote, as legislators considered language labor argued was needed to stop the bill from becoming a loophole for unchecked Wal-Mart expansion…

[Assemblymember Lorena] Gonzalez, a former labor council secretary-treasurer, told Salon that in fights with Wal-Mart, “one of the only tools we’ve been able to use is CEQA, and specifically the traffic impact of Wal-Mart.” Following what she called “massive lobbying by the Chamber of Commerce” and “mainly by Wal-Mart,” the labor-backed amendment failed.

An official with the union-aligned Planning and Conservation League acknowledged in the article that “We all know that Wal-Mart is one of the biggest targets of CEQA lawsuits.”

Is it likely that the amendments backed by the United Food & Commercial Workers union will reappear at the last minute in a budget trailer bill or some other gut-and-amend bill in 2014? Of course it is, and every union will benefit from ending the CEQA break.

More evidence that unions will use environmental laws to target the ancillary development around the Kings arena comes from comments submitted to the City of Sacramento concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Entertainment and Sports District. As noted in Part 2, the UNITE HERE Local Union No. 49 submitted objections to the report along with remarks about wanting to retain and represent service workers at the new arena.

In addition, a group called Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity submitted objections in conjunction with a demand for a “Community Benefits Agreement” that developers must sign for ancillary development. That agreement, modeled on the L.A. Live Community Benefits Agreement for development around the Staples Center, could guarantee “union jobs” for hotels, restaurants, janitors, parking attendants, and construction trade workers, among various occupations.

Perhaps the biggest threat to the downtown arena is the possibility that SB 743 is unconstitutional and that the arena doesn’t even qualify under the criteria in SB 743. If a court agreed with either of these claims, the environmental review would probably need to start from the beginning.

How will the Sacramento Kings basketball team ownership and the City of Sacramento respond to these costly union demands, packaged with the grounds for potential environmental lawsuits? If unions exploit the weakness of SB 743, they may get the whole package – provided the resulting cost increase allows the Entertainment and Sports District to get built in the first place.

The Three-Part Series: How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento


1. See How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento: Part 1 (how construction trade unions have already obtained a monopoly on the construction workforce for the arena)

2. See How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento: Part 2 (how unions are likely to win representation of the food and service workers at the new downtown Sacramento arena)

3. See How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento: Part 3 (how unions will likely target the ancillary development around the arena)



Union Leaders and Building Contractors Rally in Support of Arena – Sacramento Bee – March 11, 2014

UNITE HERE Local 49 comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report

Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report

California Senate Bill 743

California Assembly Bill 852

Legislature Rejects Late Night Attempt to Tweak Kings Arena Bill – Sacramento Bee – September 12, 2013

Very Sneaky, Walmart: How The Mega-Retailer Rolled Back California Regulations – Salon – October 14, 2013

Regional Sports and Entertainment Facilities in the Urban Core Attract Costly Political Meddling: Sacramento Kings as a Case Study – – December 16, 2013

As Vote Nears on Binding Term-Sheet for Sacramento Kings Arena, Sacramento City Council to Repeal an Open Government Policy for Contracts

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UPDATE: The Sacramento City Council ended up keeping the 10-day posting requirement for contracts greater than $1 million. Here’s an excerpt from the editorial Don’t Pull Back on Open Government in the March 12, 2014 Sacramento Bee:

Safeguarding open government is a constant struggle. Backsliding can happen easily if people aren’t vigilant…Yet there was a proposal before council members to kill the 10-day rule for big contracts – at least until The Bee’s editorial board starting nosing around and a local watchdog group raised a stink.

Tuesday night, the council said it would keep the “sunshine” rule, and several members spoke in favor of transparency. But even the prospect of backtracking was disturbing, and the timing was curious, to say the least. It only fed suspicions that the city is trying to ram through the downtown arena deal.

As watchdog group Eye on Sacramento pointed out in a Monday letter to council members, next month they are to consider the final financing agreement for the planned downtown arena. It’s a deal that could use as much public and media scrutiny as possible, given how important the project is for the city and how much taxpayers have at stake. Last March, the council was criticized for making a mockery of transparency by approving the current arena “term sheet” only three days after it had been made public.

The group Eye on Sacramento probably prevented the Sacramento City Council from repealing the policy without controversy. See the group’s alert letter, below.

One week before the annual “Sunshine Week” to recognize and promote open and accessible government practices, the Sacramento City Council has an item on its March 11, 2014 meeting agenda to repeal its policy that all agreements greater than $1,000,000 shall be posted on the city’s website and be made available to the public at least 10 days prior to council action (unless waived by a 2/3 vote of council).
See the staff report: Council Rules of Procedure.

The item is disguised on the city council meeting agenda as the innocuous-sounding “Pass a Resolution approving the Council Rules of Procedure.” I’ll admit looking at the agenda on Friday, March 7 but not recognizing this as anything significant. They fooled me.

The City of Sacramento did not fool Craig Powell of the watchdog group Eye on Sacramento. He sent this email to the city council and other Sacramento leaders this afternoon:

From: Craig Powell
To: Sacramento City Council and Others
Sent: 3/10/2014 3:38:40 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
Subj: EOS Objects to Repeal of the 10-Day Sunshine Rule on $1MM+ City Contracts

Dear Mayor Johnson and Members of the City Council,

We are writing to express our strongest possible objection to the proposal before you tomorrow evening to gut the current city council rule that requires that all city contracts involving more than $1 million be posted on the city’s website and be made available to the public at least 10 days before the council takes action on such contracts.

This 10-day posting/disclosure rule is commonly known as the city’s “Sunshine Rule” and was adopted to assure that the public and the media have adequate time to review and provide feedback to you on the terms of major city contracts before you vote on them (Council Rules Chapter 7, Section E-2-d; ).

The council’s adoption of the Sunshine Rule has been the single most important upgrade in city government transparency in the past 20 years.

Had the Sunshine Rule been in place when the city was considering approval of its 20-year exclusive, no-bid prime garbage contract with BLT Enterprises (now Waste Management) in 2010, it is unlikely that such an unfair and grossly burdensome contract would have been imposed on hapless city utility ratepayers.  Because the Sunshine Rule was not in place at the time, the egregious city/BLT Enterprises contract was jammed through late at night during the final session of the term of the city council with zero public or media awareness or analysis.  The Sacramento County Civil Grand Jury has castigated the city for both the atrocious terms of the BLT contract and the shady circumstances under which it was approved (Grand Jury, 2011-2012 Reports, page 39; New Tab).

The proposed draft of the new council rules proposes that the Sunshine Rule apply in the future only to city labor contracts – which are already covered by the current Rule since every city union contract involves more than $1 million.  Gutting the Sunshine Rule would return us to the council’s bad old days when it all too often provided de minimis notice to the public and the media of the terms of large contracts that have a lasting and major financial impact on the city.  That is simply unacceptable.

How can you expect the citizens of Sacramento to trust the city council and city government when you are taking active steps to hide from them the details of major city contracts?  When you intentionally change the rules so you can provide inadequate public notice of the terms of major contracts you only breed public cynicism and suspicion over what it is you are trying to hide from the public.

For example, is it sheer coincidence that this move to gut the council’s Sunshine Rule is occurring just three weeks before you are set to approve a massive public subsidy of a new sports and entertainment facility, set for April 1st?  Somehow we doubt it.

There has been no showing whatsoever of any need to water down the Sunshine Rule.  The council already has a relief valve in place in cases of exigent circumstance: the council, by a 2/3rds vote, can choose to waive the 10-day posting requirement.

We can only surmise that some council members are seeking to gut the Sunshine Rule now in order to deprive the public and the media of a reasonable opportunity to review the several hundreds of pages of legal documents that will comprise the “arena deal.”  We can only conclude that you don’t want the public and the media to have adequate time to review the documents, determine the impacts and provide citizen feedback to you, their elected representatives.

If you approve this rule change tomorrow evening you will be sending a clear signal that you want to keep the public and media in the dark for as long as possible about the final terms of the arena deal and deprive them of the time needed to adequately review the final deal and provide informed feedback to the council. No council member voting to gut the Sunshine Rule could ever again creditably claim to be supportive of transparency and openness in city government.

We beseech you: please show a higher level of respect for your constituents and reject this misguided effort to gut the city’s Sunshine Rule.  Thank you.

Very truly yours,

Craig Powell, President
Phone: (916) 718-3030
cc:  Mr. John Shirey, City Manager
Ms. Shirley Concolino, City Clerk
Mr. James Sanchez, City Attorney
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My Comprehensive Report on Union Interference with Proposed Sacramento Kings Arena: Part 1 – the Arena Project Labor Agreement

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I’ve written several posts on about the efforts of trade unions over the past ten years to win monopoly control of construction for a proposed Sacramento “entertainment and sports center” and future development around it. See New Sacramento Kings Arena for a compilation of these articles.

I’m summarizing the union activities and the response of the Merit Shop in a two-part series in Part One of How a Basketball Arena Would Expand the Unionized Workforce in Sacramento describes circumstances related to the planning and execution of a Project Labor Agreement that construction companies would sign with unions as a condition of working on construction of the arena itself.

Part Two will explain the union plot to monopolize the service jobs at the arena and the construction and permanent jobs at the ancillary development around the arena.

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Wants Project Labor Agreement on Sacramento Kings Arena Released to Public

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Here’s a press release emailed today (February 19, 2014) by the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction regarding the Project Labor Agreement for the proposed downtown Sacramento Entertainment and Sports Center (an arena for the Sacramento Kings basketball team).

February 19, 2014
Contact: Eric Christen
(858) 431-6337

Sacramento, CA – The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction is demanding that the Sacramento Kings ownership and the Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council immediately release to the public a copy of an alleged Project Labor Agreement for the proposed Kings Arena. It is reported that construction companies will have to sign this contract with unions as a condition of building the proposed $447 million publicly-subsidized Entertainment and Sports Center.

“The Project Labor Agreement now plays an important role in the executive and judicial operations of the City of Sacramento,” said Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, a statewide organization that supports fair and open bidding competition on public works projects.

“When will citizens get to see it themselves? When will the city’s political leadership have a chance to review this backroom deal? Why aren’t community leaders interested in verifying Mayor Johnson’s relentless claims about the wonders of this union agreement?” Christen adds.

“I’m guessing there is something embarrassing in that union deal,” said Christen. “The Kings have to suppress it, just like they suppress a public vote on the arena subsidy.”

Beyond the mere fact that a Project Labor Agreement is imposed on a public works project receiving a $258 million public subsidy, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction provides three examples to show why the Project Labor Agreement is a matter of public concern:

  • Mayor Kevin Johnson held a press conference on September 4, 2013 to announce the Project Labor Agreement. (The ill-fated press conference, coordinated by the elite Mercury Public Affairs firm, backfired when opponents of the backroom union deal held their own impromptu press conference immediately afterwards.)
  • At the State of the City address on February 12, 2014, Mayor Johnson extensively cited alleged benefits and conditions of the Project Labor Agreement, including a comment about a provision for homeless people and convicted criminals to build the arena.
  • Unions and community organizations filed a brief in court on February 14, 2014 in support of the City of Sacramento’s position that a petition for a public vote on the arena subsidy failed to qualify for the ballot. The basis for submitting that amicus brief is the alleged Project Labor Agreement.

A public records request submitted by Kevin Dayton of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC to the Office of the Mayor on October 16, 2013 failed to uncover the Project Labor Agreement, although it revealed correspondence about the deal between the mayor’s office, union representatives, and personnel of Mercury Public Affairs, an elite public relations firm working for the Sacramento Kings ownership. Dayton’s public attempts to obtain the backroom union deal and expose it have provoked mockery and derision from supporters of the Kings arena $258 million public subsidy.

“The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction had to sue the City of San Diego in 2013 to wean the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion Project Labor Agreement out of the hands of the wheelers and dealers,” said Christen. “In the process, we also obtained the actual union deal and the complete list of political payoffs to unions from the San Diego Mayor’s office.”


Proof We Mean Business – Lawsuit Coughed Up a Union Deal in San Diego in 2013

2013 Lawsuit Against City of San Diego to Obtain Secret Project Labor Agreement:

Secret Convention Center Union Deal Revealed in Private Email of Chief of Staff to Mayor:

We Got It: The Secret Project Labor Agreement for San Diego Convention Center: