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S.F. Giants Play Lowball Hardball - By - June 22, 2016 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

S.F. Giants Play Lowball Hardball

AT&T Park is one of the finest places in America to watch baseball. Sportswriters even in Los Angeles can't deny it, recently voting the San Francisco Giants' home ballpark the league's finest. But according to the Giants, AT&T Park is more like an old car, its worth diminishing with each passing year — an argument the club's business people are making to save the team millions of dollars in property taxes.

The Giants claim the ballpark — which is on city-owned land and leased by the Giants under a 66-year agreement — is worth $158 million. City Assessor- Recorder Carmen Chu says it's more like $407 million, and the two sides are currently bickering over about $8 million in back taxes.

The Giants' argument for a lowball figure doesn't make sense to at least one expert in the field.

John K. Emery, a real-estate appraiser who has assessed some 10,000 properties in San Francisco over the past 28 years, says there are three ways to determine a property's value: the cost approach, which is the price of construction; the income approach, which analyzes the revenue stream; and the market approach, which compares sales of similar properties.

“[The Giants], I guess, are relying on some kind of a cost approach depreciating the property whereas really the best indicator of value is what the value is, predicated on the income stream,” Emery told SF Weekly. “I'm guessing net income has probably been going up, since their argument is based on depreciation. If they're saying the property value went down, then they would need to demonstrate how net income has gone down.”

It would be hard not to laugh if the Giants claim they're a suffering sports franchise. Not only has the team won three World Series titles since 2010, boosting its brand image, it has also sold out every home game for more than five seasons.

In March, Forbes pegged the Giants as baseball's fourth most valuable team at $2.25 billion, with $561 million of that value attributed to AT&T Park.

So in this case, Emery said, the idea of using a cost approach to property value is irrelevant.

“You would use the cost approach if you didn't have any income stream,” he said. “Well, this is a property where you do have an income stream, so it doesn't make any sense at all.”

The Giants are even lowballing their Barry Bonds, pre-World Series-winning estimate. The last agreed-upon assessed value was $230 million, back in 2003.

So if AT&T Park is a used car, then it's more 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa than Honda Civic.