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SF Assessor sues Giants, appeals board over Oracle Park

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Carmen Chu says ballpark is worth millions more than team wants to pay

A low angle photo of a sign reading “Oracle Park,” with the logo of the San Francisco Giants—a stylized letter S and letter F entwined with one another—visible below it. Brock Keeling

In a surprise move, San Francisco Assessor Carmen Chu is suing the San Francisco Giants and even the city’s own Assessment Appeals Board as the latest salvo in a long battle over the value of Oracle Park.

As the San Francisco Chronicle’s Phil Matier explains, Chu most recently valued the waterfront ballpark at $430 million in 2017—up $15 million from just two years ago.

On the other hand, the team insists that the stadium is actually worth just $298 million—down $9 million compared to 2015.

This goes straight to the heart of an idealogical conflict common with sports teams and their host cities.

Oftentimes, franchises insist that unlike most buildings, stadiums tend to diminish in value over time, becoming outdated compared to newer models, similar to the economics of valuing a car.

It’s this idea that most often leads teams to demand expensive new replacement stadiums. But Chu isn’t buying it, insisting that the rise in SF property values apply to the Giants as much as anyone else.

The Assessment Appeals Board essentially agrees with Chu, saying that Oracle Park has increased in value, but still valued the property at a lower number than she did.

But that’s not good enough for the assessor, and in response, Chu filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court last week.

The suit cites the Appeals Board as respondent and also names “China Basin Ballpark Company”—the legal entity concerning the team’s stakes in the ballpark—as a “real party in interest.”

The only document currently on file for the litigation is a request to wave fees, so the meat of Chu’s complaint and the board and team’s responses to it haven’t yet been articulated.

There is as yet no evaluation for the ostensible value of Oracle Park in 2018.