Why we sued the City of San Jose

November 13, 2018

Today was a big day. Together with the First Amendment Coalition, we filed a lawsuit against the City of San Jose at the Santa Clara County Courthouse. We're demanding sunlight on the City’s secret backroom negotiations to sell Google some of our most valuable public land.

Since the City of San Jose began discussions with Google about the tech giant bringing 20,000 employees into the city with a huge new mega-campus, we’ve sought details about this project and what it would mean for the city.

San Jose is already in the grip of a severe housing and cost of living crisis. We know from elsewhere in our region that big tech often comes with big increases in homelessness, evictions and rent prices.

We wanted to make sure that the City of San Jose was looking out for its residents in its negotiations with Google. But the more we’ve tried to look into these negotiations, the more the City has tried to block us from finding out the details.

Our mayor and other city staff have signed secretive non-disclosure agreements at Google’s request. They have refused a number of public records requests to release details that should be made public.

That’s why we’ve sued the City today.

Additionally we sent the City a letter outlining the City’s violations of California’s open-meetings law. The City Council has conducted 20+ meetings about the development in secret – behind closed doors with no public accessibility, no transparency and no accountability. We demanded the City bring these debates into the public before taking further action, including the proposed land sale scheduled for December 4th.

Despite all this, the Mayor still wants to rush through the sale of public land before Google has revealed any of the most basic information about the project to the public.

Before this huge decision is taken on the future of the city, we need to bring this whole backroom deal out into the open. We need public meetings. We need the public documents that have been held back. We need to see what plans have been shared with Mayor Liccardo and the City and what if any promises have been made. We need this process re-done in a legal, transparent way so that residents know what’s going on here and can be a part of the debate about the future of their city.

We need to know how this deal will address the public’s biggest concerns: ensuring this project doesn’t lead to more poverty wage jobs, homelessness, rent increases, and evictions.