Two nonprofits sued San Jose, Calif., over what they claim are illegal nondisclosure agreements signed by city officials to seal a $67 million land deal for Google’s planned downtown mega-campus.
Working Partnerships USA and the First Amendment Coalition filed a petition alleging that San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and at least 17 other city officials signed non-disclosure agreements that were “designed to transform public records, on such crucial issues as transit and environmental compliance, into private ones that the public does not see,” the filing states, adding that the tech giant and San Jose “went to extraordinary lengths to keep the public in the dark.”
The City of San Jose disputes the allegations.
Google is planning to build a massive campus for up to 20,000 employees in downtown San Jose near the mass transit-oriented Diridon Station area. The memorandum of understanding and the public sale agreement between the Mountain View, Calif.-based company and San Jose will be released on Friday. Those documents will outline terms and expectations between both parties as well as set out prices, terms and obligations for any land transactions.
“There’s an enormous amount of concern about what the tech industry is doing to local communities in the Bay Area and what this new campus would mean for San Jose’s existing housing and homelessness crises,” said Maria Noel Fernandez, executive director for Working Partnerships USA, in a statement.
This isn’t the first time that activists have raised concerns about the proposed Google campus — and Working Partnerships has been leading a broader push in Silicon Valley to protect affordable housing, well-paying jobs and the right to unionize.
According to the plaintiffs, the NDAs are invalid under the city’s municipal code, which restricts officials from entering into contracts without council approval, and violate state law prohibiting agencies from letting outside parties control public disclosures.
“The City disputes the allegations of Working Partnerships and the First Amendment Coalition regarding the transparency of the proposed land sale to Google,” said San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle, in a statement emailed to Fox News. “This proposal has undergone numerous public meetings (over 20) from February to October 2018, all of which involved significant outreach to the community, neighborhood, business and labor groups. Working Partnerships has been an active participant in those meetings.”
“After months of negotiation, a proposed land sale to Google will come to the City Council in a public hearing on December 4, 2018,” he added. “The staff memorandum with the proposed land sale documents will be available for public review this Friday.”
Working Partnerships and the First Amendment Coalition are seeking a court order to release documents and correspondence tied to the deal, and a declaration that the NDAs are invalid.
Google, which is not named in the lawsuit, referred Fox News to the following statement:
“We’ve been active participants in the public engagement process for the last nine months through both the city led Station Advisory Group and our own one on one meetings with various San Jose community members. We look forward to continuing this open dialogue as we continue community engagement and at the next open city council meeting,” said Javier Gonzalez, Google’s public affairs manager.
Doyle told the San Jose Mercury News early this year that NDA’s have become “common” and that Google sought them to cover “a very sensitive negotiation.”
First Amendment Coalition executive director David Snyder said in a statement: “The public is entitled to know what elected leaders are doing and saying in negotiations with corporations doing business with the government, especially where those corporations are as large and powerful as Google.”
Last year, Mayor Liccardo pledged to get 25,000 new homes built, with 10,000 of them affordable, in the next five years. A poll taken by the San Jose Mercury News earlier this year found that 68 percent of voters support Google’s planned transit-oriented community of offices, homes, retail and open spaces near the Diridon Station hub.
The lawsuit comes amid an outcry from some New York City community organizations, residents and politicians over Amazon’s planned second headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, which the city is forking over $1.5 billion in incentives and tax breaks for 25,000 new jobs and what Amazon claims will be $2.5 billion in investments.
Fox News’ James Rogers contributed to this article.
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